Advisory Board

Emily Ballou

Emily Paige Ballou grew up in the Midwest and graduated with dual degrees in biology and drama from the University of Georgia, where she was also a member of the Demosthenian Literary Society.

Emily served on the social media team for AWN for seven years and as co-editor of the anthology What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew, republished this year by Beacon Press as Sincerely, Your Autistic Child. She has also written for the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, Beacon Broadside, OnStage Blog, and written and moderated for the blog project, We Are Like Your Child. Currently she resides in New York City, where she works primarily as a stage manager of new plays and new musicals.

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Dr. JenFu Cheng, MD

Dr. Cheng earned his undergraduate degree from Princeton University (psychology) and a second bachelor’s degree from the University of California (Biology). He earned his Medical Degree from the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and continued on to complete his residency in PM&R at Rutgers-NJMS/Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation. Dr. Cheng completed a fellowship in Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine at Rutgers-NJMS/Children’s Specialized Hospital. He is board-certified in both PM&R and Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine.

He is currently Chief of Physiatry at Children’s Specialized Hospital and is an Clinical Associate Professor at Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School.

Dr. Cheng has a strong interest in adaptive sports and is the founder of Peak Potential, a non-profit organization that provides adaptive rock climbing programs for children with physical disabilities. He also volunteers for several other adaptive sports organizations.

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Sharon daVanport

Sharon daVanport is the founder and executive director of the Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network (AWN). Sharon’s work encompasses several aspects of the wider and cross-disability justice movement, including a focus on restorative and transformative justice, and strengthening leadership and partnerships through collective capacity and horizontal organizing practices. Sharon is a steering committee member of the National Disability Leadership Alliance, a member of Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, serves as board treasurer for Crushing Colonialism, and an advisory board member at Felicity House. Sharon is co-editor of Sincerely, Your Autistic Child (March 2021) published by Beacon Press. They have spoken before the United Nations and the White House, and they were recently inducted into the 2020 Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame. Outside of Sharon’s work in disability advocacy, they have nearly a decade of experience as a social worker, and they are a parent of four diversely neurodivergent adults.

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Robyn Gorman

Robyn Gorman received her BS in Biology with a specialization in Neurobiology from Rutgers University, Cook College. She has a MA in Counseling Psychology with a specialization in Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling from Antioch, The New England Graduate School and she has been a Licensed Professional Counselor in NJ for over 25 years. She is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Hudson Partnership Care Management Organization which is a private, non-profit that coordinates services and supports for over 800 youth across Hudson County who have a wide range of challenges, from autism spectrum disorders and behavioral health issues to juvenile justice involvement.

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Dr. Vikram Jaswal, PhD

Vikram Jaswal is Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Cognition and Development. He is a developmental psychologist whose current research focuses on communication and social interaction in autism. His work is inspired and informed by the lived experiences of autistic children and adults and their families.

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Dr. Clarissa Kripke, MD

Dr. Clarissa Kripke, MD, FAAFP is Clinical Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. She directs the Office of Developmental Primary Care, whose mission is to build the capacity of the healthcare system to serve transition age youth and adults with developmental disabilities. She is the primary care physician for many of the Bay Area’s most medically fragile and behaviorally complex people with developmental disabilities.

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Lei Wiley Mydske (she/they)

Lei Wiley Mydske is an autistic and otherwise disabled adult, parent, artist, writer, small business owner and activist. Lei is the director of the Ed Wiley Autism Acceptance Library, founder of the neurodiversity library movement and Community Outreach Coordinator at AWN Network. They live in the Pacific Northwest with their family.

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Gahan J. Pandina, PhD

Gahan J. Pandina, PhD, is a Senior Director, Compound Development Team Leader and Clinical Leader in the Janssen Research and Development, Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, in Titusville, New Jersey. Dr. Pandina’s work includes leading a team to develop and implement tools and technologies to optimize novel medication development for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). He leads a second team focused on developing disease interception approaches for prevention and early intervention in mood disorders. And he is the clinical leader for a Phase 3 global development program for a novel compound for the treatment of Major Depressive Disorder. Over the past 20 years at Janssen, Dr. Pandina has served as the clinical leader for several global Phase 2a/2b drug development programs in the psychiatry including schizophrenia & cognition, ASD, ADHD, mood, anxiety, and sleep disorders. He has worked on three successful Phase 3 registration programs in schizophrenia and ASD and conducted Phase 2 and 3B/4 studies in schizophrenia, mood, ADHD, and anxiety disorders. He is an Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, New Jersey, where he teaches in the psychiatry residency and psychology internship programs.

Dr. Pandina is a licensed clinical psychologist, and a member of several international societies including the American Psychological Association, Association of Clinical Research Professionals, and the International Society for CNS Clinical Trials Methodology. He is the author of numerous publications in both pediatric and adult psychiatry and psychology and has a special interest in clinical research on the efficacy and outcomes of psychiatric and psychological treatments.

Dr. Pandina received his Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from the University of Vermont, and his PhD in Clinical Psychology from Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York, and completed doctoral fellowships in both Neuropsychology and Child and Adolescent Neuropsychology at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, New Jersey.

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Elizabeth Rosenzweig

It all begins with an idea. Maybe you want to launch a business. Maybe you want to turn a hobby into something more. Or maybe you have a creative project to share with the world. Whatever it is, the way you tell your story online can make all the difference.

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Tauna Szymanski

Tauna Szymanski is the Executive Director and Legal Director of CommunicationFIRST, the only civil rights organization dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights and interests of the estimated 5 million people in the United States who cannot rely on speech to be understood. Before joining CommunicationFIRST in 2019, she spent twenty years working on climate change law and policy, including 13 years at an international law firm in London and Washington, DC, where she volunteered and represented clients pro bono in disability rights and inclusive education matters. Ms. Szymanski has graduate degrees in law and public policy. She grew up around the world as the child of US Foreign Service Officers, and is multiply disabled.

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Jonah Zimiles

Jonah Zimiles practiced law for over a dozen years and then served as National Director of Planned Giving and Endowments for the Jewish Federations of North America. After the Zimiles’ second child, Daniel, was diagnosed with autism, Jonah spent six years as a stay-at-home father. Jonah went back to school at age 50 and received an MBA from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. Upon graduation from business school, Jonah and his wife, Ellen, founded [words], an independent bookstore and a social enterprise in Maplewood, New Jersey, created to provide employment and vocational training for individuals with autism. Jonah has served on several non-profit boards and leadership positions, including currently as Vice President of Spectrum360 and a board member of LifeTown (The Friendship Circle)

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Younger siblings of children with ASD are known to be at higher risk for developing language delays. The Infancy Studies Lab at Rutgers University-Newark has created an engaging interactive acoustic experience with the aim of helping baby siblings of children with ASD develop better pre-language skills known to be important for optimal and efficient language acquisition. Watch this short video to learn more about how to participate in this exciting, innovative research study.