The purpose of the Autism Therapy Services Advisory Board is to validate that the current practices across ESSC Autism Services are consistent with the needs of the communities served and that community members have a place and a voice in the process.
Our vision is to expand ESSC's connection with the autistic community and make sure we keep the conversation relevant and moving forward regarding support services offered.
Activities for this Board may include reviewing current programming, language and form use within the company, training practices, projected initiatives or projects and other topics of social validity or importance.
The initial advisory board was developed through a nomination process, with a goal to ensure that the make-up of the Board represents the diversity of Southern California. The board members meet on a quarterly basis. If someone is interested in applying to be an advisory board member, they can reach out to project lead Emily Tierman.
We are incredibly lucky to have these members on our board. Their lived experience, knowledge and expertise is invaluable to us, and we are very excited to continue forward with them as we stay on this journey of continued growth and commitment to our services. We are excited to continue to develop our practices utilizing their advice to generate parent supports for teen years and many other topics.
From struggles in early childhood education after being diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at age 2 (now referred to as ASD--Autism Spectrum Disorder), to degrees from San Diego State University, Northern Arizona University, and a doctorate in progress at Chapman University, Stephen uses his knowledge and personal experience to speak to people at schools and conferences across the world, determined to reshape society's perception of autism..
Stephen believes everyone can live a quality life if given the right support, especially during their school years. That’s what he presents when he travels across the states and internationally as a speaker and consultant. As of today, Stephen has spoken in 24 different states, plus Washington D.C., and the country of Australia over the past 19 years. When he is not traveling, Stephen resides in California.
Rahim Jiwani, a member of the neurodivergent community (diagnosed with autism and ADHD in childhood), is a Registered Behavior TechnicianTM (RBT®) at Easterseals Southern California's Severe Behavior Services division.
His experience spans various settings, including homes, schools, clinics, adult residential facilities, day programs, in-lieu-of day programs, and enhanced behavioral support facilities. He has served as a direct line therapist, lead Registered Behavior Technician (RBT), consultant, and assistant supervisor. Notably, in Washington State, Rahim participated in a year-long collaboration between a behavior analytic service agency and a large school district, where he collaborated with and learned from multidisciplinary teams of OTs, PTs, educators, and mental health specialists.
Rahim aims to bring about meaningful and inclusive change for all individuals, regardless of their status. He holds a bachelor's degree from Central Methodist University and is completing his master's program at Florida Institute of Technology. He plans to apply to doctoral programs soon, with a focus on closing the research-to-practice gap in compassionate treatment and support for severe problem behavior, considering values, cultural responsiveness, trauma-informed care, and more.
Arman Khodaei, an entrepreneur and passionate advocate for autistic individuals, has lead a thriving autism group with 2,200 members for the past 15 years. This group serves as a valuable resource, providing support, information, and opportunities for social connection. He offers a free ZOOM group every Wednesday which can be found at https://meetup.com/empoweringautism
Arman has also launched Project: Spectrum Connection, a social activity program for adults where individuals can enjoy themselves while building friendships, and acquiring new skills.
A strong believer in the power of community and the importance of creating spaces where individuals can feel accepted and valued for who they are, Arman personally enjoys playing the card game Dominion and attending social dances.
A high school graduate and Eagle Scout, Yushen Lin is currently studying for his A.S. Degree in Pre-Allied Health at Citrus College. His goal is to work in a medical setting. Yushen is also currently employed at Trader Joe’s, where he has worked since 2019 as a retail crew member. In his spare time, Yushen attends a college and career group through his church. He has also held various volunteer positions and participated in clubs including Leadership Council, Peer Mediation, and Youth Life Club. He enjoys playing piano and electrical bass and continues to take music lessons. Yushen is bilingual, speaking both English and Mandarin Chinese.
Kelly Londenberg is an autistic adult and licensed pediatric occupational therapy assistant (BS, COTA/L) working in a school-based setting, primarily serving children on the spectrum. She is in the process of completing an assistive technology program where she hopes to specialize in Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC). Kelly has served on the boards of several autism organizations, including Autism Society Inland Empire, where she ran the teen/adult group, family events, managed social media platforms and organized numerous trainings. Kelly speaks at local and national events educating others on topics related to sensory processing and living on the spectrum.
Brian Middleton, a neurodivergent individual who is AuDHD (ADHD & autistic), has a reading disability, and hearing impairments, is a firm believer in the importance of neurodiversity for fostering social engagement. With a background as a special education teacher and a behavior analyst, he is currently working as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA®) in disability services, he specializes in assent-based, neurodivergent-centered services and applies Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Relational Frame Theory (RFT) in his practice.
In addition to his professional work, Brian is an active member and president elect of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Special Interest Group (SIG) and has received the 2022 Diversity Aware award from the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACBS) for his advocacy and efforts in bringing to light and addressing unethical practices and human rights violations within the field including the use of Contingent Electric Shock (CESS) in disabled people. Brian initiated the Bearded Behaviorist social media profile in 2018, which has gained recognition for promoting engaging learning, exploration, and advocacy for diversity, equity, and inclusion using a prohuman and prosocial approach to behavior analysis.
Brian holds dual Bachelor's degrees in social science composite and special education, a Masters of Education with administrative endorsement from Southern Utah University, and a post-master's certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis from University of Cincinnati.
Tu Nguyen is a mother whose love for her two daughters has no boundaries. She has 13 years of experience advocating for her autistic daughter. She is a testament to success in balancing challenges in culture, family, and personal growth for her daughter! She is excited to share her experiences with the advisory board and continue to provide advocacy and support others toward achieving a high quality of life in the autistic community.
Kaelynn Partlow was diagnosed with autism at the age of 10. She joined Project Hope Foundation’s school program as a teenager, the largest ABA-based autism service provider in South Carolina, where she developed an interest in working with others on the spectrum. In 2015, she joined Project Hope Foundation as a Registered Behavior Technician. She is now a Lead Technician, providing services to middle and high-school-aged clients and helping to develop staff training content. In 2021, Kaelynn was a featured participant in the Netflix series, Love On The Spectrum. She has been a guest on numerous national podcasts and published several articles, providing an autistic perspective. She uses her social media accounts as a platform for autism advocacy, reaching millions across the world.
Eric Ramirez was diagnosed with autism as a child, and he is currently a student at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB), where he transferred after receiving his Associate in Arts (AA) degree from Chaffey College. Eric has received multiple scholarships and student awards, and he started a YouTube channel (EricRamirezGaming101) that has over 5K subscribers. The channel provides a look into Eric’s daily life, animations, gaming, and advocacy work, such as the Prado Dam Bicentennial Mural Restoration effort. Eric’s advocacy efforts extend to his role as an advisory board member for the Department of Disability Services, which lead to his being offered a position as a seasonal clerk with the Department of Corrections. Eric hopes his advocacy work will result in ALL individuals on the autism spectrum being accepted for who they are and being able to contribute to society in their own unique ways. He believes that he couldn’t have made it to where he is now without being provided with tools and resources, family support, encouragement, and blessings from the people along the way who gave him a chance!
Nik Sanchez is an 18-year-old budding actor and model. He refers to himself as "Awesomely Autistic" and he is a strong advocate for kindness. He recently made history as the first actor with autism to portray a lead character with autism in the Hallmark movie Our Christmas Journey with actors Holly Robinson Peete and Lyriq Bent. Nik has portrayed other characters on the autism spectrum in film and television and truly enjoys being able to help tell the many different stories of his community. Nik is also working on his Bachelor’s degree in Game Design, as video games have always been a passion of his and a way for him to connect with the world around him. Growing up, Nik viewed his autism as a superpower that allowed him to see and experience the world in a different way than others. As a young adult already making history, Nik continues to lead with kindness, spread awareness, and breakthrough any limited perceptions of what living with autism really looks like.
Questions about the Autism Advisory Board can be directed to project lead Emily Tierman.