Our Team

Ashley Weber

My passion for working with children with special needs began when I was in elementary school.  I would volunteer my recess time to be a "buddy" in the special day class.  

As I grew older my interest in working with students on the spectrum continued to increase. I began working in a preschool for children with special needs before being hired as a 1:1 for a little boy.  During this experience I knew that I wanted to become a special education teacher, and went back to school to get my degree in education.

I am a teacher now, and lead a classroom of moderate to severe 3rd through 5th grade students. I hold a Bachelors Degree in Recreation Therapy with a Minor in Human Development.  I also have a Credential in Moderate to Severe Special Education, and a Masters in Special Education with an emphasis in Autism.

Additionally, I have a HUGE passion for working in the camp setting.  Every summer and fall I work at a camp for people with special needs. For three whole days I am devoted to an individual with special needs to make their camp experience the best that it can be. Camp has truly changed my life, in more ways than one!

Debbie Rieza

My journey with autism began when my son was diagnosed. I sought out as much information and training as I could. I spent countless sleepless nights reading everything I could to become well versed in every treatment available under the sun.

The more I sought out professionals, and second, and even third opinions, the more frustrated I became. I was frustrated because every option involved me handing over my son for most of the day. I wanted to be actively involved in my son’s education and therapy. 

As I learned more, I realized that if I wanted to be a part of my son's life every day I would need to change everything about my current life and gain experience working with children on the autism spectrum.

So I dove in.

My first experience was volunteering to work with a boy who was four years older than my son. Once a week I traveled to his home, and was trained by a team of professionals as we worked with him.

When I was not working in the home I took training classes to learn Floortime and ABA. I also started to work for a psychologist who had a practice working with children on the spectrum.

Soon I was directing intervention in the boy’s at home program, and I also coached other parents on teaching their children play and social skills.

Over the last five years I have gone from an in-home behavioral interventionist providing ABA services to children on the spectrum, to managing the training program for a team of therapists. Our training program has two components: 1) we train our team members on ABA techniques; 2) we train our team members on the parent’s perspective. The second component is very important to me because I know first-hand how difficult it can be to be a parent to a child on the spectrum. I want our team members to be aware of the difficulties so that they can deliver a great experience for both the child and the parents.

Working directly with children through a variety of modalities has taught me a great deal about what children respond to. Working with parents and families directly has given me invaluable experience in understanding what families want for their child and what is lacking from their child’s program.

As a parent I understand how frustrating it is to find quality programs, services, and products for my child. I am committed to providing great products and services for our children.

Lisa Fish

My first exposure to working with students with special needs was in my senior year of high school. I volunteered 40 hours in a moderate to severe preschool classroom. Most of the children in the room at that time had autism. I immediately was hooked. I LOVED to engage with these students and helping them was extremely rewarding.

I think that I am able to connect with the kiddos so easily because of growing up with a disability of my own. I had some speech delays due to being born nearly deaf. I also had ADHD. The struggles I had to face and overcome have given me great insight into working with children with special needs. It is very rewarding to help my students face and overcome their challenges like I did as a child.

Over the years I have worked with children ranging in age from preschool to middle school, and in a variety of settings: classrooms, homes, and camps. Currently, I work in an ABA style class under the guidance of a teacher who is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). It is so wonderful to watch our kids grow, blossom, and learn over the years in our room.

I’ve also had personal training from Mark Sundberg, who is a noted speaker, and author of the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP), the book Teaching Language to Children with Autism or Other Developmental Disabilities, and co-author of the original Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills (ABLLS) tool.

Outside of the classroom I am often asked by parents of the children I work with in school to watch their child in the evenings or on weekends. I am also working on my Special Education Credential, and I plan to eventually have my own moderate to severe classroom with an emphasis on autism.

Monica Newton

My introduction to the world of Autism did not begin with my son’s diagnosis. As part of my college class “Recreation for Special Needs”, I volunteered at Kaleidoscope House, an after school program. Twice a week I spent time with a 13 year old girl who was on the spectrum and non-verbal. I learned a lot about interacting and communicating with a non-verbal child. The biggest lesson I learned was about motivation. This girl loved to swing, and I was able to teach her how to sign “swing”.

About 10 years later the son of a close friend (and co-worker) was diagnosed with Autism. Every day she would come in and tell us her day-to-day activities with her son. What I didn’t realize then was that I was getting a first-hand lesson from someone who was parenting a child on the spectrum. I would draw on this invaluable information many times after my son was diagnosed.

After his diagnosis I developed a very good relationship with my son's in-home therapists. More often than not, I observed Joshua's therapy sessions while “cleaning the kitchen”. At the end of the sessions I asked the therapist for homework that I could do with Joshua. I would report on Joshua's activities, and help the therapist understand Joshua's non-verbal cues. Working together we became a very effective team.

In my son’s school I volunteer in the classroom and with fund raising activities. In preschool I helped high functioning students keep on task to finish activities (I never worked with Joshua in the classroom). In elementary school I created a lot of teaching materials under the guidance of the teacher. For example, I created sort games that children played to learn how to sort by color, size, and quantity.

Every year my biggest joy is helping to build the “sensory room” for Autism Awareness Week. Neurotypical students go through the room and experience different activities designed to help them better understand how frustrating it can be for a child with autism. For example, in one station children are asked to button a smock while wearing rubber dishwashing gloves.

During this week I also visit different classrooms and read stories about children on the spectrum, followed by a short Question and Answer session. I am always impressed with how thoughtful some of the questions are, and the true desire that some students have to understand what it is like for children on the spectrum.

Tony Martinez

When my sister told me that her youngest son was diagnosed with autism I started reading up on all things autism, and emailed article after article to her.

Years later Monica called me and said “I need your help.” She laid out her idea for Spectrum Playground, and feedback she had received from parents, teachers, and therapists.

I knew this is where I could provide the most help. I had already built other companies. Now I have the opportunity to build a company that will help children with autism and their families.