Meet Our Autism Department Administrative Team…
Mary Richardson is the Coordinator of Autism Services, and has been with Stepping Stones since 1997. She holds a General Education teaching certification for children birth through sixth grade, and a Special Education teaching certification for children birth through twelfth grade. In her tenure at Stepping Stones Mary has acquired expertise in a variety of areas, including but not limited to: curriculum modification and development, differentiated instruction, inclusion practices, IEP and IFSP development, goal and objective writing, behavior analysis and management, teaming, and multi-disciplinary team collaboration. Additionally, Mary has been a member of local task forces aimed at improving service delivery for children with autism, a featured speaker at local autism conferences, provided training for numerous school districts, daycares, and preschools locally and across the state, and partnered with the University of Rochester on nationally acclaimed autism research. Her hobbies include: reading, scrap booking, exercising, and spending time with her husband and two boys.
Christina Werts is the Assistant Coordinator of the Autism Program at SteppingStonesLearningCenter. Christina graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from SUNY Brockport in May 2000 and has been providing quality services for children with autism in the community, classroom, and clinic setting since 1999. As the Assistant Coordinator of the Autism Program she oversees the intake process and placements for children in the autism program and also supervises autism staff at Stepping Stones. Christina has expertise in curriculum modification, IEP and IFSP development, teaching play skills, and engagement. She also coordinates the Respite Camp Program at SSLC. In her spare time she can be found spending time with her family, biking, or when time permits enjoying a good book.
Laura Ford is the Clinical Supervisor of the Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) program and a Special Education Teacher at SteppingStonesLearningCenter. She has a Masters degree from SUNY Geneseo in Special Education. She has been with Stepping Stones for 10 years and has been in the field of Early Childhood Special Education for 11 years. She provides supervision of staff within the ABA program and works directly with students within the program. Areas of expertise include IEP development, in depth knowledge of IEP direct, staff training and curriculum development. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, camping, backpacking and skiing with her family.
Melanie Lauria is an ABA Specialist and a Special Education Teacher at SteppingStonesLearningCenter. She has been with Stepping Stones for 5 years, and has over 15 years of experience working with children with autism using teaching methods based on the principles of Applied Behavioral Analysis. She is alumni of Nazareth College of Rochester with a BA in Psychology and dual Masters in Elementary Education (N-6) and Special Education (K-12). Aside from her specialist duties, Melanie is in charge of the development and distribution of curriculum materials for students within the ABA program. Among her many areas of expertise are: behavior management and toilet training. In her spare time Melanie enjoys gardening, being the lead singer in 2 Rochester area bands, riding roller coasters, and being the doting mother to her 7 year old daughter.
Melissa DeBadts is an ABA Specialist and a Medicaid Service Coordinator (MSC) at SteppingStonesLearningCenter. Melissa graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree from SUNY Brockport in 2003. Melissa has been supervising staff and working directly with children in the ABA program since 2005. In 2009, Melissa stepped into a new role as a Medicaid Service Coordinator. She is responsible for completing all new intakes and providing Medicaid Service Coordination for the children on her caseload. Her expertise is varied, but most prominent is her ability to help children and families learn functional life skills that interrupt quality of life (getting a haircut, going to the dentist, playing in the snow, eating…) In her spare time Melissa enjoys watching and playing sports, and spending time with her family and children.
Elizabeth Miller is the Clinical Supervisor of the Social Communication, Emotional Regulation and Transactional Support (SCERTS) Program and a Special Education Teacher. The SCERTS model, founded by Dr. Barry Prizant is a new therapeutic model at Stepping Stones. It is a child-centered, family-centered, and activity based approach which focuses on the individual needs of each student. Elizabeth received her Bachelor’s degree in Special Education and a Master’s degree in Literacy Education from St. JohnFisherCollege. She has been an employee of SteppingStonesLearningCenter for 5 years and has worked in the field of autism for 7 years. Areas of expertise include sensory integration, play, and emergent literacy. Elizabeth also started a volunteer group at SteppingStonesLearningCenter. Last year a group of SSLC employees volunteered to cook dinner for families at the Ronald McDonald House. In her spare time, Elizabeth enjoys camping with her family, cooking and playing tennis.
Jennifer Kelly is a SCERTS Specialist and a Special Education Teacher within the Autism program at SteppingStonesLearningCenter. The SCERTS model, founded by Dr. Barry Prizant is a new approach at Stepping Stones which stands for Social Communication Emotional Regulation Transactional Support. It is a child-centered, family-centered, and activity based approach which focuses on the individual needs of each student. Jen has been an employee of SteppingStonesLearningCenter since 2007. She received her Bachelor’s degree in both Early Childhood and Childhood education from NiagaraUniversity. She received a Master’s degree in Special Education from St. JohnFisherCollege. Areas of expertise include sensory integration, play, and communication with families. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys going on trips with her family as well as swimming and reading.
Mary Sapone is a Speech Language Pathologist and the Speech Clinical Coordinator at Stepping Stones Learning Center (SSLC). She is permanently certified in New YorkState as a licensed speech/language pathologist and holds her Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) from the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA). Mary received her undergraduate degree from the State University of New York at Geneseo in 2001 and received her Master's degree from The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York in 2003. Mary began working at SSLC in April of 2004. She is certified in Beckman Oral Motor therapy techniques and Prompts for Restructuring Oral Muscular Phonetic Targets (PROMPT). She also works in the Autism program as an ABA Specialist who oversees students' programs while they are at SSLC through the Early Intervention or Preschool system. Mary supervises speech staff and organizes clinical speech practicums of graduate students from local colleges and universities at SSLC. She also supervises those clinicians who are seeking placement for their Certified Fellowship Year (CFY) through ASHA. In her spare time Mary enjoys exercising and running.
Dan Straub is a Speech Language Pathologist and an ABA Specialist at Stepping Stones Learning Center (SSLC). Dan earned his Master’s of Science Degree from SUNY Fredonia in 2005. He is licensed in New YorkState and also has his Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA). Dan has been a member of the Stepping Stones team since November 2005. He is responsible for coordinating the teams of the children he works with as well as completing speech, language, and hearing screenings at SSLC and in community settings such as daycares. Dan also supervises speech staff, graduate students, and CFY candidates. In his spare time, Dan enjoys watching sporting events, spending time with his family, and buying new electronics.