Drejul AersolonDrejul Aersolon (they/them) is a recent graduate from Sacramento State University who received their Master of Social Work in May 2021. With a specialization in behavioral health, they are currently pursuing licensure with aspirations of eventually attaining their PhD in Social Work and Psychology. Dejul is a queer autistic individual themselves and looks forward to working with a variety of intersectional populations throughout their career in social work.

Joseph Armendarez I completed my pre-doctoral internship at Pacific Clinics, a community mental health clinic in Southern California. After completing my internship and earning a Ph.D. degree at the University of Rhode Island, I started work with Therapy Travelers. Through this company, I completed two years of work as a school psychologist in California. I strive to empower children and families to develop solutions and create positive changes to make their lives better in my clinical work. I am particularly interested in providing support to bilingual English-Spanish and monolingual Spanish-speaking families. My areas of interest are attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Autism, and Education/Literacy. My hometown is San Bernardino, California, an area where still many of my family/friends continue to live, and my hobbies are hiking, reading, and traveling!

Viviana Barnwell Viviana Barnwell is a Spanish- English bilingual linguist, lawyer, and educational specialist in the area of English Language Development (former elementary teacher, instructional coach, PD and curriculum Developer, and teacher trainer) who has devoted the past few years to support, train, and advocate for families of children with special needs in the SF Bay Area, especially immigrant Spanish speaking only families. Her passion and commitment to the cause comes from the fact that she is herself the parent of a child with multiple neurological conditions, including ASD and who is part of multiple intersectionalists. She feels grateful for being part of LEND and plans to continue spreading information and educating on all the skills and knowledge she will acquire through the program. Also, to continue working in the area of neurodevelopmental disabilities advocating for the children's and the families' needs and, most importantly, to continue actively advocating for true system changes that impact not only the quality and quantity of the services individuals receive to support their needs, but also, the true enjoyment of their lives, their talents, and their hopes.

 Laura Basini Laura Basini (she/her) is an education professional with twenty years’ experience teaching humanities in settings including community colleges, K-8 charter schools, public universities, and private R1 institutions. Her primary interests in autism research include the physiological traits of meltdowns and meltdown management; autistic masking and burnout, particularly in girls; and diagnostically distinguishing overlapping symptoms between commonly co-occurring conditions such as ADHD, OCD, and sleep disorders. Dr. Basini’s work prioritizes developing and providing access to effective educational resources for teachers, counselors, siblings, and friends of individuals living on the spectrum.

Angela DahiyaAngela Dahiya, M.S. is a clinical psychology doctoral student at Virginia Tech and is currently completing her pre-doctoral psychology internship at the MIND Institute and the UC Davis CAARE Diagnostic & Treatment Center. Prior to starting her Ph.D., she completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at UC Davis while working as a research assistant for the MARBLES study as well as a behavior therapist, which is where she was first exposed to the autism field. She then received her master's degree in Psychology from Pepperdine University while serving as a research assistant and clinician at various labs and clinics at UCLA. Her clinical and research interests are focused on the dissemination and implementation of accessible care for families and their children with developmental disabilities in diverse and rural/low-income communities, specifically through the use of technology. She is also interested in examining the impact of parenting/family stress and trauma on treatment outcomes within this population.

Van MaVan Ma is Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics fellow at the UC Davis MIND Institute. Prior to starting medical school, she worked as a behavioral therapist in the Bay Area. She is passionate about researching the genetic and environmental factors behind Autism in order to improve medical management and, ultimately, quality of life.

Kimberly MarrsKimberly Marrs is a speech-language pathology clinical fellow. Kimberly graduated with her master’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from California State University, Sacramento, and bachelor of arts degree from University of California, Davis. Her passion for working with children with neurodevelopmental disorders and their families started while she was a speech-language pathologist assistant at a private practice. Since then, she has continued clinical practice and research with individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders or genetic conditions through a variety of school, medical, and clinical settings. Kimberly’s professional interests include speech sound disorders, language development, feeding disorders, and social communication disorders from birth through adolescence.

Safiya Neal My name is Safiya Neal, my interest in the mind institute started because I have a child with autism. I am a full time parent and an artist and I’m interested in advocacy work with a strong desire for community outreach. Inclusivity is something I’ve been working on and would like to become a better asset to my community by properly introducing more inclusive activities for people with autism.

Nubia Ramirez I am Nubia Ramirez, a graduate social work student at California State University, Sacramento. My pronouns are she/her/ella. My background includes working with adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, and a B.S. in Nutrition from Universidad de Guadalajara, in Mexico, where I was raised. I plan on becoming licensed and working in a clinical setting as a career goal.

Ruhina Tasmin I am Ruhina Tasmin, originally from Bangladesh. I am a foreign medical graduate and ECFMG certified MD. I worked with many different demographics in Bangladesh, particularly in tertiary care hospitals. My exposure with neurodevelopmental disorder patient especially ASD, ADHD and cerebral palsy, fueled my passions towards focusing more on my career in Child Psychiatry. I am currently a master’s student in public health (MPH) majoring in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Keck School of Medicine, USC. I am truly excited to be in UC Davis LEND program and can’t wait to work and learn with different faculty members, other peers, and many other people. My goal is to extend the learnings to provide a holistic care towards helping patients with neurodevelopmental disorders.

Xjaedah Williams I am former student-athlete graduated from UC Davis with a Bachelors in human development with a minor in aging and adulthood development and a Masters in Public Health. My career goal is to become a neurosurgeon or an ENT surgeon while also owning a holistic cancer center for underserved communities. My goal is to apply the resources and knowledge gained from being a LEND trainee to the medical field and make a difference for families with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Taffeta WoodTaffeta Wood (she/her), Ph.D. earned her doctoral degree in Education with an emphasis in Language, Literacy and Technology and completed additional training in Special Education. She is a postdoctoral scholar in the Collaborative START Lab and is interested in personalized instruction particularly for students with Special Education designations of autism and how researchers partner with schools and communities to support teachers and learners. Prior to joining LEND she enjoyed working with children as a teacher of both Special Education and General Education and has published in academic journals on the subjects of disability vs. difference and personalized learning interventions.

Medium/Advanced Medium-Term Trainees

Axie AcostaAxie Acosta (she/her) graduated from UC Davis with a BS in Human Development and a minor in Global Disease Biology. During her time at UCD, she volunteered as a research assistant in the Collaborative START Lab and was exposed to early ASD detection and intervention research. Currently, she is an Assistant Clinical Research Coordinator at the MIND Institute for Dr. Christine Nordahl, whose research focuses on brain development differences in autistic and non-autistic preschoolers. Axie’s research and clinical interests include early detection, motor and social development, and parent-child interactions. Her goal is to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology and continue her work with autistic children and their families. She is extremely honored and excited to be in the LEND program!

Christina Aguirre-KolbMy name is Christina Aguirre-Kolb (she/her). I just completed my Doctorate in Clinical Psychology having defended my dissertation on children with Fragile X and confirming a cognitive profile. I have worked in public schools for over 10 years as a school psychologist and as a licensed Educational Psychologist at a behavioral neurodevelopmental clinic at a children’s hospital. I find that my motivation to work in this field is simply because I believe every child deserves the opportunity to approach life with a sense of resiliency, self-love and hope.

Ravi ArcharyaHello, I'm a recent graduate of the UC Davis Pediatric Residency, now working as one of the Chief Residents for the program. Next year, I'll be starting a three-year training program at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. My ultimate goal is to help bridge the gap between Pediatrics and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and to help address the needs of neurodiverse children.

Kaisa ArrasmithKaisa Arrasmith (she/her) is currently a second-year student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at Sacramento State University. She earned her BS in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior from UC Davis. Kaisa is interested in learning more about Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental disorders so she can better advocate for and tailor her care to patients of all different backgrounds. She looks forward to gaining new perspectives from community members and people in different professions.

Sandy Birkeneder My name is Sandy Birkeneder (she/her/hers) and I am a 3rd year PhD student in the School of Education at UC Davis. My advisors are Dr. Nicole Sparapani and Dr. Peter Mundy. I am interested in autism research, specifically in the areas of diagnostics, social attention, and interventions.

Julia BlairJulia Blair (she/her) is a public sector attorney working in the area of access and equity for higher education. As a mother of 6, including a 5-year son with ASD, and a community advocate for access and inclusion in Davis and volunteer parent resource, her interests include parent support, early assessment, early education inclusion, and advocacy for services for families and children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. She is looking forward to the opportunity to learn with MIND staff and other trainees and increase her ability to support families in the community.

Margaux de Leon (she/her) Margaux de Leon (she/her) transitioned from a career in finance to a full-time caregiver and parent advocate. She has two sons; the oldest has ASD and is moderately verbal. Raised solely by her immigrant mother in the culturally diverse Bay Area, greatly influenced her desire to help minority families who are often unseen or marginalized. Providing support and services to communities of color to help them navigate the autism journey, is the driving force for her participation in the LEND program. One area she feels is of vital importance is educating the immediate and extended family members of children with ASD- particularly in cultures that shy away from acknowledging disabilities- so that they can develop the proper tools to be effective allies. Additionally, having previously been a juris doctorate candidate, delving into the policies and laws that shape the special education system and govern the Department of Developmental Services is also of particular interest. She is currently completing her certification training to become an Independent Facilitator for the newly launched Self Determination Program (SDP) for Regional Center clients.

La Toi FryeLa Toi Frye is a Sacramento native, earning her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science from California State University, Sacramento. She received her Master of Social Work Degree from the University of Southern California, wherein she concentrated in Community Organization and Planning Administration, and Military Social Work. She has been a social worker for 7+ years supporting various populations across California. She currently specializes in the community transition and re-entry of California's incarcerated population, as well as medical psychiatric social work. She is truly enthusiastic about UC Davis MIND Institute's distinguished LEND program, and brings her strong passion for early childhood intervention and person-centered advocacy. She hopes to integrate new evidence-based practices into her existing work with neurodiverse adults, and during her time in the LEND program she will focus on ASD and how it affects our African American population along with the impact of early intervention on neurodiverse children.

Brianna HeathMy interests are focused on autism and ADHD. I have ADHD myself, and I have been the project manager for several large scale autism research studies at the MIND since 2016. In general, my interests are in self-advocacy and bridging the gap between those with lived experience and the policy makers, clinicians, and researchers whose work directly affects the lives of those individuals. Through the LEND program, I hope to expand my understanding of a wide range of strategies for disability advocacy/self-advocacy.

Janet LoveI am humbled to be a distinguished LEND Trainee for 2021-2022 and to have this opportunity. I am passionate about serving children and families as a social worker and have done so for the last 27 years within Child Protective Services, Foster Care Services, and School Programs (Child Development and Special Education - SCUSD). I am a wife and mother and I enjoy serving my family and my community and being a lifelong learner of human growth and development, mental health and social emotional learning. I currently serve as a school social worker for Sacramento City Unified School District providing counseling and guidance to high school students who experience emotional disturbances. These students may often have learning challenges as well as a form of a neurodevelopmental disability (ie. ADHD, ASD, Fragile X, etc.) Within counseling sessions, I am passionate by these exceptional students. I work to develop the best approaches to support them and to create a positive learning environment. With the LEND Training, I look forward to increasing my knowledge and exploring best practices to support and advocate for students, families and communities.

Julie MillerI am currently in my 14th year working as a Speech-Language Pathologist for Rocklin Unified School District. I started my career many years ago in Early Intervention specializing in little ones with an Autism diagnosis. Since then I have worked with a range of ages (preK - 6th grade) and a range of speech/language disorders and still have a ton to learn.

Lindsay Olson Lindsay Olson (she/her) is originally from Seattle, WA, where she graduated with a PsyD in clinical psychology. With a B.S. in environmental studies and chemistry from Emory University and other professional experience in outdoor adventure education for children with disabilities, Lindsay believes clinical psychology blends her passions for understanding psychological, social, ecological, and developmental processes. Lindsay is associated with the MIND Institute’s LEND program through a postdoctoral fellowship with the UC Davis Health Child and Adolescent Psychological Services.

Katharine OwensEnthusiastic and committed special needs Mom currently pursuing a career change to become a Registered Nurse in the healthcare industry. Currently working as a “Parent Coach & Intake Coordinator” for the Family Navigator program at the UC Davis MIND Institute. Board Member for the San Juan Unified School District Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), School Site Council, and Parent Action Committee (PAC). Offering strengths in patient advocacy and navigating community-based services like Special Education and Regional Center. Personal interests include organic vegetable gardening, baking bread, and animal rescue and welfare.

Roni OwyangRoni Owyang (she/her/hers) is a licensed physical therapist that graduated from the UCSF/SFSU Doctor of Physical Therapy program in 2021. She has a strong passion for working with children with ASD and other developmental disorders which stems from previous work experiences. Roni is an active volunteer in her community and she currently serves on the Associate Board for Kids Enjoy Exercise Now, San Francisco. She is grateful for the opportunity to participate in the LEND program and looks forward to gaining skills and evidence-based knowledge to support the children and families that she serves.

Danielle PetersI am trained as a marriage family therapist and have worked with clients with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families throughout my whole career including early intervention, behavioral support and parent training. I specialize in emotionally supporting families throughout the lifespan from early intervention and diagnosis through marriage and parenthood. I am currently very interested in how neurodevelopmental diagnosis impact women and girls.

Halifu Prince

Halifu Prince, a Bay Area native, serves as a Behavioral Health Care Manager and Psychotherapist at Elica Health Centers. Halifu earned her Master of Social Work degree from Sacramento State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Arts from San Francisco State University. She takes an integrative and practical approach to working with children and families with Neurodevelopmental Disorders, as well as those with trauma; merging her passion for people and the creative into resourceful, yet evidence-based solutions. Halifu’s specific area of interest includes program development, and arts based interventions. She looks forward to enhancing her skills to continue to be an effective support system and leader in her community.

Nora Edith Rodriguez-GonzalesBorn in Mexico City, she lives in Sacramento with her husband Sergio, and their two daughters Maya and Sarah. Nora graduated and got her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM.) Afterwards, she did two postgraduates in ‘positivity psychology’ and ‘Neurodevelopment and Early Stimulation’ also with the UNAM. Since 2015 she has been in collaboration with CEDD as a volunteer, giving workshops for families with children with disabilities.

She believes in the importance of training the parents because she is convinced that with the right knowledge parents will be able to care better for their children and give them a better quality of life.

She also has 20 years of work experience teaching and making programs in early stimulation and sensory processing for children.

Aishworiya RamkumarI am a developmental behavioural pediatrician from Singapore who works with children with NDD and their families. I am passionate about bringing about change beyond the individual patient and at the policy and systems level to improve services for these children. I am looking forward to learning from fellow partners from different background, the interactions with them and exchanging ideas.

Christina Sandate Christina Sandate is a doctoral student pursuing her PhD in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Neuropsychology at Palo Alto University. She is currently completing her Doctoral Internship with UC Davis at the Sacramento County CAPS Clinic. Her training is focused in pediatric neuropsychology and she is passionate about studying the brain-behavior relationship. Christina’s dissertation studies the impact of Electrical Status Epilepticus in Sleep on a child’s learning and memory functioning. She has joined LEND to learn more about Autism Spectrum disorders and neuro-developmental disabilities and how to provide accurate assessment, treatment, and support for patients and their families.

Adam StylesI have been working as a physical therapist for 2+ years but have not worked with pediatric patients since elective coursework during my schooling. I loved the experiences I had in school, but always felt slightly intimidated at the idea of working exclusively in pediatrics. I am particularly interested in PT in the school setting as well as early intervention, and I'm currently working part time as a Home Health PT (not in pediatrics). I live in Placerville, CA and have two young children ages 3 and 1.

Holly VanDuzerI am a School Psychologist for Oroville City Elementary School District. My interests include early identification of Autism/Dyslexia/ADHD, culturally sensitive assessments, implementation of effective interventions and progress monitoring. Personal goals include bringing awareness of developmental differences and valuable resources to both my home and work community.

Johanna Vega Garcia Johanna Vega Garcia (she/her) is a 3rd year doctoral student in the School of Education at UC Davis. Her research interests involve examining the intersectionality between race and autism and how this affects the teacher-student relationships between students with autism who are from different racial backgrounds and their general education teachers. Since most of her research is conducted in a classroom setting, Johanna is eager to obtain some clinical skills through the classes and placements offered through the LEND program.

Laurel ZarnothLaurel Zarnoth is a Doctoral Intern at the CAPS Clinic. She is finishing her PsyD. in Clinical Psychology from Spalding University. She is passionate about working alongside people to meet their goals to live happy, healthy lives. Her clinical interests include providing holistic care to all individuals, particularly underserved populations. Specific areas of interest include assessment and the treatment of anxiety, depression, and trauma and stressor-related disorders.