AANE Support and Social Group Facilitators

Support groups, social groups and events offer post high school adults with Asperger/autism profiles, and family members of those adults the opportunity to connect and relate to peers.   Facilitators guide adult participants in activities, events, and groups.  Facilitators are AANE staff, consultants, or volunteers who themselves are on the autism spectrum, have family members on the spectrum, or have worked extensively with the Asperger/autism community.

Support groups are facilitated peer support, and are not intended to be therapy.

Learn more about the guidelines and code of conduct for adult groups and events on the Adult Support Group and Event FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page and on the  FAQS Parent of Adult Support Groups page.

Parent of Child & Teen facilitators

Parents of Adults & Adult Facilitatior

Stephanie Birkdale
Stephanie Birkdale is the Program Manager for Asperger/Autism Network (AANE). She has been working for AANE for 4 years. She facilitates the Boston Book Club for adults on the spectrum with Katie Devin. She also manages and facilitates the Women's Social Event series, which offers monthly activities in various locations. Stephanie is also an adult on the spectrum and enjoys reading, knitting, walking, and web design.

Contact: stephanie.birkdale@aane.org

Jane Thierfield Brown
Jane Thierfeld Brown is Director of College Autism Spectrum, Assistant Clinical Professor at Yale Child Study, Yale Medical School.  and former Director of Student  Services at the University of Connecticut School of Law She has worked in Disability Services for 40 years. She holds an Ed.D from Columbia University, Teachers College. Jane consults  with school districts and institutions of higher education and provides college consultations to AANE families and students.  Jane has appeared on Good Morning America, CBS News and NPR. She has co- authored “ Student with Asperger’s: A Guide for College Professionals,” (2009) Published in Japanese 2017,  “The Parent’s Guide to College for Students on the Autism Spectrum,” (2012) and “Behavior Management and Self-Regulation,” (2012) along with many textbook chapters and articles. She received the Ron Blosser Dedicated Service Award from AHEAD in 2019. Jane is married and has three children, the youngest being a 28 year old son with Autism. Jane also facilitates an AANE Parent of Adult Support Group Series.
Michele Cantara,

Co-Director of Adult Services

Michele(she/her/hers) is the mother of a young adult with ASD who is taking college classes and working part-time. In college, Michele majored in Psycholinguistics, which helped her recognize her son's social interaction issues early on, and started her down a path of advocating for parents. In 1998 she co-founded the Massachusetts Special Education Parents Advisory Council (MASSPAC).  Michele also spent 35 years in the high-tech industry, and she now applies her well-honed consulting and changes management skills to parent coaching sessions and parent support groups at AANE.

Contact: michele.cantara@aane.org, 617-393-3824 X71.

Jennifer DeSanctis-Narby,

Jennifer 125 140

AANE LifeMap Coach and Support Group Facilitator

Jennifer is an AANE LifeMap coach and she also facilitates several in-person AANE Parent of Adult Support groups and leads three AANE PoA online groups. Jennifer’s motto is "What else can go right?"  Coaching LifeMap clients and leading parent groups is her passion. By helping them shift their perspective to what can go right, she is able to help them make significant positive changes in their lives. Jennifer says, “ I’m constantly amazed by parents' commitment to their adult child's future, but I also recognize that this commitment can be all-consuming and draining.”
Jamie Freed
Jamie Freed (she/her/hers) is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker with offices in Quincy and Newton Highlands, MA. She specializes in working with neurodivergent and gender expansive individuals and their families, including those on the autism spectrum. Jamie draws from years of experience as the Director of Adult Services at The Asperger/Autism Network (AANE), where she worked with adults on the autism spectrum, as well as their families individually and as a group facilitator. She also has expertise in working with individuals who are exploring their gender identity and expression, including non-binary identities.  Jamie emphasizes the importance of psychoeducation and takes a practical approach to helping clients improve the quality of their lives whether focusing on communication, relationships, employment or having independent and meaningful lives. She brings a nonjudgmental, compassionate approach to the therapeutic relationship. Jamie’s style is primarily cognitive in nature, emphasizing strengths and incorporating coaching skills as necessary to empower her clients and enable self-advocacy. 

Contact: jfreed84@gmail.com

Nick Gallop
Nick Gallop Staff PhotoNick Gallop is our Adult Services Coordinator, and a Published Author on Autism who specializes in helping young adults on the Spectrum. He's worked with everything from Universities, to Parents, to the Clients themselves in helping them understand themselves and their Aspergers Profile. He is also an artist and musician, and is knowledgeable both on how artistic expression can help those on the spectrum, and how to market oneself as an artist.

Contact: nick.gallop@aane.org

Gail Kastorf, M.Ed.

Gail Kastorf has a M.Ed. in Counseling from Northeastern University. Gail facilitates adult support groups and has facilitated parent groups and led social activities on the MA North Shore. She serves as the AANE Grant Writer.  During her 13 years at AANE, she has also assisted adults to understand how Aspergers may impact their work life and discussed strategies to increase success on the job. She has provided training on AS to educators, career counselors, vocational rehabilitation counselors and employers

Contact: gail.kastorf@aane.org

Allyson Linehan,

Consultation & Coaching Specialist Adult Services

Allyson Linehan (she/her/hers) has worked over 30 years in the human service field and has a Masters in Pastoral Counseling from Boston University. She has been a LifeMAP Coach for 5 years and enjoys helping clients achieve their goals and dreams. 

Contact: Allyson.linehan@aane.org

Elisa Lloyd
Elisa Lloyd is an Expressive Arts Therapies and Clinical Mental Health Counseling graduate student at Lesley University. She has been a clinical intern at AANE since August of 2019 with the Adult Services Department and helps facilitate support groups and takes Acuity calls for individuals on the Spectrum. Elisha brings a calm and validating perspective into all of her interactions and hopes to help clients achieve their goals.  

Contact: elisha.lloyd@aane.org

Melissa MacNish

Melissa MacNish (she/her/hers) is a licensed mental health counselor with extensive experience working in the LGBTQ+ community. She is currently in private practice at The Meeting Point in Jamaica Plain, MA. 

Melissa is deeply committed to creating safe spaces for trans, non-binary and queer youth to develop healthy identities. She has been involved with the GBPFLAG parents of transgender/gender non-conforming children support group since its inception in 2009.  She is also on the founding Board of Directors and Assistant Director for Harbor Camp’s Camp Aranu’tiq, summer camp programming for transgender and gender variant youth and their families.  Melissa recently launched her business, SAYFTEE, LLC to offer more services to meet the needs of the the LGBTQ+ communities in the Boston area.  

For the past twelve years, Melissa has had the privilege of supporting many families through the process of understanding a family member’s gender identity and expression and has helped both families and individuals navigate the complex issues that often arise as a result of a gender transition or non-binary gender presentation.

Contact: Melissa@sayftee.com

Nisha Narvekar

Nisha Narvekar has been with AANE for over 9 years in various capacities. She was LifeMAP Assistant Director and a seasoned LifeMAP coach. From support groups for siblings and parents to information and referral for AANE’s Adult Services, Nisha enjoys a rich experience from working with a diverse set of clients. Nisha is currently pursuing her PhD. Nisha has a Master’s degree in Community Social Psychology from UMASS Lowell and in Applied Psychology from India. While in India, Nisha worked with underprivileged children at a high risk of HIV, using dance therapy for group counselling, creating HIV awareness.

Contact:nisha.narvekar@aane.org

Erica Remi
Erica Rémi is the Director of Development at AANE and responsible for raising funds to support its programs and services. Prior to joining AANE in 2017, Erica worked at the nonprofit organization Year Up and the consulting firm Development Guild. She has gained extensive knowledge about Asperger/autism profiles through working with neurodiverse colleagues, building relationships with AANE community members, and parenting a child on the spectrum.
Liz Roberts
Elizabeth Roberts, PsyD is a lifespan psychologist and neuropsychologist. Liz is in
private practice in Lenox, Massachusetts and Hudson, NY and serves children, families,
adults, and professionals in education and mental health with neuropsychological
evaluation, psychotherapy, legal advocacy, consultation, training, and supervision.
Previously, Liz was the National Director of Clinical Support Services for College
Internship Program (CIP), a multi-site transition program for young adults with mild ASD
and other learning differences. from the staff and young adults across CIP’s campuses
and is grateful for that opportunity. For over a decade Liz was an assistant professor at
the NYU School of Medicine and a staff neuropsychologist on the autism spectrum
disorders service at the NYU Child Study Center. Liz has specialized in the diagnosis
and evaluation of individuals across the lifespan with autism spectrum disorder and
other learning, developmental, and neuropsychiatric conditions.
Emily Rothman
Emily F. Rothman, ScD is a Professor at Boston University School of Public Health and also a student in a licensed mental health counseling program. She is a former domestic violence shelter worker and rape crisis hotline listener. She co-authored a curriculum for teenagers about pornography, and has experience teaching healthy relationships classes to teenagers with an Asperger profile and college students with mental health challenges.
Bruce Sabian
Bruce Sabian, M.A., LMHC, is the owner, co-founder, and director of Academy MetroWest, a children’s group therapy program in Natick, MA. Since 1994, Academy MetroWest has conducted gymnasium based groups for children and adolescents on the autism spectrum and other developmental challenges. Groups center on the use of cooperative, non-competitive physical activity and aim to enhance self-image and social skills and cognition. Mr. Sabian also provides individual counseling, and executive function coaching, and has served as a consultant and trainer to school systems and other human service organizations.
Kelly Urban

Kelly UrbanKelly Urban, is a therapist and LifeMAP coach, who also works in AANE's Adult Services Department. Kelly previously worked at McLean Hospital, using DBT to teach young women emotion regulation tools and other life skills to move forward in their lives. Since 2014, Kelly has been providing information and referral services to adults, their families, and professionals, to help navigate what an Asperger profile means for them or those they care about.

Contact: Kelly.urban@aane.org.

Kim Wutkiewicz

Kim Wutkiewicz has a long history of working with individuals to navigate challenges and find balance, as both a board-certified acupuncturist and registered yoga teacher. Currently, as the Communications Manager at The Food Project, she spends her days writing about the ways in which people and neighborhoods can work together to thrive through youth development, sustainable farming initiatives, community engagement, and honoring diversity in all of it's expressions. From 2016 - 2018, Kim worked in AANE's Development Department, where she wrote extensively about the unique experiences of people living with Aspergers and related profiles, particularly women living on the spectrum. She continues to explore the ways in which neurodiverse perspectives enrich our world and all of our lives.

Contact: kim.wutkiewicz@aane.org

Miriam Zisook

Miriam Zisook is a social worker and designer on the team at Powderhouse Studios. Miriam has worked as a designer on assistive technology and wearable technologies, and worked to support and increase the power and participation of disabled people in technology fields. Miriam's work at Powderhouse is focused on how learning to make things and learning to solve problems like a designer can help people become more confident, competent, and empowered.

Contact: miriam.zisook@aane.org

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