Our board of directors.
Marissa has been a volunteer supporting people of all ages with different needs since 2003 and has a passion for helping the Autism community. She was in the ASC Village and had a six-year career supporting families and doing community engagement for an Autism provider. She is so excited seerve on the board of the Autism Society of Colorado and is dedicated to building awareness and acceptance for autistic people statewide.
Marissa grew up in the Chicago area and went to school at the University of Kansas where she got her undergraduate degree in Marketing with a Spanish concentration. After spending some time in Kansas City, she moved with her husband to Denver in 2015. She now spends her spare time with her incredible husband, daughter and dog camping, hiking, skiing and traveling.
Michel joined the Autism Society of Colorado’s board in September 2021. She had several years of experience as a board member in the roles of President, Treasurer and Secretary. She also serves on the Colorado Special Education Advisory Committee.
Michel originally grew up in California and while attending the University of Colorado at Boulder, fell in love with the state. While attending the university she started working for nonprofits and for the past 20 years, she has worked in Development in several nonprofits throughout Colorado.
Michel has a twice exceptional daughter that was diagnosed with Autism in 2017. Knowing the challenges parents face upon diagnosis and the issues that come up while navigating services and the school systems, she is looking forward to working with families on their journeys. Understanding the importance of Autism awareness and acceptance, Michel will work with the board and community to help bring about programs and support for families.
Dr. Jennifer "Jenn" Paz-Ryan
Jenn is the co-founder of Elevated Insights Assessment, specializing in Psychological Assessments for Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults. As a graduate with her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Professional Psychology (GSPP), Jenn specializes in bilingual (English/Spanish) assessment and treatment of children/adolescents and their families. Jenn earned her Master of Education through Regis University and taught for five years within DPS. She dedicated herself to providing a culturally responsive classroom, formed strong relationships with her students and their families that continue today, and was awarded Mile High Teacher of the Year 2009/2010.
Commitment and admiration for underserved populations led to volunteering with AmeriCorps, and Jenn was awarded the 2014 Mountain West Engagement Award for Excellence and honored by the University of Denver Magazine. In 2015, Jenn began working on program development for the Latinx Psychology Specialty (LPS) at DU. In 2017-2019 was appointed as the Senior Program Associate, bridging the Latinx and Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) Specialties. Jenn’s passion for community partnerships and collaboration has led to presenting at national conferences (ZTT 2018; NLPA 2018 & 2019) and co-creating a professional development workshop for practitioners- Diversity Informed Practice: Infusing Multicultural Awareness into Your Work. In an effort to increase access to services, Jenn created a consultation group for bilingual (English/Spanish) psychologists who provide assessments with a specialization in diagnosing autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This group aims to enhance providers’ ability to ensure evaluations are culturally and linguistically responsive. Jenn is excited to join the Autism Society of Colorado to assist the organization in expanding its services for Spanish-speaking autistic individuals and their families in a linguistically and culturally appropriate way.
Mark grew up in New Jersey and graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with an undergraduate degree in Business Management. His first involvement with the Autism community was when he was 12 years old, working with a family near and dear to his heart, helping their child get through Sunday School. Mark remembers this as one of the most rewarding experiences and often thinks back on all of the fond times and memories he made with them. In 2015, he joined Team Select Home Care in Denver, CO, as one of the first employees in the Denver office helping the special needs community gain access to vital community resources. It was the best decision of his life. In his spare time, he enjoys skiing, hiking, playing golf, watching sports, and going on long walks with his amazing wife and incredible dog. Serving on the Autism Society of Colorado board is a dream come true, and he is passionate about helping this great organization make a difference statewide.
Sarah moved with her husband and two daughters to Denver from the Chicago area in August of 2020. Sarah has several years of experience as a volunteer, board member and president of a volunteer organization in Barrington, IL. Sarah also has a daughter who was diagnosed with Asperger’s at age nine and is a recent graduate of the University of Denver. Her experience as the parent of a child on the Autism Spectrum has developed her passion for and belief in the importance of autism awareness and acceptance.
Sarah graduated from Boston College in 1990 with a degree in history. She received her J.D. from Loyola University of Chicago School of Law and practiced law in Chicago for four years. Subsequently, she received her Master’s in Education from DePaul University and taught in the Chicago area full time and as a substitute. She currently teaches as a substitute teacher in the Denver area. Sarah is excited and honored to be a part of The Autism Society of Colorado and to assist in developing and implementing Autism 101 trainings.
Katherine "Katie" Vahey Gaebler
Katie is a downtown Chicago native, calling Colorado home since 2003. Originally relocating for a Masters program at University of Colorado Boulder, Katie went on to earn a PhD in Education Leadership from the University of Northern Colorado in 2011. For nearly 20 years she worked on college campuses throughout the Denver area, primarily in Program Administration, Academic Planning/Advising, and Faculty roles. Passionate about young adult student development, and personal growth through continuing education, Katie built a career being drawn to opportunities for learning - for herself and others - through immersive and narrative experience.
Katie’s cumulative career leads to her current and (so far) ultimate learning experience, parenting two beautiful young boys who identify on the Autism Spectrum. Her oldest son is 9 and a 3rd grader in a dedicated ASD Center program within Jefferson County school district. Katie started her platform, AutismNERD.com – the Neurodiverse Education Resources of Denver- to chronicle and connect about living with and parenting for Autism in the Denver area. She currently works with local schools, therapy providers, and families as a communication conduit for increased understanding and executing tailored strategies in support of her community. Katie is thrilled to join the Board for the Autism Society of Colorado to increase her network and reach for those who may need her counsel. When not living/reading/breathing life with Autism at home in Golden, you can find her in a vinyasa flow on a yoga mat, (un)packing for a hot springs road trip, and enjoying the companionship of her spouse and partner, John.
Sarah is a clinician who specializes in neurodevelopmental evaluations, parent support, and clinician training. She runs her private practice, Basecamp Pediatric Psychology, as a Licensed Psychologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Sarah earned her PhD in School Psychology from Oklahoma State University, where she specialized in the evaluation and treatment of children and adolescents as well as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). In 2014, Sarah moved to Denver to complete postdoctoral training in therapy, assessment, and ABA. She has practiced in the Denver area ever since.
Sarah is passionate about helping people understand the whole person, comorbid conditions, and advocacy for “medically necessary” services. She values timely diagnosis and support. She has coached and trained clinicians, participated in multidisciplinary teams, and been an advocate. Before opening her private practice, Sarah was the DIrector of Diagnostic Testing and later the Head of Psychological Services at local organizations. Sarah served a three year, governor-appointed term on Colorado’s Mental Health Advisory Board. She also has executive-level experience leading and coaching to create change and to build high-quality services. Sarah is excited to join the board of the Autism Society of Colorado to partner with individuals and families. She hopes to support the community and be a resource. Outside of work, Sarah trains regularly in olympic weightlifting and hangs out with her partner, Whit, and two dogs.
A digital and mixed-media artist, Alison has 10+ years of experience in marketing and graphic design, a BA in art history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an AAS in graphic design from Parsons The New School for Design. Recent transplants to Denver from New York City, Alison and her husband enjoy many activities including gardening, gaming, thrifting, reading, woodworking, and visiting museums outside of work.
Alison joined the board in 2023 and was diagnosed with autism in 2022. ASC was an invaluable resource of information and connections for her after she was diagnosed, and she is extremely excited to have the opportunity to help the board and community continue and further ASC's critical mission.
Charlie moved to Colorado in 2021 and currently practices commercial
litigation at a law firm in Denver called Fortis Law Partners LLC. Prior to moving to Colorado, Charlie graduated from the University of Michigan Law School and then practiced commercial litigation for five years at a large law firm in downtown Chicago.
Charlie’s sister is autistic, so he has first-hand experience with the struggles that an autistic person encounters as they grow from child to adult. Due to his sister’s autism, Charlie has always looked for ways to serve those with autism and developmental disorders, including by volunteering at multiple organizations that provide support for children and young adults with autism and developmental disorders.
Charlie recognizes the incredible challenges that autistic people and their families face, but he also sees autistic people for what they are: Perfect Human Beings. Charlie is ecstatic to join the Autism Society of Colorado and to continue serving autistic people in Colorado.
In Charlie’s free time, you will find him hiking, playing golf, playing guitar, or watching Michigan football.
Advisory Board Member
Dick is the founder and president of a startup organization focused on impacting the lives of people with Autism and other disabilities. His passion for helping people with Autism developed when he worked as the executive director at the STAR Institute from early 2016 until late 2018. STAR provides Research, Education and Treatment for children and adults with Sensory Processing Disorder. Dick has a strong desire to help adults with Autism find employment. He has a fourteen-year-old granddaughter in Florida who was diagnosed when she was about five, and since her mom and dad found the “right school” for her, she is doing well. Dick’s education includes engineering, operations research and computer science. He also worked as an adjunct professor in the School of Business at Colorado Christian University from 2007 until 2016. Dick served as the Vice Present of the ASC Board until January 2022.
Advisory Board Member
Shana is originally from the suburbs of Chicago, relocating to Colorado for law school in the late 90s. Since then, Colorado has become her second home, and Boulder County is where she met her husband, and have raised three daughters. Shana's father-in-law, Robert Beggan, was a second Dad to her and profoundly impacted her life. Following his professional career in non-profit work, Bob retired and served as a board member for the Autism Society at the national level until his passing. Through Bob's tireless advocacy and Shana and her husband's devotion to serving others through the legal and justice fields, Shana found her way to the Autism Society of Colorado.
Shana has a deep passion for justice, serving others, and connecting those with unique and challenging lives to the world. She has supported family members and close friends with unique challenges ranging from neurodiverse spectrum disorders to sensory processing disorders to mental health and physical illnesses. Shana's experiences watching these amazing individuals face life, and the challenges their unique hurdles have presented, have led her to become a staunch advocate, cheerleader, and supporter. Now, with her children grown and in young adulthood, Shana has turned to an organization she holds near and dear to her heart to carry forward her intense commitment to helping others.