Mira Posner, Esq. – Staff Attorney: Ms. Posner holds a Juris Doctorate from the Seattle University School of Law, and a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Idaho.  Ms. Posner has been working with Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy since the fall of 2013 to provide free legal advice to families appealing insurance denials of coverage for treatments for autism. Ms. Posner’s legal background includes her work as a staff attorney at Teamchild, where her focus was on special education and school discipline appeals, and the Northwest Justice Project, where she worked on public benefits, housing, mental health, education, and seniors’ law. She lives in Seattle with her husband, their two children, and three cats.

David Roth, J.D. – Staff Attorney: Mr. Roth has been working with Washington Autism Alliance & Advocacy since January 2017 to improve access to autism treatment for Washington Medicaid patients. His legal background includes working as in-house counsel for a major healthcare provider, where he handled managed care contracting, vendor compliance, and consumer complaints, and working for an internet marketing startup. He also volunteers with several Seattle non-profits including the Northwest Health Law Advocates and the Greenwood Senior Law Clinic. Mr. Roth holds a Juris Doctorate from the Santa Clara University School of Law.

Amy Huntley, MSW, LASW – Director of Family Services: Amy holds a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Kansas and undergraduate degrees in Communications and Social Work from Bethel College in Kansas. Prior to coming to WAAA, Amy has worked as a social worker for children and families, elders, adult crisis mental health, and children with developmental disabilities. Amy is passionate about social justice, and meeting families where they are at to access essential healthcare and services to thrive. Amy lives in Seattle with her husband and two dogs. She loves exploring Seattle, traveling, hiking and camping.

Trish Thrush – Health Law Advocate (Insurance Navigator): As a parent of two children with autism, Trish has a passion for lifelong learning and improving outcomes for all, including adults on the spectrum. She supports children and adults on the spectrum statewide get connected to evidence based treatment of autism. No matter where our members have been in their journey with autism, Trish has been here for them to ensure they don’t feel alone and empowers them with tools to succeed in their own communities. Trish continues to forge personal relationships with a number of families and self advocates statewide, creating a sense of camaraderie, which contributes to our statewide advocacy projects’ overall success. “The families, self-advocates and I have built a community in WAAA, which I feel is important because now I’m helping friends. Please do not hesitate to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you.”

Korina Heard, BSW –  Parent Partner: Korina has a Bachelors in Social Work from the University of Washington. She has worked with at-risk youth, foster care children, and children with developmental disabilities for the past 4 years. Korina is also a Court Appointed Special Advocate in Pierce County where she represents children in the foster care system in court. After being trained as an Intergroup Dialogue Facilitator, Korina helps spread cultural awareness and promotes social justice.

Beth Hammer – Southwest Washington Regional Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator Beth has lived in Southwest Washington her entire life and brings a unique combination of workforce development and disability service experience. Her passion has always been in advocating for those who society has marginalized. As the director of a one-stop career center, her team was honored with a Governor’s Award of Excellence for their creative efforts in increasing the use and accessibility of the one-stop center by those with disabilities. In her spare time she finds host families for foreign exchange students and spends as much time as possible with her daughter and granddaughter.

Jodie Hommer, MA, LMHC, LMFT – Supporting Parents of Autism (SPA) Spokane Region: Jodie has a master’s degree in clinical psychology, with emphasis in marriage and family therapy and mental health counseling and has her mental health professional designation.  She has been working for several years in public mental health with under-served minority populations. “I am a strong advocate for the safety and inclusion of all individuals. Through peer support – I believe we can increase our sense of community and lean on each other to face the challenges of parenting children with special needs.”

Erin Deery – Yakima Valley and Central WA Outreach & Advocacy Coordinator: The Yakima Valley has been home to me my entire life. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Central Washington University. Shortly after graduating I started working as a behavior therapist for children between the ages of 2 and 6, diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. My work as a behavior therapist was extremely rewarding and gave me the opportunity to see the incredible impact ABA therapy has for those on the spectrum, as well as for their families. Growing up in the Yakima Valley has given me many opportunities for community involvement, something I have a strong desire for. My background includes experience working and connecting with local community centers and nonprofit organizations that have involvement with at-risk youth, homelessness, mental health and substance abuse. I was recently involved with the opening and management of a trauma informed specialized care facility for teen girls who have been trafficked and/or exploited, who are in need of secure supportive services and continuing education. I continue serving as a volunteer for this facility. Outside of work I enjoy spending time with family, friends, and my two dogs, as well as traveling, camping, and doing just about anything that involves being outdoors, no matter what the weather.

Diana Lafornara – Education Parent Partner: Diana has a Bachelor’s degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington, and a STARS certificate in early childhood education from Bellevue College. She has completed the Social Thinking Masterclass 101 taught by Michelle Garcia Winner. Diana is passionate about helping families develop effective IEPs and helping them learn to navigate the IEP process. Also, Diana is committed to helping to achieve positive changes in law and policy at the local and state level through participation in committees and legislative hearings. Diana loves helping families on all parts of the autism spectrum, and also has special interests in helping families with positive behavior support plans, twice-exceptional (2e) children, families facing cultural misunderstandings with districts, and LGBTQ families. Diana speaks advanced French and basic Spanish.

Amy Schley – Education Parent Partner: Amy Schley is a parent of a daughter with high functioning autism and has firsthand experience with the difficulties of navigating the Special Education system. As an advocate for her own daughter she has gained extensive knowledge on how to effectively handle disagreements with an IEP team and is dedicated to helping other parents learn to successfully advocate for their own children’s needs at school. She will take the time to discuss current issues with parents and problem solve on the most effective approach to help them advocate for their child’s needs at school. Often times this involves helping the parent learn how to use their child’s private providers as a means to identifying appropriate services and supports. Amy will refer families to resources and support with other agencies when necessary, and will take the time to review evaluations and IEP’s in order to offer feedback. Amy is also available to help the parent write effective letters to their child’s school and acts as a resource to families to help them navigate the Special Education process.

Susan Steckler, M.A. – Director of Strategic Communications: Susan leads our efforts to engage community members with stories of the difference we are making in people’s lives. Highlighting WAAA’s position as a champion for families impacted by autism, Susan conveys valuable information to spur action with our donors, allies, clientele, and volunteers. Susan manages our outreach via traditional and digital channels, as well as oversees our major fundraising events. With a bachelor’s in Communications and masters in International Affairs, Susan leverages her writing and editorial skills to champion for social justice and improved global health opportunities and outcomes. She has volunteered internationally to improve maternal and reproductive health and education and serves as a volunteer birth doula to low-income families. She is inspired by the deep humanity of the autism community and serves on the Board of Directors for Seattle Children’s Hospital Festival of Trees Autism Guild. [LinkedIn Profile]

Kelli Garland, BA – Community Engagement & Special Events Coordinator: Kelli oversees WAAAs special events programs, working to make each fundraising endeavor or social engagement a successful reflection of the community WAAA supports. Coming from Microsoft and the Museum of Flight, Kelli is no stranger to large scale high end events, but relishes the opportunity to use her skills and experience in the non profit sector, where her career is strongly rooted. Having founded her own 501c3 years ago to support cancer patients and their families, Kelli draws from the inspiring communities she serves to make events unique and memorable. A true fan of Wonder Woman, Kelli believes in using all of her special events “powers” to make the world a better place!

Mika Timmons, MPP – Health Systems Program Manager: Inspired by the compassion and humanity of people wishing to help others, Mika is committed to connecting the children and families that come to WAAA ­with the support they need in order to be successful. After completing a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration, Mika served in the US Peace Corps, then earned a Master of Public Policy degree from Oregon State University. She supports the WAAA team by utilizing her background in fundraising, advocacy, non-profit operations and health in​​surance administration. Mika enjoys being engaged in communities and believes that collaboration leads to positive outcomes.

Leena Hansen – Advancement Assistant: Leena supports WAAA’s fundraising and advancement team. Originally from Helsinki, Finland, she has lived in the Seattle area for 20 years. She has master’s degree in Information Systems Management from Seattle Pacific University and an Educational Social Worker degree from Helsinki, Finland. When she’s not at the office, she is busy spending time with her family and friends, enjoying the outdoors walking, hiking, and swimming.

Esra Atas – Administrative Assistant:  Esra brings her office organization and administrative skills to support WAAA’s family programs, legal, and fundraising efforts. Esra has a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Istanbul Koc University, and a project management certificate from University of Washington.

Elena Saygo – Web Development Specialist:  Elena lends her expertise to WAAA to support our robust, member-driven website. She is an oasis of technical knowledge for all of WAAA’s computer and web related needs.

Arzu Forough – President/CEO:  Ms. Forough brings over 20 years of experience in training and development to her position, including leadership development, government relations and non-profit management.In 2007 she founded Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy, developed the “Autism IEP supplement: Best Practice Guidelines for educating students with autism”. Her IEP supplement as well as guidelines for training teachers was legally adopted by the Washington State legislature in 2008 and became the requirement for all teachers working with learners with Autism Spectrum Disorders statewide. Arzu introduced Shayan’s Law, Autism Insurance Parity to the Washington State legislature, petitioned the state Health technology Assessment of evidence based treatment of autism and ignited multiple legal actions that have clarified state and federal laws mandating insurance benefits for those with autism and other developmental disabilities. Arzu designs, implements and manages local, statewide and national projects as well as provides technical assistance to agencies, providers and families on current insurance, education and social service practices and strategies. [LinkedIn profile]

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