Beth Benevides, Special Education Consultant
Beth is a longtime policy and educational advocate for individuals and families affected by autism and related disabilities. She serves as a consultant for AUSOM, providing 1:1 special education consultation to parents of children with any disability in Howard County as part of our annual Community Service Partnership (CSP) Grant through the Howard County Department of Community Resources and Services. She is a Past President of AUSOM and is Associate Director of Autism Programs at the Hussman Foundation. Beth serves on a number of statewide workgroups devoted to programs, education, civil rights and policy affecting those with autism. She is an advisory member of the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities at Kennedy Krieger Institute, an appointed member of the Maryland Department of Disabilities Ethan Saylor Alliance for Self-Advocates steering committee; and co-chair of the commission for Transitioning Students with Disabilities in Howard county. She is a certified special education advocate and member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) Beth is mom to a 25-year-old son with autism.
Madison Brown, Social Media & Communications Intern
Madison is a 24–year–old Autistic woman who was diagnosed with Autism when she was 18 months old. She graduated in 2019 from Howard Community College, an Associate’s Degree in Classical Piano. A year later, she was one of the first groups of people to get hit with long Covid which left her with neuropathy. Today, she’s back on her feet, and active on social media where she has created her own page called marvelouslymadison. Through her page, she discusses her life as an Autistic woman living with neuropathy, and showing her followers that, no matter what disability you have, nothing can stop you from greatness. She is excited to be working as a Social Media/Communication Intern for the Howard County Autism Society.
Linda Hoyt, Program Manager & Employment Specialist, Autism Hiring Program
Linda Hoyt comes to Maryland from the Midwest. Having lived here for 25+ years, she now calls Maryland home and loves Old Bay and Berger cookies like any native! She worked as an Occupational Therapist in acute and rehabilitative settings but, in recent year, her my work focus has been with neurodiverse individuals and businesses focusing on their mutual workplace successes. She has partnered with Project SEARCH in Howard and Montgomery Counties along with local businesses to match non-traditional talent to fill their workplace needs. She is excited be a part of the work place success for many neurodiverse individuals in a variety of work environments. Each individual’s story is unique, yet through use of assessment, instruction, adaptation, modification and coaching support, the successes have been mutual for individuals and businesses. Being a part of Autism Society of Maryland’s Autism Hiring Program has allowed these successes to reach more individuals and businesses and has provided them with the tools and support to succeed.
Liza Kibler, Administrative Assistant
Liza is a former military spouse who loved to volunteer during her husband service in the military. Networking and supporting military spouse were part of her life during the military life. She hails from Malaysia and attained her degree majoring in Political Science and minoring in Business Management. Being a military spouse for 13 years has taught her to be resilient with changes during their Permanent Change of Station (PCS) and while her husband was deployed. She has vast experience with sales and marketing focusing on CRM, lead sales, campaign and event management; and managing international roaming partner during her work in IT and Telecommunication industry. Liza and her family decided to make Ellicott City their home since her husband retired from the military. Liza is an advocate for her son who is in a spectrum, and she always have passion to help individuals and families who has the same challenges. Liza loves to DIY old furniture and enjoy gardening. Liza lives with her husband, Wes and their both children Noah and Sophia.
Kelly Kryspin, Family Navigator & Autism Hiring Program Curriculum Coordinator
Kelly recently joined our AUSOM staff, but has been working in partnership with the agency since 2020 facilitating the curriculum and peer group meetings for the Autism Hiring Program. She has 10 plus years’ experience in the disability field, ranging from direct support, case management and facilitating support groups. Additionally, Kelly has an older brother with Autism who has been a large influence in the compassion and kindness she brings to each of these roles. Kelly is originally from New Jersey and moved down to Maryland in 2019. She received both her undergraduate and graduate degree in Social Work from Marywood University. Prior to joining the staff, Kelly had the opportunity to work at two different Center’s for Independent Living (CIL’s) over the past 8 years where she learned a great deal about the Independent Living philosophy. She values a strengths-based approach in assisting others and feels it is important for individuals to be viewed as the expert when it comes to informed decision making and navigating their own lives. Kelly enjoys spending her free time with family, her boyfriend and their two springer spaniels named Olive and Opal.
Nicole LeBlanc, Coordinator, Vaccine Education Initiative
Nicole LeBlanc is an Autistic self-advocate who has a keen ability and interest in public policy and excels at communicating the needs of people with developmental disabilities to public officials. She will be leading our Vaccine Education Initiative in partnership with the Howard County Health Department through April 2024.Ever since Nicole first stepped foot in Washington, D.C., she knew she wanted to live in the political universe. Nicole has presented or facilitated webinars and video blogs on the topics of healthcare, Autism, presuming competence, self-managed services, voter access, COVID-19, the dignity of risk, and employment of people with disabilities. She has worked with organizations including Green Mountain Self-Advocates, Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, and the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Nicole received the David Joyce Advocate of the Year award for outstanding policy advocacy on Capitol Hill from the Autism Society of America. She was a Public Policy Fellow at RespectAbility, and has spoken at several RespectAbility events. Nicole was the first-ever recipient of RespectAbility’s Steve Bartlett Award, which recognizes and honors an individual in the private or public sector who demonstrates a strong commitment to using the political system to advance public policy in support of people with disabilities. She has worked since 2020 as a Self Advocate Advisor with TASH on the AOD Disability Employment TA Center. Nicole is one who is not willing to shy away from taking on big challenges and new adventures. Her motto is “control your own destiny or someone else will.” She is a die-hard RED SOX and Patriots fan!
Kristen Letnick, Resource Coordinator – Montgomery County
Kristen hails from Northern Virginia and joins AUSOM as the new Resource Coordinator for Montgomery County. She looks forward to applying her professional experience and background knowledge in autism and mental health to further support the autism community. Kristen previously worked for the Autism Society of Northern Virginia, where she coordinated and directed a variety of programs and social events for autistic adults and parents of children, including support groups, educational programs, and social events. Prior to joining the autism nonprofit world, Kristen worked in clinical mental health. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Anthropology from James Madison University, then completed her Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Marymount University. Kristen went on to provide therapy, case management, and crisis intervention for adults in a variety of settings. However, her own experience of being diagnosed as an adult on the autism spectrum in 2016 ultimately led Kristen to pursue work with autism-based organizations. She appreciates having the opportunity to work in this area of personal significance to her while being able support others on the autism journey. In her spare time, Kristen spends quiet nights in watching her favorite stim shows with her cats. Her special interests include animals, writing, word puzzles, online reality games, thrift shopping, local fairs and festivals, and conducting online research for fun.
Susanne Mason – Deputy Director
Susanne joined the AUSOM staff in June 2019 and served as its Resource Manager and Event Coordinator until being appointed Deputy Director in October 2022. In new her role, Susanne is responsible for overseeing and developing Information & Referral services for the organization and providing support in the areas of Programming, Development, and Volunteers in partnership with the Executive Director and Board of Directors. Susanne continues her volunteer service with organizations affiliated with the Oakland Mills Interfaith Center. Since 2017, she has provided administrative and marketing leadership for the OMI Marketing Committee of The Meeting House and the OMI Art Committee of The Meeting House Gallery. From 2007 to 2018, she served in various capacities to develop the education program at Columbia United Christian Church. Prior to her non-profit endeavors, Susanne had the privilege of conducting neurophysiology research at the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Medicine and served as adjunct faculty in the Health Sciences Division at Howard Community College. Susanne has been a Columbia resident for almost 30 years by way of Australia and Michigan. She lives with her husband, her young adult son with Autism, and a precocious golden doodle.
Catalina Ramos, Spanish Language Resource Coordinator
I was born in Bogota, Colombia and came to the United States in 1996. I love spending time with my family, taking walks in nature, reading educational books and watching suspense and thriller movies. Life has shown me how important it is to find a support system in order to navigate through the many surprises that life may bring. Therefore, that is why one of my biggest desires has been helping those who are experiencing a new challenge or are in need of some guidance. I have been fortunate to be the mother of two young girls and a 9-year-old boy who was diagnosed with autism in 2016. Thankfully, my family and I have received so much help for our son using the local resources. I am excited to work with Autism Society of Maryland and become part of this supportive community.
Jessica Rayford, Resource Coordinator – Anne Arundel County
As a former special educator and a parent of an Autistic Child, Jessica has spends much of her time researching resources and networking with families. Her son is in secondary school and she finds that much has changed since his diagnosis. Jessica’s experience as a parent and educator have given her an advantage when providing resources to the community. She has learned that no individual’s abilities are the same, and each family should be nurtured according to their needs. As a parent, she empathizes with families who are new to the journey. Though initially tendinous and intimidating, the pathway through navigating Autism as a family is rewarding. Jessica resides in Howard County with her husband, our four kids, and their “fur baby.”
Dana Riley, Bookkeeper
Dana provides general bookkeeping services for AUSOM that include everything from payroll, financial reports and budget preparation, to coordinating the tax preparation and financial reviews.
Melissa Rosenberg – Executive Director
Melissa joined the AUSOM staff in December 2016, a nonprofit specialist with over 25 years of experience in grant writing, fundraising, community outreach and arts management. She works with the AUSOM Board of Directors, volunteers and community partners to move the organization forward and offer additional opportunities for meaningful employment, independent living, friendships, arts experiences, social interactions, respect, inclusion and acceptance. Melissa received an undergraduate degree in Journalism from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from the University of Maryland University College. She is a 2013 graduate of Leadership Howard County and serves on the Board of Directors for the Association of Community Services Howard County, Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts, and Howard County Local Children’s Board. Melissa and husband, Jim, live in Silver Spring. They have two grown children and a nephew with Autism.
“It is an honor and a privilege to work each day within the Autism community to support and uplift these amazing individuals, family members and professionals who reside in our community.”