About Autism Families Connecticut
Helping Children Reach their Full Potential!
AFC is a non-profit organization formed by a group of parents, grandparents, and family members who noticed a lack of programming designed specifically for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders in Connecticut. We decided to form an organization dedicated to providing recreational, cultural, and social activities for children with ASD, and helping children and families make lasting and meaningful social connections.
We started with our flagship program, “Playing on the Spectrum,” a recreational gym program designed and run by professional therapists to create a sensory friendly, FUN environment that develops fine and gross motor skills as well as social engagement. It has expanded to include different age groups, as well as a sibling group. Over the past 4 years we have added many other programs, such as swimming, running, and teen music nights. These programs run each weekend for several weeks to create a routine and encourage meaningful participation.
We also create safe, non-judgemental social opportunities, such as Dad’s Night Out, the Family Holiday Party, and Dinner and a Movie nights.
- Playing on the Spectrum gym and recreation program
- Teen Music Night
- Running Clubs
- Sibling Activities
- Dads’ Nights Out
Board of Directors
Leah was most recently the Executive Director of the Boston Globe Foundation, where she developed innovative community initiatives in the city of Boston. Most notably, she designed and launched the award-winning Boston Teens In Print, a citywide high school newspaper written by and for Boston teens. She was also a member of several nonprofit boards and committees. In all, she worked in corporate philanthropy and community affairs for 23 years, including positions at United Technologies Corporation and Fleet Bank in Hartford. Her new mission is to build the nonprofit Autism Families CONNECTicut, Inc. Since her grandson Jack’s diagnosis with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2006, she has attended conferences and workshops on autism, volunteered for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism, and led an Autism Update Conference session on “Grandparents and Extended Family – How Can We Help?” in 2009. She was asked to address the Massachusetts Autism Awareness Day at the State House in April 2009 on behalf of families affected by autism. She is the founding Board President of AFC. Leah and her husband Jeff live in Bloomfield.
Jackie grew up in Wethersfield, CT and attended Providence College in Providence, RI. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social Work as well as a Masters in Social Work from Boston University. Jackie’s work experience includes therapeutic and case management services with elders, children, adolescents, and families within group home, school, and home settings. Jackie lives in West Hartford with her husband Steve and nine year-old twins Julia and Jack. Her son was diagnosed with Autism at the age of two and currently attends public school with his sister in West Hartford. Jackie has acquired extensive knowledge of Autism Spectrum Disorders through seminars and research. She served on the West Hartford Special Education PTA for two years and spent three years as a Greater Hartford Walk Now for Autism team captain. Jackie is eager to help meet the needs of the Autism community though the goals and mission of Autism Families CONNECTicut.
Catherine is the Legal and Public Policy Director at the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Boston College and a Juris Doctor degree from Suffolk University Law School. Following law school, she served as an attorney in state government for seven years, including as deputy legal counsel to Governor Deval Patrick. Catherine volunteered for the Autism Speaks’ Greater Boston Walk Now for Autism committee from 2007-2010. She has also served as a mentor in the Strong Women, Strong Girls Leadership Coach Program, and writes for its blog, the Strong Blogging Corps. A native of Wethersfield, Catherine now lives in Bloomfield with her husband, Andrew Kenney, and is honored to be the aunt of a wonderful little boy who has Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Originally from Brooklyn, NY, Mary Coons lives in West Hartford with her husband, two sons, a daughter, and two cats. Ms. Coons is pursuing her Associate’s Degree at Manchester Community College as a Disabilities Specialist. She has two children on the autism spectrum and is currently helping her oldest child navigate the transition to middle school. An active member of the Autism Families CONNECTicut “Sparkling Celebration” planning committee, and an enthusiastic supporter and attendee of AFC programs since its inception, Ms. Coons was elected to the Board of Directors in November 2011. Mary served on the planning committee for AFC’s Second Annual Holiday Party and will also serve as a co-chair of the 2012 Fundraiser Committee. She is an avid music lover and concertgoer, and hopes to learn a musical instrument after completing her degree.
Darcie holds a Master’s in Special Education with a Certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders and a Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis from the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, CT. She works at the Gengras Center on the University campus and lives with her family in town. Her daughter, Lauren, is on the ASD spectrum and is enrolled in a public elementary school.
Christina Kiley is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and is the district-wide BCBA for Plainville Community Schools. She provides direct services to students, professional development, and consultative services to faculty, staff, and parents. She is also a BCBA Consultant for Creative Interventions with a focus on in-home therapy, providing training, and facilitating social skills groups. She received her M.A. in Special Education and Advanced Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis from the University of Saint Joseph. She has 6 years of experience as a special education teacher, working with students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, cognitive impairments, and physical disabilities.
Jim has been a resident of West Hartford since 1972. While raising four children with his wife Joyce, Jim was actively involved in youth sports programs. He was instrumental in starting the West Hartford Girls’ Softball League, which he served as president from 1990 to 1996. Jim was also President of the All Sports Council for six years, and a member for over 30 years. His latest involvement was with the establishment of West Hartford’s Miracle Field. In 2007 Jim received an award from the Connecticut Parks and Recreation Association for outstanding involvement in youth sports, and the West Hartford Mayor’s Award “Stars for Kids” in 2010. Jim’s grandson Phoenix has his own team in the Walk Now for Autism Speaks annual fundraiser. Jim brings a lifelong commitment to building community through sports and recreation, family activities, and volunteering to the AFC Board.
Anne provides holistic family health care Third Stone Integrative Health Center in Essex, CT. She graduated from National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon in 2000, and expanded her study of homeopathy at the New England Institute of Homeopathy in 2002. Prior to attending medical school, she graduated from Carleton College with degrees in chemistry and medical ethics. She is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the Connecticut Naturopathic Physicians Association. Naturopaths have long been at the forefront of searching for the causes of autism as well as developing new and effective treatments. Because of the multi-factorial nature of autism, the naturopathic approach of individualized analysis of many variables to determine the biochemical imbalances underlying symptoms is uniquely helpful to finding solutions to the wide variety of challenges people on the spectrum face. Over the course of her career, Dr. Anne has treated many children with autism, including her nephew, Jack.
Marjorie was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and grew up in Newark, New Jersey. Marjorie earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts and a Juris Doctor degree from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. Marjorie has over 20 years of legal experience, including as a litigator in private practice and for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. She currently manages coverage and bad faith litigation for a property and casualty insurance carrier. She lives in West Hartford with her son and extended family. Marjorie’s life has been substantially affected (and enhanced) by autism through interactions with her family members, friends and acquaintances. Marjorie regards obstacles and joy as facts of life and is a firm believer that we should endure what there is to endure and enjoy what there is to enjoy.
*Photos by Kimberly Miller Photography