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Our Board

OFFICERS

MARVIN R. SHANKEN (CHAIRMAN)
FOUNDER, ELS FOR AUTISM FOUNDATION
PUBLISHER & FOUNDER OF M.SHANKEN COMMUNICATIONS

DR. MARLENE SOTELO
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ELS FOR AUTISM FOUNDATION

LIEZL ELS (SECRETARY AND MANAGING DIRECTOR)
FOUNDER, ELS FOR AUTISM FOUNDATION

YVONNE D’AMELIO
CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER, ELS FOR AUTISM FOUNDATION

BOARD MEMBERS

ERNIE ELS
FOUNDER, ELS FOR AUTISM FOUNDATION

DR. MICHAEL ALESSANDRI
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI CENTER FOR AUTISM AND RELATED DISABILITIES

CINDY CHRISTY-LANGENFELD
PRESIDENT, ASURION

GIUSEPPE CIUCCI
CHIEF EXECUTIVE, CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD STONEHAGE LIMITED

PATRICK MCMAHON
FOUNDER, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
CO-CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICER, MKP CAPITAL MANAGEMENT, LLC

PAMELA MINELLI
CO-FOUNDER OF THE AUTISM PROJECT OF PALM BEACH COUNTY

STEVE PECK
SAP GLOBAL ALIANCE RELATIONSHIP LEADER, EY

STUART MAKIN (TREASURER)
PARTNER, STONEHAGE LIMITED; NON-VOTING MEMBER

ADVISORY BOARD

Mission

To provide first-hand knowledge of autism and guidance to the Els for Autism Foundation on current programs and services and future initiatives on The Els Center of Excellence campus. The Advisory Board was created to ensure that the Foundation receives input and direction from people with autism.

Advisory Board Members

Dorothy Ackland

From York, Nebraska, Dorothy Ackland is currently a volunteer advocacy ambassador for autism speaks and a wife, mother, daughter, friend, sister, church goer, advocate, and community member. She also has autism, which means so much to her and she currently receives disability and Medicare due to it. Prior to that she worked about 12 jobs including nursing aide and med aide in 9 years. To prove how strong of an advocate she is, she is currently advocating for an educational bill in Nebraska to tell providers they can work with people who can private pay. Although she has struggled to find work and function with her autism, this has made her very knowledgeable of the struggles of maintaining autonomy, independence, and the importance of advocacy. She hopes to help the board understand what happens when you fall in a gap area of support, and also to share her experiences so that others do not need to struggle so much for support.”

Andrew Blitman

Andrew Blitman, who earned his degree in Marine Conservation Science & Policy from the University of Miami, is a local from South Florida who served on the UM-NSU Center for Autism and Related Disabilities constituency board from 2011 to 2017. He currently works as a tutor and mentor for Firewall Centers. He is the author of five books: one comprehensive poetry anthology, three illustrated poetry books written and drawn from the perspective of animals, and a memoir about his December 2012 Birthright trip to Israel. To read his works, you can visit his website: andrewblitman.com.

Mike DiMauro

Mike DiMauro was diagnosed with autism at the age of 22. Mike graduated from Westfield State University in 2010 with a bachelor degree in liberal studies. Mike also has a driver’s license and has been driving since he was 17. Mike likes to spread autism awareness no matter where he goes. Mike has spoken at the Family Cafe in Orlando, Milestones Autism Conference in Cleveland Ohio, and the Nebraska ASD Network Conference in Omaha Nebraska. Mike is a former Autism Speaks walk committee member for the Central Florida walk. Mike is currently an Autism Speaks Volunteer Advocacy Ambassador for the state of Florida. When Mike is not spreading autism awareness, he likes to go camping and traveling. Mike is also an UberEats driver since January 2018 and looking at going on a cross country road trip to do UberEats deliveries in all 50 states. Mike is also an involved member of Pioneer Valley Chapter 8 of the North American Family Campers Association based in Springfield Massachusetts. The camping club is the promoters of the Springfield RV Camping & Outdoor Show which Mike and his family volunteer at yearly. Mike also threw out the first pitch at the Tampa Bay Rays game in 2012.

Merrick Egber

Merrick Egber started working with the Els for Autism Foundation just a few months before the ribbon cutting of the Els Center of Excellence in 2014! He earned his B.A. in Communication Studies from Florida Atlantic University, with specialized classes on group facilitation, management, and organizing. Currently, he is a member of two boards, APSE and our Els for Autism Advisory Board, and is also busy working as an administrative assistant, assisting all departments in their work. On the side, he is a self-published author who has written numerous works of poetry and song lyrics that are on Amazon.com and Lulu.com and managed to get a few of them recorded as actual songs, which can be found on MerrickEgber.com.

Jim Hogan

Jim Hogan is an advocate for change and a strong representative of what is possible for people on the spectrum. A self-taught Computer Scientist at the age of 16, Jim found his passion for working in leadership positions in Corporate America. Throughout his career, he has engaged in advocacy and supported HR departments to better understand the needs of neurodiverse employees.

Jim has willingly taken on the role of peer mentor and support to many young professionals with autism who are struggling to enter the workforce. With his powerful voice and advocacy for change and acceptance, he has led the way for hundreds of professionals with autism who entered the workforce behind him. Jim currently works as an Innovation Strategist at @google.

Adam Jones

Adam Jones graduated with honors from Meredith Manor in 2009 with a Riding master’s degree. He has been working at Madison Fields for over three years. At Madison Fields, Adam actively advocates for autism awareness and employing adults on the autism spectrum. He believes that people like him deserve a fighting chance and a way to find their true sense of self-worth. He continues to grow in his own riding career and aspires to show at the Washington International Horse Show.

“Horses have taught me so much about life and myself. They really inspire me to be a better person.”

Dr. Kerry Magro

Dr. Kerry Magro is an award-winning professional speaker, best-selling author, and autism consultant to the HBO series Mrs. Fletcher that aired last in Fall 2019. He started professional speaking 9 years ago via the National Speakers Association and has spoken at over 900 events during that time. In addition, Kerry is CEO & President of KFM Making A Difference, a nonprofit organization that hosts inclusion events and has provided 86 scholarships for students with autism for college and counting since 2011. In his spare time, he hosts a Facebook Page called Kerry’s Autism Journey that now has 205,000 Facebook followers where he does on-camera interviews highlighting people impacted by a diagnosis to break down barriers in our community. His videos have been watched over 35 Million times.

Kerry’s best-selling books Defining Autism From The Heart, Autism and Falling in Love, and I Will Light It Up Blue! have all reached Amazon Best-Seller Lists for Special Needs Parenting. He is based in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Paul Morris

Throughout his life, with confidence & pride, he has walked to the beat of advocacy, influencing Congress, several major universities, & has had a profound impact on his alma mater, the College Internship Program in Lee, MA, all the while raising funds for research on the science of autism. Paul is from Weston, CT, & currently resides in White Plains, NY.

Isabelle Piwnicki

Isabelle Piwnicki was diagnosed with autism when she was two and a half. She received therapies including speech, play, ABA, occupational, social skills, and special education. She worked very hard to finish high school, and in 2013 went on to take classes at Westchester Community College. In the same year, together with her mother, Isabelle created GirlAGain, a boutique in New York that specializes in American Girl® Dolls and accessories. GirlAGain is a retail experience that addresses the unemployment of women on the autism spectrum by creating, not just a place where women could be employed, but where they could be trained for employment in areas from inventory to bookkeeping while making an income.

Isabelle is now 25 and works at Sephora. She talks openly about her diagnosis and advocates for people with autism at as many autism-related events that she can attend. Thanks to her passion and persistence, GirlAGain has become a model for other autism employment training programs.

Ron Sandison

Ron Sandison works full time in the medical field and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of the Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of American. Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and is the author of A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice, Biblical Wisdom published by Charisma House and Thought, Choice, Action. He has memorized over 10,000 Scriptures including 22 complete books of the New Testament.

He speaks at colleges, conferences, autism centers, and churches. Ron and his wife, Kristen, reside in Rochester Hills, MI, with daughter, Makayla. His website http://www.spectruminclusion.com.

Katie Santoro

Katie Santoro is a Miami Herald Silver Knight Award winner in the Drama category. She became a Silver Knight after she was invited to Washington at age 16 to speak to members of Congress and the National Endowment for the Arts about the impact of budget cuts on arts funding. She has been an arts advocate for over a decade and recently became an autism advocate after a late diagnosis at age 24. She participated in Job Seekers and the SALT program at UM/CARD. Her favorite group is Women on the Spectrum Support Group. She babysits for a 12-year-old girl on the spectrum. She hopes the future will be a world where clinicians have more accurate testing tools and knowledge to accurately identify women on the spectrum. Katie is the chair on the board of the Unicorn Children’s Foundation. She has traveled to 5 continents with the life goal of visiting all 7. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois and currently works full time at Cardinal Health.

Dr. Stephen Shore

Dr. Stephen Shore is from Massachusetts. A Clinical Assistant Professor of Special Education at Adelphi University, Dr. Shore has been tireless on advocacy, with his countless speeches, interviews, presentations (all over the world), and his high positions on many important organizational boards, along with working on many different projects that improve on advocacy.

For additional information:

Contact: Dr. Marlene Sotelo, Executive Director
Email: marlene.sotelo@elsforautism.org