2020-2021 CT LEND Trainees

Amal Alsamawi

Amal Alsamawi: Amal is a PhD student in Public Health at the University of Connecticut. She earned her B.A. in Health Policy and Philosophy, followed by her MPH from the University of Michigan. Prior to returning to graduate school she worked at Michigan’s University Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), the Michigan Developmental Disabilities Institute (MI-DDI) at Wayne State University (WSU). In her role, she coordinated MI-DDI’s Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) initiative in collaboration with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). For this project, she’s managed the statewide dataset, provided technical assistance to MDHHS and the state’s 10 regional pre-paid in-patient health plans (PIHPs), and developed and delivered HCBS awareness materials to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and family members. Amal hopes to pursue a career in disability and public health research to inform and influence policy and improve public health practice. Her current interests include improving the health care delivery system for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families that may experience compounded barriers to accessing and navigating the healthcare system.

Future Planning for Muslim Americans with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and their Families

Guiseppe Amenta

Giuseppe Amenta: Giuseppe is a Speech Language Pathology graduate student at the University of Connecticut. He previously received his Bachelor’s Degree in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences from the University of Connecticut. Giuseppe is currently interested in working with school age children with intellectual and developmental delays. He has experience conducting intervention sessions with the school age population at the University of Connecticut’s Speech and Hearing Clinic and East Windsor Public Schools. He is looking forward to completing a fellowship year following graduation from the University of Connecticut.

Analysis of Speech Language Pathologists Graduates’ Level of Knowledge and Confidence in Providing Services to Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Alyssa Bunyea

Alyssa Bunyea: Alyssa is a Doctoral student in UConn’s School Psychology program. She obtained her B.A. in Psychology, with a minor in Sociology from Siena College in 2018. She has worked on research around child learning, preschool development, and caregiver stress. Currently, Alyssa’s research interests include trauma-informed practices, mindfulness practices, and supporting culturally and linguistically diverse students in schools. She is also interested in systems-levels change and is looking forward to learning more about policy development and becoming more involved as an advocate for individuals with disabilities.

APA Accredited School Psychology Programs: Preparation of Disability Allies Through Graduate Training

Presentation Slides

Brenna Fitzmaurice

Brenna Fitzmaurice: Brenna is a graduate student in the UConn School Psychology Program. She is originally from Michigan, where she earned her B.S. in Psychology from Central Michigan University in 2020. At Central Michigan, Brenna studied the relationship between social belonging and internalizing disorders in honors students. She also worked in labs where she helped research the effect of technology use on teens, effective forensic interviewing techniques on children, and the effectiveness of parent-child interaction therapy. Brenna also spent time as an honors peer mentor and as a psychology ambassador that connected undergraduates, especially first-generation students, to opportunities within the department. Currently, Brenna is interested in mind-body health, trauma-informed care, and mental health care accessibility.

Shannon Hall

Shannon Hall: Shannon is a first year student in the Masters in Social Work Program concentrating in Individual, Group, and Family Practice. She previously attained her B.A. in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Connecticut. She has worked as a paraprofessional in an elementary school, providing 1 on 1 and small group support to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She has also worked as a certified Infant and Toddler Teacher, where she first became interested in supporting individuals with disabilities through her experiences. Shannon would like to continue her social work practice in an educational setting and wants to increase access and awareness of community resources to families in need. She would also like to incorporate advocacy and community organizing into her practice. Through her LEND research group, she is looking into health promotion for individuals with disability, specifically sex education and barriers to relationships. Shannon currently interns at a homeless shelter for men in recovery from substance abuse, mental illness and incarceration. She seeks to develop a deeper understanding for the social problems across the Hartford community.

Emily Jackson

Emily Jackson: Emily is a first year Ph.D. student in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences advised by Dr. Bernard Grela. She received a B.A. in Psychology and Education and Child Study from Smith College and a clinical Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her current research interests include early language screening and assessment measures, interdisciplinary approaches in early intervention, and family engagement and involvement in therapy. She is also interested in working with special populations such as children with Autism (ASD) as well as children with hearing loss.

Knowledge & Skills of Early Childhood Intervention Doctoral Consortium Scholars at Program Entry

Sherlye Jackson

Sherlye Jackson: Sherlye is a Sixth Year Degree student in the Special Education Program at the University of Connecticut. She obtained her Advanced Educational Leadership Superintendence Level from Central Connecticut State University, A Birth to Three M.ED from Southern Connecticut State University and dual undergraduate degree in elementary and special education from Simmons University. Sherlye has served as a Principal at all grade levels and is currently a Director of Special Education responsible for the special education teams at three comprehensive high schools. Her career focus is the development of her district’s continuum of services for the 18-22 Transitional and the Secondary Self-Contained ED Programs. Upon completion of her current degree program she wants to continue to develop the transitional college to career program for students with disabilities.

Melissa Karp

Melissa Karp: Melissa is in her third year of the Clinical Doctorate of Audiology program at UConn. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders, with a minor in Psychology in 2018 from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. During her time at UConn, Melissa has focused on assessing and treating hearing loss in children, in addition to listening therapies for individuals with severe hearing losses. Melissa is interested in early intervention and aural rehabilitation services. Upon graduation, she is looking forward to providing a family-centered, holistic approach to treating hearing loss in children.”

Lauren Mangold

Lauren Mangold, MS, CCC-SLP: Lauren is a Doctoral candidate in UConn’s Early Childhood Special Education program. She obtained dual Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Speech, Language, and Hearing Science at the University of Colorado – Boulder before completing her Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology at Northeastern University. She has worked as a pediatric speech-language pathologist since 2013 and specializes in social communication. Lauren has a passion for supporting families and educators to recognize communication cues and strategies that work for different kinds of learners, in order to promote the brain-building “serve and return” interactions are critical to the healthy development of every child. Using the tools gained through the LEND program, she hopes to increase inclusion and equity for children with communication-based differences and disabilities in early childhood settings.

Knowledge & Skills of Early Childhood Intervention Doctoral Consortium Scholars at Program Entry

Goviana Morales

Goviana Morales: Goviana is a mother of 5 children, two of whom have a disability. Realizing early on that she needed to educate herself to navigate the special education system, I participated in CPAC’s Next Steps program. Other training followed with Partners in Policy Making, Special Education Advocacy Training through COPAA, ASCRC and SpEdConnecticut. I currently serves as Secretary of the Board of Directors for SpEdConnecticut as well as a volunteer parent advisor. I work for Connecticut Family Support Network as a Family Support Coordinator. I’m currently working on a degree in Speech and Language Pathologist Assistant.

Laura Morales

Laura Morales: Laura is a Senior at UConn majoring in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences and minoring in Psychology. As of right now, she is interested in both the auditory system and the brain’s role in speech perception, but she is looking to narrow down her interest. Post-undergrad, she will be pursuing an Au.D/Ph.D. dual degree and a career as a Pediatric Audiologist.

Gina Norman

Gina Norman: Gina is a first-year doctoral student in the School Psychology program at The University of Connecticut. With an M.A. in Counseling Psychology, she has worked as a mental health Counselor providing school-based therapy to K-5 students and their families and served in multiple Pre-K classrooms as an Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant. In the past, she has also worked as a Research Assistant in various university and public research labs focusing on effective supports for individuals with complex PTSD. She is currently interested in researching school-based early childhood mental health interventions, as well as quality school practices in family engagement. She looks forward to growing as an effective advocate and service provider to children with disabilities and their families.

U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District (2017) & Application of IEP Construction for School Psychologists

Tina Pappalardo

Tina Pappalardo: Tina is a Parent Advocate Trainee participating in Lend, as she is a mother of a child with a disability . She is an Advocate in special education, disability rights and works in the field as a Autism Coach/Mentor, facilitating independence while providing behavior & communication support . She leads several support groups and advisory boards supporting other parents together through their journeys. Tina is also President of a non-profit organization in CT that serves children with disabilities. She is a Partners in Policymaking graduate has studied coursework in Behavior as Communication, Autism, Applied Behavior Analysis, Special Education Law and Policymaking; implementing these skills both personally and professionally. Her current interests focus on policymaking, and establishing positive and safe educational environments for learning. ​ She hopes to provide some insight in LEND to other professionals on life with disabilities and also learn from their expertise so she can consistently strengthen her advocacy skills.

Hannah Perry

Hannah Perry: Hannah is a second-year graduate student in School Psychology at the University of Connecticut. She obtained her B.A. in Psychology and Justice Studies with a minor in Forensic Sciences from the University of New Hampshire. As an undergraduate, she was a research assistant in the Violence Response and Resilience Laboratory and served as a Community Educator with the Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP). She later worked as a school-based Behavioral Health Professional (BHP), providing one-on-one social, emotional, and behavioral support to students with disabilities as they navigate their school day. Through UConn’s Collaboratory on School and Child Health, she worked on research projects under Dr. Sandy Chafouleas and Dr. Emily Iovino that explore the well-being of caregivers of children with developmental disabilities. Her research interests include family-centered school practices to promote the health of children with disabilities and their caregivers. She is also interested in trauma-informed systems of support to foster social-emotional-behavioral well-being in schools.

Parent/Family Coursework in NASP-Approved School Psychology Programs

Presentation Slides

Blaise Pfaffmann

Blaise Pfaffmann: Blaise is a graduate student in the School of Audiology from Pacific University in Hillsboro, Oregon. He obtained his Bachelor’s of Art in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences from San Diego State University in 2017. He worked in pediatric behavioral health during his undergraduate career, implementing Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy to children with developmental disabilities. He is interested in interdisciplinary work and looks forward to using his LEND training to become a better provider and educate others.

Grace Rogers

Grace Rogers: Grace is a graduate student in the Educational Psychology program with a concentration in Special Education at UConn. She graduated in May of 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Westfield State University in Massachusetts, where she completed an internship as a behavior technician at a Massachusetts Autism Specific program. Grace hopes to further develop her academics, practicum experiences, personal values, professional identity, and career goals through LEND.

Kevin Sardy

Kevin Sardy: Kevin is in his third year of the Clinical Doctorate of Audiology program at UConn. He received his bachelor’s degree in speech, language, and hearing sciences from Boston University. He has clinical experience spanning the age and ability range and originally fell into audiology through his love of music. He is excited to be a LEND trainee and to become the best Audiologist he can be!

Madelyn Senich

Madelyn Senich: Madelyn is a first year Master of Public Health Student at the University of Connecticut. She received her bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience in May of 2019 from Bucknell University. She currently works as a medical scribe for Scribe America in a local hospital’s emergency department. She is interested in LEND because of her personal connection to people with disabilities, as her younger sister has Down Syndrome and serves as her role model and inspiration for many life choices that she has made. Through her LEND training, she hopes to gain a deeper perspective on how to treat and advocate for people with disabilities in the medical setting.

What Curriculum Content Contains Information & Education About Persons with Disabilities at Yale's, Quinnipiac's, and University of Connecticut's Schools of Medicine

Hanna Waldo

Hanna Waldo: Hanna is a graduate student in Audiology at Purdue University. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, with a minor in Psychology, from the University of Connecticut. She was the vice president of her high school Best Buddies chapter, was a nutrition and literacy advocate in the Husky Reads program and was an elementary school tutor for underserved children. She has conducted research on grit, an individual’s perseverance and passion for long-term goals, and mindset, an individual’s view of where ability comes from, in Deaf and hard-of-hearing children and its relation to academic outcomes. She plans on working as a pediatric audiologist in a hospital setting focusing on providing family-centered care.

Merissa Wright

Merissa Wright: Merissa is a graduate student in Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut. Merissa is also part of the UCEDD Transdisciplinary program focusing on working with families of children with Autism and high-intensity needs. Previously, she was the first recipient of a B.A. in Music Therapy with a Pre-Health pathway from Fordham University. She has experience in a variety of positions from Undergraduate research to clinical experience. Most recently, Merissa is employed as a Music Therapist for children with high intensity needs, and as a Parent Educator working with families with children with disabilities or mental health conditions. She has previous experience as a Developmental Specialist in Early Intervention, and a Behavior Therapist for Autism services. She is currently interested in studying program development and design in Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education, with a focus on inclusion, access to quality care, and enhancing culturally congruent early childhood services. She looks forward to the opportunity to carry out group and independent research through Lend, as well as, to continue to learn from and with current and future leaders in the field.

From Trauma Inducing to Trauma Reducing: Is training provided to Preschool Educators in addressing early childhood trauma in Preschool settings?