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Jillian Bennett, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LABA

Founder & President

Neurodiversity Support for Children, Inc. (NSC)

 

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Through my own personal experiences, I was exposed to disparities in healthcare from a young age. I worked to put myself through school and was the first in my family to graduate college. Through my graduate work, my passion for serving underprivileged families grew. I always dreamed about developing a nonprofit organization that could help children and their parents access the appropriate mental healthcare without the financial burden that can be so prohibitive to many. Mental healthcare services are treated as a privilege, yet they are often a necessity.

 

The resiliency and strength of my own family propelled me forward to obtain my doctoral degree in clinical psychology and my certification as a behavior analyst. I established my own practice in 2017, with the goal of providing the kind of quality services that neurodiverse children and families need. Services that are empirically supported and effective. Care that is compassionate and comprehensive. Yet the financial burden still weighed heavy on my heart, and I desperately wanted to help support more families.

 

My passion for helping children and their families continued to grow. Likewise, my practice continued to grow, and with that, came a waiting list a mile long. I continue to answer calls weekly from concerned parents who have children paralyzed by anxiety, depression, and/or OCD. Parents share their experiences with me, needing mental health support for their family. Many neurodiverse children (and parents) have social, emotional, and/or behavioral vulnerabilities that put them at an even higher risk for mental health challenges, including individuals with autism and/or ADHD. I align myself with families to advocate for them, connect them with providers, and support as many families as I can. But still this is not enough. Some families cannot access services due to the financial burden. Other families do not have the education or experience to know the type of therapy, evaluations, and/or other services that their child may need. Even worse, some families spend thousands of dollars on “therapy” that is not effective, leaving them with an even greater financial burden and debilitating debt.

 

I continue to be in awe of the resiliency of neurodiverse families. Neurodiversity should be celebrated and families should feel empowered. However, in order to achieve this, children and parents need encouragement, validation, and support. This support may look different for every family. Sometimes it is therapy to build skills, sometimes it is a thorough evaluation and accurate diagnosis, and sometimes it is sharing knowledge with families, so they have the tools to advocate for their child.

Anne Donovan, M.Ed., BCBA, LABA, CCTP

Clerk & Director

Neurodiversity Support for Children, Inc. (NSC)

 

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As a dedicated advocate for equity and inclusivity in education, I bring a wealth of experience and passion to the mission of our organization. I have spent my 20-year career serving underserved communities and championing the rights of all learners. In my role as an educational consultant, I have collaborated with numerous public school districts to enhance their special education programs and services. I have also had the privilege of serving on the boards of nonprofits and state advocacy organizations that support families of neurodiverse students. Additionally, as an Adjunct Faculty member at a local university, I have the opportunity to share my expertise in special education with future teachers.

As a mother of two neurodiverse teens, I understand firsthand the challenges and joys of navigating the journey of parenting neurodiverse children. My personal experiences drive my passion for helping other families connect with local community resources and support networks. I firmly believe in the power of community and collaboration, and I am committed to fostering a culture of support and inclusivity within NSC.

Melinda VanDeKoppel, M.A., LMHC 

Treasurer & Director

Neurodiversity Support for Children, Inc. (NSC)

 

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After completing my Master's degree at Lesley University, I immediately realized the many possible directions I could take my career. I began working as the Clinical Care Coordinator at a group home for children in DCF custody. This inspired me to work more closely with children and families who have experienced trauma, loss or separation from family members due to violence. The next chapter of my career was focused on providing in-home therapy, 1:1 counseling, and support for families with foster/adopted children, as well as children with trauma histories. This work, while challenging, was extremely rewarding.

Over the last 12 years, I have built my private practice servicing children, teens, and families struggling with anything from the trouble of daily stressors, to grief, loss, and complex trauma. I am also on staff at Riverside Community Care as a trauma responder to assist with community crises and suicide prevention. Both of these roles allow me to support the community in unique ways, yet I continually seek opportunities to provide high quality treatment and support for families who may not have access to the services their children need.

In addition to my professional experience, I am also the mother of two young neurodiverse boys. I know first hand the challenges that parents face navigating all the aspects of raising these special children. I know how important it is to feel connected and supported in this journey. Although my professional knowledge and expertise allows me to effectively support families in need, my personal experiences drive my passion and commitment to the mission of NSC.

Amy Donahue, MSW, MBA 

Director

Neurodiversity Support for Children, Inc. (NSC)

 

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With almost 25 years in nonprofit leadership, I currently serve as the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Advocates, a regional non-profit focusing on supporting those with behavioral and/or developmental disabilities or brain injuries. I develop and manage the organization’s strategic plan and other cross-departmental projects. My "superpower" is making complex projects manageable, with clear objectives, and engaging visuals that make what seems impossible, possible! Professionally, I am a trained social worker focusing on macro, policy, and program management, and I hold an MBA with a focus on nonprofit management. 

I am also a mom of two boys, the oldest of whom is autistic. With many years of experience navigating multiple systems including hospitals, behavioral and speech therapists, and intensive social skills programming, I am excited to be part of NSC and it’s mission to make resources accessible to the many families in need. 

Branwen Cale, M.A. 

Director

Neurodiversity Support for Children, Inc. (NSC)

 

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As an experienced nonprofit leader with a passion for helping others, I bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to NSC. I obtained my undergraduate degree in Government and International Relations and my graduate degree in International Administration. Professionally, my career has focused on the development of mission-driven non-profit organizations. With a specific eye towards international program development and strategic communications, I have scaled resources through stakeholder engagement, and refined business operation processes, in order to integrate data-driven SROI into the overall strategic planning of organizations. I focus on relationship-based strategies that engage donors, staff, and volunteer leaders as true partners in the work they support. I have experience managing major gift and foundation relations, directing annual funds, executing fundraising and public events, and training administrative, development, and communications staff at all levels.

 

Personally, I am the mother of two neurodiverse children. Through my own trials and tribulations, I have developed a passion for neurodiversity, gifted education, and disability advocacy. This passion has been fueled by my own struggles to overcome financial barriers, system-level inequities, and frequent misperceptions about the many strengths (and challenges) that come with a neurodivergent family. I am so thankful for the opportunity to merge my professional expertise with my personal journey, to assist families in obtaining the support they need for their children. The mission of NSC is very near and dear to my heart.      

Krista Gordon 

Director

Neurodiversity Support for Children, Inc. (NSC)

 

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As a mom of two neurodiverse children, who has had to lean on and utilize supports we could afford and not afford but made the sacrifice anyway, the mission of this organization sits very close to my heart. The amount of information a parent of a neurodiverse child needs to learn and adapt to can be extremely overwhelming and without support it would be even harder. 

 

I am lucky enough to have been able to establish multiple career paths in my life, one working in the corporate world as Executive Assistants, Project Coordinators, and Project Managers as well as a long career as a dance teacher, and now a Founder & Educator of a business focusing on empowering and educating children and parents on ways to utilize movement, mindfulness, sensory profiles and brain organization to utilize for regulation, coregulation and connection. As a mom of kiddos who process the world in their own unique way, I researched, learned and studied so many topics it brought me to recognize just how much families have to shift and change. I feel honored to be a part of this organization and to help kiddos and families receive the assistance they need.

Lisa Mesicek, MBA 

Director

Neurodiversity Support for Children, Inc. (NSC)

 

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From an early age, I have always been fascinated by, and devoted to, understanding human behavior. I've worked as a summer camp counselor, studied Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology in college, and obtained my business degree with a focus on Organizational Behavior. Currently, I leverage my interests and talents within the business world as an Executive Coach and Chief Operating Officer within the Wealth Management industry. I have built my career on growing individuals, teams, and organizations, with the belief that people are at the heart of it all.

 

Now, as mom to twin girls, I have been further immersed into understanding human behavior through the eyes of my children. I have experienced the anguish and joy of being a parent, dedicated to supporting my children through their own journeys. Although my family has been fortunate enough to obtain access to mental health services, my heart breaks for other families who cannot access quality mental and behavioral health care. I am humbled and honored to leverage my experience as a professional and a dedicated parent, and join such an amazing board of parents focused on such an important mission. 

Sarah Owen 

Independent Bookkeeper

Neurodiversity Support for Children, Inc. (NSC)

 

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I’ve spent the past 7 years building my own photography business, which requires me to wear a lot of different hats. Before starting my own business, I worked in corporate accounting, managing the accounting processes for a large company in Boston. While I love numbers and organizing spreadsheets, my passion is being creative.

 

I’m also a mom of two young boys, who keep me very busy. When I became a mom, I never imagined some of the challenges we would face with a neurodivergent child. Just learning about where to find resources, and how to access different support, was like a full-time job! I was not prepared for the many expenses we would incur trying to find the right therapies and the right support to help my son. We have been lucky, in that many of the therapies my son receives are covered by our insurance, but we understand that this is not always the case. It is heartbreaking to think about other parents who only want the best for their child, but cannot afford the services or support that could help them. As a mother of a neurodiverse child who needs such support, the mission of NSC is very near and dear to my heart.

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