Monday, November 18, 2013

Introducing our new specialists

Family Voices Indiana has recently added new specialists to help us better serve Hoosier families. Please help us welcome them to the team.

Heidi Brewton is one of our specialists for the Granger/South Bend/St. Joseph County area.  As the mother to three boys, Heidi understands the challenges, joys, and stresses involved in parenting. Her youngest son, Connor, was diagnosed with autism by the age of two, and also has esophagitis. Although originally from the area, Heidi and her family had been living in Orlando Florida for the past eleven years. While in Orlando, Heidi was the office manager, then President of the Autism Society of Greater Orlando. Through this experience, she had the opportunity to meet and work with individuals of varying cognitive abilities, incomes, and cultures. She feels fortunate that she was able to interact with such a wide range of unique children and adults, who have taught her so much about life.
Heidi is currently employed as the head of a children’s program for children with disabilities. Her goal there, as it is at Family Voices, is to help families and individuals live lives full of dignity, respect, and happiness. This is what she wants for her own son, and what everyone deserves.
Heidi and Connor currently reside in Granger, IN, not far from Connor’s big brother Drew and his new baby Hadley! Connor’s middle brother is finishing his degree in Florida at The University of Florida –Go Gators!
Tracy Jo Brown is one of our specialists for the Sellersburg/Clark County area. As the mother of two children, both with an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis, Tracy understands the emotional, financial, and overwhelming responsibility pushed upon parents after learning their child has a disability.  Numerous hours of internet research, emails, and phone calls to find doctors, therapists, and understanding waiver applications alone are a challenge. 
In September 2008, Tracy began a weekly special needs support group in New Albany, Indiana.  Now as a Family Voices Leader, she will have up to date dependable resources and family to family support at her fingertips to be a voice and guide to helping families and more in her community and surrounding counties.
Tracy graduated from Spalding University June 2011 with honors and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology.  Her hopes in the future are counseling special needs parents.  Currently, Tracy home schools her children.  Her hobbies include camping, gardening, and scrapbooking. 
Maria Maldonado is one of our bilingual specialists for the Highland/Lake County area.  Maria lives with her husband, Tony, and their children: Mark, a freshman at Wabash College; Justin, a Sophomore at Highland High School; and Alyssa their nine-year old daughter with Down Syndrome, who is in Fourth Grade at Merkley Elementary School.
Maria is grateful for the opportunity to join Family Voices in a bilingual leadership position.  She will do her best to apply her knowledge and experience to support Family Voices' initiatives. Over the last eight years, Maria has attended many conferences and training programs focused on helping families of a person with special needs.  Four years ago, Maria was one of the founders of the Group H.O.P.E. (Hispanic Organization of Patents of Exceptional Children) and she currently serves as its President. The group supports families of people with special needs and whose first language is Spanish.  Further, for eight years she has served as a volunteer Board Member of the Down Syndrome Association of Northwest Indiana; and was recently hired as their Office Clerk.
Maria's most valuable learning has come from personal experience. She has a wonderful, 20 year old brother Juan, who has Down Syndrome.  As a teenager, she saw the challenges her parents faced in caring for Juan.  After Alyssa was born, her eyes were really opened to the importance that early and ongoing medical, therapeutic and practical support plays in the lives of individuals with special needs - and their caregivers. Today, Alyssa is an upbeat, joyful girl who is loved alot!  She happily keeps busy with school, tutoring, therapy, ballet, and many social and family events.
As a representative for Family Voices, Maria feels that it is in our hands to show a path of hope and make life easier for parents and guardians of people with special needs, so that our children can enjoy the wonderful lives that they deserve.
Maria speaks Spanish.  Maria habla español.
Read Maria's bio in Spanish>>
Elizabeth Ramirez-Mireles is one of our bilingual specialists for the Indianapolis area.  Liz is the mother of three sons, Gabriel (18), Adrian (13) and Martin (11). Both Adrian and Martin have Autism. Liz and her kids have been living in Indiana for the past seven years, and during this time they discovered together the many possibilities surrounding Special Education programs and services, as well as in home and private ABA Therapy Centers. To be able to advocate for her sons, she took several courses and workshops in Applied Behavioral Analysis, Verbal Behavior, PECS, TEACCH, Floor Time, etc., and is currently doing her field work to become a BCaBA certified therapist.
Realizing how hard and difficult it was to be in situations like this, and especially not being able to make sense of all the information that is available for parents, she created a company, “Looking for Approaches to Overcome Autism.” They provide ABA therapy services through Medicaid for Hispanic families with children with autism.  Most recently, when she worked as a parent consultant training parents to learn to deal with maladaptive behavior, she gained more perspective in understanding the ways many families live with unique children like hers. This has given new meaning to her work, and she is looking forward to applying her skills to collaborating with a group such as Family Voices Indiana. 
Liz speaks Spanish.  Liz habla español.
Read Liz's bio in Spanish>>

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