Meet the staff
Our staff is diversified in their backgrounds, experience and interests. We enjoy finding staff members who have a spirit of giving back to others, a mind that is creative and flexible and a willingness to work in innovative ways. Staff members are given the opportunity to use their talents and gifts to teach our students in creative ways including baking, pets, athletics, yoga, art, music and swimming. If staff members have ideas for new programs or expanding/changing existing ones we are open to those ideas.
We have staff members that arrived to TAP with no autism experience at all but who showed a genuine interest in learning on the job. We have others with many years of experience in the special education field. Additionally, we have staff members who are on the autism spectrum themselves and are current students in their own right. We consider it our job to give our students a chance at employment when others will not. We are dedicated to continuing this practice as our students’ age in adulthood.
I graduated from Virginia Tech in 1996 with a BS in Psychology and Physical Education. I began working with a young girl with autism the day after I graduated in an ABA home program. I enjoyed it right away so I began looking for more work in the field. I found other families interested in home programs for their children and before long I had a number of students. I enjoyed the home program format but I always felt like something was missing.
I decided to go back to school to specialize in autism and in the meantime I slowly shifted from home programs to small group therapy. I ran social skills/playgroups out of my parent’s pool house for several years and then decide to become an Autism Waiver provider for the state of Maryland. I received a graduate certificate and a Masters Degree in Special Education from Johns Hopkins in 1999. Very soon thereafter the small business I had established was too big for the pool house.
With the help of my parents, we looked for a property to house The Autism Project. We found it and with that came a change from my personal business to a non-profit. All along I had hoped to provide a different way to teach students on the spectrum. I feel like what we found provided us with that opportunity. TAP has been at its current location since 2007.
I am married to my very best friend, Chris. He is my calming force and one of the few people on Earth who truly gets me. We were married on the beach in St. John and continue to revisit the island every year. I love the beach (I could sit there all day!), working out (weights, yoga, and sprints), true crime, “pajama days”, rooting for Duke Basketball and the Redskins. I am a Type A personality to the core – nothing makes me happier than finishing a list or completing a challenge. I am a Vegan and I have attended Chesapeake Church since 1996. My family is absolutely everything to me. It is an honor to work with them day in and day out to grow TAP. Without their continual support TAP would not be where it is today.
Fundraising and Donor Relations Associate
Hi, I am Dylan Gray, nice to meet you ! I have been part of the TAP family since 2010, maybe even earlier. I have attended many groups, camps, sleep over at TAP and learned lots and had fun. I am so excited to be part of the TAP fundraising team! Miss Linda (Angels mom) and I have been selling Redskins Raffle tickets for many years. I really enjoy selling raffle tickets, I meet a lot of nice people. I am a huge sports fan, I like to play sports and go to games and watch on TV. Baseball is my favorite sport, Go Nats ! I participate in many Special Olympics sports events, I hope to go the National Games some day, maybe even the World games. I attend CSM, I am in my third semester, it’s hard, but I try hard too. I also really enjoy traveling, going to new places and seeing new things.
Group Instructor and 1:1 Instructor
Ashley Gaither is a group and one to one instructor at The Autism Project Inc. She has been with The Autism Project for over five years now. She has a decade of experience working with a variety of disabilities. She prefers an eclectic approach to each student and also includes practical life skills, volunteer opportunities and the outdoors. She embraces and celebrates teaching the “little things” to students knowing the importance is great. She is a strong believer in providing support and respite for family members as a means of self-care. In her free time she enjoys the outdoors, cooking, knitting and spending time with her dogs.
Johnny had recently started working for the TAP in the Fall of 2018 and has also been attending social groups as well. Johnny enjoys riding roller coasters, listening to Luke Bryan, singing in the choir at Chesapeake Church, going to the beach, paddle boarding on the water, and rooting for Carolina Panthers. What he enjoys working with students with Autism is the hard work they do when they need help, and also seeing the smiles on their faces.
Alisa studied Early Childcare at PGCC and College of Southern Maryland. She has been in the field for 25 years and working with the Autism program for 20 of those years. She enjoys working specifically with the individuals on the Autism spectrum as there are so many different ways to make a difference in the lives of each student. The complexity of each individual really intrigues her and she tries anyway she can come up with ways for them to accomplish the daily tasks so that they will be able to live a life full of all the possibilities life has to offer.
Group Assistant and 1:1 Instructor
Alison was born and raised in Calvert County, and has always been active in her community, through the Girl Scouts and volunteer work. She has worked with the wonderful students at The Autism Project for almost two years now, and finds it very rewarding. Alison love soccer, and have been playing since the age of 6. In 2018, she was proud to be part of the Maryland State Championship Northern High School Varsity Girls Soccer Team. She enjoys spending time with her friends and family. This Fall Alison plans to attend college and study biology. Working with special needs kids is a very personally fulfilling and interesting experience, and every day holds its own surprises.