Board Member Bios


Susan Yuan

Susan Yuan, Ph.D  President; Chair, Executive Committee; Member, Education and Advocacy Committees

Susan has worked in the field of developmental disabilities since the birth of her son, Andreas, 44 years ago. She was the Associate Director of the Center on Disability and Community Inclusion, Vermont’s UCEDD, until 2008, when she retired from the University, and established her consulting firm, Yuan & Associates. Dr. Yuan conducts training on culture and disability, inclusion, family support, and parents with disabilities. She assists in grant-writing, conducts program evaluations, and carries out competence-based parenting skills assessments in collaboration with the Vermont Parent Assessment Team at Sage Haven Associates, LLC.

Virginia Cruz

Virginia Cruz, MSW, DSW, Vice President; Member, Executive and Education Committees

Ginny is semi-retired from the Metropolitan State University of Denver.  She has worked in the area of developmental disabilities for over 30 years. At UCLA Center for the Health Sciences, the Neuropsychiatric Hospital, she was a therapist and had the privilege of evaluating and treating children, adolescents, parents and their families with developmental disabilities as a LCSW. She is grateful to these families who were the best teachers about the ways to support individuals with intellectual disabilities. She was Chair of the Department of Social Work at the Metropolitan State University of Denver from 1992 to 2011 and added course content on developmental disabilities to the BSW and MSW programs. She was the Director of the MSW Program from 2009 to 2012 and continues teaching, training and researching the intersectionality of child welfare and developmental disabilities.

 Ellen GilmartinSecretary; Chair, Advocacy Committee; Member, Fiscal and Executive Committees

Ellen is retired from the Connecticut Office for Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, she was employed as an advocate with them for more than 25 years. She remains active in both paid and volunteer work with people with disabilities.

Leslie Kinney Treasurer; Chair, Finance Committee; Member, Executive Committee

Leslie has worked in the field of developmental disabilities in MA and VT for the past 40 years.  She was the creative force working in collaboration with advocates and families in developing self advocacy, citizen advocacy, residential, vocational, family support and parenting education programs in western Massachusetts.   She is a private consultant offering program development, design, training and grant writing for disability serving agencies and volunteers with an inclusive theatre program in southern Vermont.   She currently serves on the MA Dept. of Developmental Disabilities Self Determination Advisory Board.   She conceptualized and obtained funding for the development of a complex array of support programs for parents with cognitive limitations and their families in western MA and was a founding board member of The Association for Successful Parenting and its predecessor organizations in New England.  She holds a Master’s degree in International Administration and certificates in Non-Profit Management and Professional Fundraising.

Sue Jones, Senior Director; Member, Executive and Education Committees

Sue is a  Program Director at The Arc United, Turners Falls,, MA and former Co-President of TASP. For the past 32 years, Sue has specialized in supporting parents with intellectual disabilities. She has also worked with individuals with disabilities as a recreational therapist, employment specialist, case manager, family advocate and administrator. She holds a BS in rehabilitation from Springfield College and a master’s level certificate in parenting education from Wheelock College. Sue founded the New England Coalition for Supporting Parents with Cognitive Challenges and is a principal founder and former co-president of The Association for Supported Parenting. She is currently the Program Director of Family and Youth Services Department at The United Arc. Under that department, there are two programs. The Family Support program provides services to families with a family member living with a disability by providing service navigation, in home supports, family lead services, intensive case management, caregiver groups and parent training, financial assistance and social and recreational opportunities. The other program Positive Parenting provides a variety of comprehensive parenting education, support programs and services to parents with learning differences. This program also provides Youth supports for youth receiving services from The Department of Children and Families and provides volunteer opportunities as well as kinship supports. She has conducted training throughout country. For the last several years she has been contracted through The Children’s Trust Fund of Massachusetts and The Department of Children and Families to present training across the state focusing on working with parents with intellectual disabilities.

Lindsay BrillhartDirector; Member, Advocacy and Education Committees

Lindsay is a mom of 2 girls. She is a strong self-advocate for her kids and others. She has (formally) worked with the ARC of Hamilton County and Hamilton County Developmental Disability Services. She currently resides in Cincinnati with her 2 kids Julianna 16, and Sara 4 and her partner Phil. She was once on the People First of Ohio board. She is a Partners in Policy graduate. She is also a graduate of PATHS (Providing Alternative Thinking Strategies).  In her spare time, she loves to travel and to meet new people.

Nicole BrissonDirector: Chair, Education Committee

Dr. Nicole Brisson is the owner and director of Sage Haven Associates, a private practice that provides consultation, training, and assessment services to meet the needs of parents and children with disabilities involved in the child welfare system. Dr. Brisson is a licensed mental health counselor and holds a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in psychology and specialization in intellectual and developmental disabilities. She developed and taught a course at the University of Vermont on child welfare and parental disability and holds a consulting and assessment contract with the Vermont Department for Children and Families.  Dr. Brisson testifies in court and conducts competence-based parenting evaluations for parents with disabilities throughout the country.  She was named as a nationally recognized expert in assessing parents with disabilities by the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services.  Her work was cited in their joint letter regarding the investigation of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, which in turn resulted in the release of a technical assistance report to child welfare agencies nationwide regarding the rights of parents with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Bernadette IrwinSenior Director; Member, Executive and Development Committees

Bernadette was one of the founders of The Association for Successful Parenting:   Enhancing the lives of families when parents have learning difficulties (TASP).  She served as Co-President for several years and is now a Senior Board Member of TASP.  Bernadette has conducted training nationally and internationally and presented at National Conferences on working more effectively with parents with ID. Bernadette worked for 30+ years with families and children with disabilities.  Her last position was at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, Family Support Services in Baltimore, MD for 28 years.   She also administered Maryland’s only Supported Parenting program, Growing Together, during her years at Kennedy Krieger.  Bernadette also founded the Mid-Atlantic Coalition for Supporting Parents with Intellectual Disabilities prior to the establishment of TASP.  Currently she is the Program Director for the SUCCESSFUL PARENTING — DC project (SP-DC).  SP-DC is co-funded by the DC Department of Developmental Disabilities Administration and the DC Child and Family Services Administration.  The purpose of the project is two-fold:  (1) to provide Peer Navigation services, and (2) Parent Training, to parents receiving services from both these systems.

Carolyn HarpoleDirector; Member, Development Committee;

Maurice Feldman

Maurice Feldman, Ph.D. C Psych (ONT), BCBA-D, Director; Member, Education Committee

Dr. Feldman is Professor and Chair of the Dept. of Applied Disability Studies at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. He is a registered psychologist in Ontario since 1979 and a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (Doctoral) since 20074. He is a world leading expert on parents with learning difficulties and their children. He has over 100 peer-review publications and 300 invited addresses, talks and workshops, many of which are on the topic of parents with learning difficulties and their children. He authored (with Marjorie Aunos) the first book on parenting capacity assessments for parents with learning difficulties (NADD Press). The Step-by-Step Parenting Program he developed and evaluated from 1981-1994 is emulated worldwide. He is a Brock Distinguished Researcher and is a Fellow of the Canadian Psychological Association; He held a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Investigator Award, was the first recipient of the Ontario Association for Developmental Disabilities Award for Research Excellence and received the National Distinguished Disabilities Researcher Award in the U.S. He was a special advisor to the President’s Committee on Intellectual Disabilities in the U.S., a visiting scholar at the University of Sydney (Australia) and the British Psychological Society. His research was cited in an Amici Curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on a case adjudicating parenting rights of persons with intellectual disabilities. He serves as a consultant to several government departments and service providers and conducts parenting capacity assessments for parents with learning difficulties. His work has been highlighted in Canadian and U.S. media.

Elizabeth Lightfoot, Ph.D., MSW, Director; Member, Education Committee

Liz has been on faculty at the University of Minnesota since 1999 and has been the doctoral program director there since 2006.  Her main research interests are in the area of disability policy and services, and the intersections of disability with child welfare, aging, violence prevention and health.  She currently has several research projects underway exploring parental supports for parents with disabilities. She spent a year as a Fulbright scholar in Namibia in 2008. The MSW courses she teaches regularly include social work with people with disabilities and community practice.  She has taught doctoral seminars in policy and research for eighteen years, has supervised seventeen doctoral dissertations, and has been on the committees of many other doctoral students. She is the past-president of the President of the Group for the Advanced for Doctoral Education (GADE).

Dara Baldwin, MPA, Director; Member, Advocacy Committee

Born in Torrejon, Spain to parents involved in serving their country, the desire to serve has continued through her education and current career journey.  Dara started her first career while attending college and worked in Healthcare Administration in various operational and finance executive positions, for almost twenty years. In 2004 she changed her career to advocacy in the social justice/equity realm of work. Currently Ms. Baldwin is the Senior Public Policy Analyst for the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) in Washington, DC. NDRN is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and Client Assistance Programs (CAP). Collectively, the P&A/CAP network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.

Leslie A. Pokres

Leslie A. PokresBA, Director; Member, Development and Finance Committees

For 15+ years Leslie has worked for the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County (CBHC) which is a county government agency that provides funding, collaborates with local non-profits and other funding entities.  She provides oversight of programs funded by the CBHC in which services and supports are provided to families.  It was through this work as a Program Manager that she realized the gap in services and supports for parents who have intellectual differences and other challenges.  Leslie identified this was a gap through her previous work as a Supported Employment Job Coach.  Through her work as a job coach, she identified training and supportive techniques tailored to the individual’s style of learning. A couple of years later she was employed by Florida Association of Rehabilitation, as one of the five statewide consultants to provide Supported Employment training to non- profit agencies who received state and federal funding. This work included advocating for persons with severe and persistent disabilities, providing technical assistance to start-up programs through training, modeling job development and job coaching techniques.  She later became employed by The State of Florida, Department of Labor and Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) when the Department took over the funding and oversight for these five positions, in which she remained employed for eight years.  Her work included training to state vocational counselors, other state case managers and non-profit agency program staff.  She provided contract oversight and assisted programs with startup and implementation activities. Leslie has been actively advocating for professionals to tailor their programming to meet the needs of the individual rather than the individual meet the needs of the programming.

Cathy Haarstad, Director; Chair, Development Committee; Member, Finance Committee

Cathy is a Research Associate at the ND Center for Persons with Disabilities. She has over 30 years of experiences in supporting adults with developmental disabilities, some of whom, choose to parent. Cathy is also the parent of an adult with developmental disabilities. She has extensive experience in family support, behavior intervention, special education and community services for persons who have significant support needs related to intellectual disabilities. She has served on the TASP board for approximately one year.

Maggie Butler, PhD, Director; Member, Advocacy Committee

Maggie Butler, PhD, has over 10 years’ experience working with individuals who identify with a wide range of disability identities. She has worked as a certified rehabilitation counselor in the state of Virginia, counseling students and adults with disabilities. In addition, she served as director of disability resources/chief Americans with Disabilities Act compliance officer for Longwood University, Farmville, Virginia. She received her doctorate in counselor education & supervision with an emphasis on is rehabilitation counselor education from the University of Iowa.

Butler is interested in expanding disability discourse across socioeconomic strata, to improve access to mental health services among individuals with disabilities; improving human and social capital development at the intersection of race, gender and disability identity, to improve postsecondary outcomes and; advocating for the inclusion of diverse narratives among disability identities.  She has authored and co-authored peer reviewed journals articles and book chapters related to homelessness, school-family- community collaboration, clinical case management and ethics in counseling.

Kara Ayers, Director; Member, Advocacy, Development, and Education Committees

Kara Ayers is a co-founder of the Disabled Parenting Project and Associate Director of the University of Cincinnati Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. She works on numerous disability policy issues, including protecting the rights of parents with disabilities, improving adoption access for parents with disabilities, and increasing peer support for women with disabilities during pregnancy and throughout parenthood.

Sandy Azar, Ph.D, Director; Member, Education Committee

Sandy is a professor of Psychology at Penn State University.  Her research interests include child clinical psychology and family processes and risk issues. Her work focuses on maternal behavior, child abuse, gender and aggression, and legal issues affecting families (e.g., definitions of parental competence for custody evaluations; racial, ethnic, and class bias in legal treatment of families).

John Susa Director, Emeritus

Alexander Tymchuk Director, Emeritus


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