Autism Human Rights and Discrimination Initiative (AHRDI)

Steering Committee

AHRDI is moving forward under the auspices of the Autism Research Institute, a 501(c)(3) non-profit established in 1967 by Dr. Bernard Rimland. AHRDI’s steering committee is comprised of experts and advocates from the worldwide autism and disability communities.

      Laurie Ahern - Mental Disability Rights International
      Teri Arranga - Autism One, Autism Coalition for Treatment
      Elizabeth Bauer - Mental Disability Rights International, Michigan State Board of Education
      Dr. Steve Edelson - Autism Research Institute, Defeat Autism Now!, Autism Society of America, Autism Coalition for Treatment
      Dr. Lark Eshleman - Institute for Children and Families
      Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh - Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Autism Society of America
      Lee Grossman - Autism Society of America, Autism Coalition for Treatment
      Sonja Hintz, RN - True Health Medical Center
      Mary Holland, JD - Director of Graduate Legal Skills Program, New York University School of Law
      David Humphrey, JD - Autism Society of America, Autism Research Institute, Autism Coalition for Treatment
      Robert Krakow, JD - Lifespire
      Stephanie Lord - Foundation for the Relief of Disabled Orphans
      Dr. Mitchel Perlman - Clinical forensic psychologist
      Paul Shattock, OBE - Honorary Director, Autism Research Unit (ARU), University of Sunderland; Chairman, European Service for People with Autism (ESPA); Vice-President, World Autism Organization (WAO).
      Dr. Stephen Shore - Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, Asperger's Association of New England, Autism Society of America
      Jill Stacey - Autism South Africa
      Polly Tommey - The Autism Trust
      Dr. Franco Verzella - Defeat Autism Now! Europe

      Laurie Ahern is the Chief Operating Officer of MDRI and is responsible for all of the day-to-day operations of the organization. She also oversees MDRI’s European offices in Kosovo and Ireland. Laurie also conducts human rights investigations and is the co- author of Torment not Treatment, Serbia; Behind Closed Doors, Turkey; and Hidden Suffering, Romania. For ten years before joining MDRI, Laurie was the co-founder and co-director of the National Empowerment Center, Inc. (NEC), a national, federally funded recovery and technical assistance center for people diagnosed with mental illness and their families. She was the editor of the award-winning NEC newsletter and co-created the Empowerment Model of Recovery and the PACE model, a non-coercive alternative to Assertive Community Treatment. Her work has been featured in many professional journals, in the media, and has been translated into six languages. She is the recipient of the National Mental Health Association's Clifford Beers Award and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law's Advocacy Award. In addition, she has conducted workshops, given talks and organized conferences for consumers/survivors/users, families and mental health providers to promote recovery.  Laurie Ahern is the former vice president of the National Association of Rights, Protection and Advocacy (NARPA) and editor of the NARPA newsletter, The Tenet. www.mdri.org

      Teri Arranga is the Director of Autism One, a non-profit organization providing autism education and advocacy, and General Manager of Autism One Radio, as well as an Autism One Radio and a VoiceAmerica Health and Wellness Channel program host. She serves as Project Manager for the Autism Coalition for Treatment. Teri is the Editor of the U.S. and Canada edition of The Autism File magazine. She is Vice President of Medical Veritas International and Commissioning Editor of Medical Veritas®: The Journal of Medical Truth, the journal of MVI. Teri has been involved with a number of media projects, including consulting for medical documentaries by award-winning filmmakers Lina Moreco of Canada and Gary Null of the United States, appearing in the award-winning documentary Beautiful Son, and consulting for the April 2007 Discover magazine article “Understanding Autism.” Teri was given honorable mention in Spectrum magazine’s “Top 10 Faces of Autism” article of April 2006 and was subsequently invited to the Advisory Board of Spectrum.

      Elizabeth W. Bauer was elected to the Michigan State Board of Education in 2002. She leads the State Board’s educational technology initiative and is a member of the National Association of State Boards of Education Work Group on Career and Technical Education. www.michigan.gov/sbe. Mrs. Bauer has served as a speech pathologist and special educator. She was a teacher consultant in Special Education and an adult education administrator for the School District of the City of Pontiac, Michigan. Following this she was director of staff development and, later, director of community placement in Michigan's public mental health system. From 1981-2001 she was executive director of Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service, Inc. (the federally mandated rights protection and advocacy system for people with disabilities in Michigan). Currently she consults throughout the United States and internationally on human rights and the development of civil society. As a member of the Board of Directors of Mental Disability Rights International she has participated in MDRI investigations and co-authored a number of reports. www.mdri.org

      Stephen M. Edelson, PhD is the director of the Autism Research Institute. He has been active in the field of autism for over 30 years, and he had worked closely with Dr. Bernard Rimland for over 20 years. Dr. Edelson has conducted research in a variety of areas including biomedical, behavioral, sensory and cognition. He is a Board member of the Autism Society of America (ASA) and the Autism Society of Oregon. Dr. Edelson also participates on ASA's Panel of Professional Advisors. He is the editor of the Autism Research Review International quarterly newsletter, co-edited with Dr. Rimland the book Recovering Autistic Children, and has produced several videos on autism.

      Lark Eshleman, PhD is a child and adolescent psychotherapist whose expertise is working with children who have experienced early trauma, attachment difficulties or abuse. She became a Certified School Psychologist in Pennsylvania in 1994 and is Board Certified in Domestic Violence by the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. Dr. Eshleman is the founder of the Institute for Children and Families (ICF) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a leading center for treating children who suffer from the lasting effects of early trauma, or from serious and destructive breaks in the bonding or attachment process between child and parent. She was elected to the Board of Directors of the international organization ATTACh (Association for the Treatment and Training in the Attachment of Children). Dr. Eshleman's work has brought her into therapeutic contact with children from around the world who have suffered the fearful , painful and neurologically damaging effects of war and other forms of organized violence. This has included Lark's work in Croatia working with mental health relief organizations. Among her publications is a community-based response program, Healing Emotional Trauma: Treating the Wounded Child, 2nd ed.,specifically for children who have been affected by war and other community trauma.

      Doreen Granpeesheh, PhD is the Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) and President of the Board of Autism Care and Treatment Today (ACT Today). Dr. Granpeesheh is licensed by the Medical Board of California and the Texas State Board of Psychologists, holds a Certificate of Professional Qualification in Psychology from the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, and has been providing behavioral therapy since 1979. In 1990, Dr. Granpeesheh founded The Center for Autism and Related Disorders and, through its 17 offices worldwide, she has provided diagnosis, assessment and behavioral treatment for thousands of children with autism and related disorders. In 2005, Dr. Granpeesheh founded Autism Care and Treatment Today, a non-profit organization that provides support and funding to families of children with autism. In addition, Dr. Granpeesheh is also a principle member of the Thoughtful House Center for Children, a charity organization that provides behavioral services in collaboration with medical treatment and research. Dr. Granpeesheh is member of the Defeat Autism Now! Executive Council and on the National Board of the Autism Society of America.

      Lee Grossman leads the Autism Society of America (ASA) the largest autism membership organization dedicated to autism in the U.S. Mr. Grossman is on the federal Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) and the National Health Council. Prior to becoming CEO of the ASA, Mr. Grossman was in the medical industry for 25 years.

      Sonja Hintz, RN, BSN has worked with children with disabilities since the age of twelve. Sonja witnessed her mother's efforts in developing independent living for adults with developmental disabilities, seeing adults move from institutions to new homes in the community, called group homes. At 16 she was hired to work in these group homes as a counselor which included living there part-time, teaching activities of daily living, and advocating in situations involving discrimination. Following, this Sonja worked as a public health nurse, a psychiatric nurse, and a neonatal intensive care nurse. Currently she is working at True Health Medical Center with Dr. Anju Usman. With the birth of her second child, Sonja was compelled to reevaluate her traditional based medical paradigms to meet the needs of her son, who was on the autism spectrum by the age of three. Through the use of a therapeutic diet, homeopathy, herbs, vitamins, essential oils, and chelation in addition to many other therapies, he has made a recovery. For the last 10 years she has applied what she has learned to help other children improve their quality of life.

      Mary Holland, JD is Director of the Graduate Legal Skills Program at New York University School of Law. Educated at Harvard and Columbia Universities, Mary Holland has worked in international public and private law. Prior to joining NYU, Mary worked for six years at major U.S. law firms, with three years based in Moscow, Russia. She also worked at a major U.S. human rights advocacy organization, Human Rights First (then Lawyers Committee for Human Rights), as Director of its European Program. After graduating law school, she clerked for a federal district court judge. She has taught international law courses at Columbia Law School and has served as a consultant to the Aspen Institute Justice and Society Program. Additionally, Mary researches and writes on legal issues related to autism and vaccines.

      David Humphrey, JD is the President of the Autism Coalition for Treatment, a Board member of the Autism Society of America, and a Board member of the Autism Research Institute. Dave has been interested in remedying situations of abuse and discrimination wrought upon individuals with autism and other disabilities for many years, including having traveled to Asia with Ellsworth Culver, co-founder of Mercy Corps (the largest international emergency relief agency), and meeting with Amnesty International.

      Robert Krakow, JD is an attorney in private practice in New York City. Bob started his legal career with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), a consumer advocacy organization. In the 1980s Bob was a prosecutor with the New York Country District Attorney's office, serving as Bureau Chief of the special narcotics prosecution division. He founded his law firm in 1989, focusing on the trial of civil and criminal cases, and specializes in the representation of persons injured by exposure to environmental toxins and vaccines. Bob is the Board Chair of Lifespire, Inc., a 55-year-old New York and New Jersey not-for-profit organization that provides residential, day habilitation, occupational, educational and medical programs and supports for more than 5,000 developmentally disabled adults and children. Bob co-founded Advocates for Children's Health Affected by Mercury Poisoning (A-CHAMP, which is now operating as Autism Action Network), a national political organization that advocates for children with neurodevelopmental disorders.

      Stephanie Lord has worked with young people with autism since 1979. She developed the Touch Talks program for children with autism and today is Chair of the Association for Heads and Teachers of Adults and Children with Autism, as well as representing education on the International Federation of Aromatherapists. Stephanie Lord is one of the leading and most inspirational educators in the UK and specializes in learning disorders and autism in schools, campaigning to include the use of movement, drama, positive touch and storytelling as teaching strategies as part of the structured intervention model that is widely applied today. Stephanie was the Principal of Heathermount, a Disabilities Trust school in Ascot, UK, and more recently has been working to launch a new school for children with autism to be located in Hassocks, Sussex in Southern England.

      Mitch Perlman, PhD is a clinical forensic psychologist who specializes in the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents who have specialized needs and/or who are involved in chaotic-intense-traumatic-critical-situations. Known for the comprehensiveness of his investigatory assessments (psychodiagnostic, psychoeducational, neuro-cognitive), he is often called on to be the impartial Independent Examiner in juvenile, family, civil, and special education proceedings. Dr. Perlman is a regular conference presenter on the topic of Individualized Education Program law.

      Paul Shattock OBE, B.Pharm Dip.Ag.Vet.Pharm is Honorary Director of the Autism Research Unit (ARU) following his retirement in 1998 from teaching Pharmacy for over 20 years at the University of Sunderland. He is Chairman of European Service for People with Autism (ESPA), which provides teaching and residential services for young adults with autism and is Vice-President of the World Autism Organisation (WAO), having previously been secretary for Autisme-Europe. His research interests include: rights and models of service provision for people with autism; biomedical and environmental factors implicated in autism; and the use and abuse of medication for autism.

      Stephen Shore, EdD was diagnosed as a child with "atypical development with strong autistic tendencies," viewed as "too sick" to be treated on an outpatient basis and recommended for institutionalization. Nonverbal until four, and with much help from his parents, teachers, and others, Stephen completed his doctoral dissertation at Boston University focused on matching best practice to the needs of people on the autism spectrum. More recently, Dr. Shore accepted a professorship at Adelphi University teaching courses in special education and autism. In addition to working with children and talking about life on the autism spectrum, Stephen presents and consults internationally on adult issues pertinent to education, relationships, employment, advocacy, and disclosure as discussed in his books Beyond the Wall: Personal Experiences with Autism and Asperger Syndrome, Ask and Tell: Self-advocacy and Disclosure for People on the Autism Spectrum, and the critically acclaimed Understanding Autism for Dummies. President emeritus of the Asperger’s Association of New England, Dr. Shore serves also on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, for the Board of Directors for Autism Society of America, Unlocking Autism, and other organizations.

      Jill Stacey is a nursing sister and midwife by training and has been involved in the field of autism for the past 19 years. Jill was significantly involved with The Johannesburg School for Children with Autism, stabilizing the school’s financial and management structure to prevent the school from closing. In 1996, with the permission of the national committee of Autism South Africa, Jill was responsible for opening of full-time offices of Autism South Africa. Jill has served on the committee of the national body Autism South Africa since 1991 and has been National Director of Autism South Africa for the past 11 years.

      Polly Tommey is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Autism File magazine and has been Managing Director of its UK publisher, Sensinet Limited, since 1999. Polly is also the founder of The Autism Trust, a UK registered charity focused on building an inspiring and sustainable future for children with autism in the UK when they leave full time education. Polly is regarded as one of the leading figures in autism in the UK, renowned as a campaigning and influential journalist and is featured regularly as a sector expert in the national media. She has more recently been directing two investigative television documentaries to be broadcast in 2009 in partnership with the award winning producer, Michael Nunn. Polly presents a weekly radio program: Autism Issues From Around the Worldon Autism One Radio. She is married to Jonathan Tommey who runs The Autism Clinic.

      Franco Verzella, MD is the President of Defeat Autism Now! Europe. Dr. Verzella is an opthalmologist with a special interest in functional medicine.