Unlocking Autism is blessed to have guidance from great people with a vast background across multiple industries and disciplines.
Shelley Hendrix McLaughlin
Shelley’s son, Liam, was diagnosed with autism in 1998. After his diagnosis, Shelley emerged as a leader in the autism community, organizing grassroots rallies across the country and teaching autism community members how to affect positive policy change. Liam still faces challenges but today, he is a high school graduate and Eagle Scout that has worked for McDonalds since 2012 with plans to one day open his own bakery. Shelley co-founded Unlocking Autism on February 15, 1999 with Nancy Cale of Sharpsburg, GA and Jeana Smith of Baton Rouge, LA, both of whom passed away suddenly in 2017.
Serving as the National Director of Grassroots Development for Autism Speaks for nearly a decade, Shelley directed grassroots engagement and strategy contributing to the passage of over 90 laws in 46 states to help people with autism access medically necessary healthcare treatments, as well as services to improve independent living opportunities. Since 2005, working with Unlocking Autism, Autism Speaks and the Autism Policy Reform Coalition, Shelley assisted in passing six federal laws which secured over $6 Billion in research funding, created an Autism Research Program within the United States Department of Defense and established of a mechanism allowing parents to save money for their child’s adult expenditures in tax-free savings accounts.
Since the program’s inception in 2007, Shelley has served as a consumer member of the Integrative Panel for the U.S. Department of Defense Autism Spectrum Disorder Research Program for Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. This program funds and develops innovative strategies in autism research with a vision goal of helping people impacted with autism now. Over $90 Million in research grants have been funded through this program to date.
In 2015, Shelley founded Different Beat Consultants, which concentrates on building strategies to address the autism epidemic by connecting products, government entities and families living with autism. DBC is working to address multiple systemic societal issues ranging from improving physical and mental health of those living with ASD, to accessing early intervention services, adult housing/transition services and job training in new and innovative ways. One of DBC’s primary goals is to find a way to bring solutions to the community in the most efficacious and cost effective manner possible and has focused efforts on the poorest states in our country with the least resources.
In 2005, Spectrum Publications named Shelley “Person of the Year” for her work within the national autism community and in 2006 named her one of the Top 10 Faces of Autism. Shelley graduated from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA with a B.A. in political science and art history. She is the mother of Liam and Mairin Reynolds who have both equally fueled her passions to make the world a better place for those living with ASD.
Chris has been in the technology arena for over 30 years professionally. He has worked with clients on a global scale to help them manage all technology aspects of their business. Chris has worked in e-tail, retail, and wholesale environments and has been employed buy both start-up technology firms and Fortune 500 companies.
He specializes in web application development and enjoys using his experience to help solve real world problems which hinder the growth of his clients. Chris owns and operates SkuFlow Inventory Systems and CandleFly Media. SkuFlow is an online business system allowing businesses to manage customers, payroll, accounting, inventory, ecommerce, and other logistical needs. CandleFly Media is a bookselling platform which allows pro-sellers to manage their Amazon inventory and sales in real-time while enabling data visualization of sales across time and real-time package tracking.
Chris enjoys and finds great fulfillment in helping those in need and is using his skills in selling books online to help raise funds for churches, schools, non-profit organizations, and individuals with significant medical needs through is Christian outreach ministry called Books for Blessings.
When he is not in front of the keyboard, Chris enjoys renovating his home and spending time with his family. His mantra is "You are what others perceive you to be" and provides technical guidance to Unlocking Autism as needed.
Shannon Johnson's heart first broke for the autism community in 1998 when her son, Wynn, was diagnosed on the spectrum. Nothing in her experience as a teacher had prepared her for what lay ahead.
In the following years, Shannon became an expert in her son. She participated in the same training as his teachers, including ABA, Social Stories, The SCERTS model, The Mandt System and a NAAPI certification.
Post her son's school career, Shannon continues to advocate for adults with disabilities by serving as a board member of the Maine Developmental Disabilities Council. As special interest to Shannon, based on her son's experience while a patient on a adolescent psychiatric unit, is the elimination of the use of chemical and physical restraints on members of this community. She serves on two state-level committees in Maine that address restraints and seclusions in both children's and adult services.
Shannon is an empty nester and lives in Harpswell, Maine with her husband, Steve. Wynn lives nearby in his own home with a full-time support staff, and daughter, Haley, lives in Santa Barbara, CA.
It is a privilege for Shannon to step into a board role at Unlocking Autism, hoping to honor the memory of her mother, Nancy Cale- a founding member of Unlocking Autism and Wynn's all-time biggest fan.
A change-agent known for her fierce determination, unwavering optimism, and commitment to excellence.
For over twenty years, Mika has been involved in grass-roots, regional, state, and national initiatives focused on building resources and long-term solutions for people with chronic physical and behavioral health conditions. She has worked in various industries including, medical and pharmaceutical sales, nutrition, health, and wellness. Her relentless search for answers to her own family's health issues in combination with her driven work ethic and passion to share a message of hope has allowed her to build relationships with key leaders and decision-makers.
Mika has three adult children. Her middle child Jacob was diagnosed with autism at the age of two.
She’s is an Executive Board Member and Past President of the North Texas Division of Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT) and works as a fierce ASD advocate. She also founded and hosts a podcast, Connected with Mika, aimed at connecting the broader special needs community worldwide.
Rev. Arthur L. Hunt, Jr., D.D., is an ordained minister and pastor. As Founder/CEO of The College of Aspiring Artists, (TCAA), and MLKBible.Education, Arthur develops and polishes the best in new creative talents and innovations inside faith-based, education and creative economy networks.
In recent years, Arthur was placed on the distinguished advisory panel of the Arkansas Creative Economy three-year study sponsored by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation charged with advancing Arkansas’ creative, innovative, and intellectual properties. In 2019, a grant from USDA Rural Development, Rural Economic Development Innovation (REDI), was awarded to 47 communities across the nation to help rural communities with poverty reduction and elimination. Arkansas. Hunt is overseeing the initiative from The Legacy Center in West Dumas which includes new partnerships with GoFresh USA and the Arkansas Food Bank. As of December, 2020, the initiative has distributed over $350,000 in food products throughout a 150-mile radius. The vision includes adding more food supply, workforce and job creation. ASC Property Management Company partners with the project by managing 50 low-income properties across the state housing the primary participants of the programs and services.
Arthur is also leading a national placement of a new MLK Curriculum, a one semester course coded in the area of Critical Thinking. Finally, Arthur serves as a program leader/director with other state and national organizations.
Quess Hood is a 20 year veteran teacher and football coach from North Mississippi. He and his wife Anita have a son Jasper, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 1/2 years old. Understanding what his family was experiencing with rising healthcare costs, Quess started on a journey to bring insurance reform for those with living with autism to Mississippi. Quess served for many years as the Volunteer State Policy Coordinator for Autism Votes, a grassroots policy program for Autism Speaks.
Today, Quess is a governor appointee to the Mississippi Council on developmental disabilities which he serves as vice chairman. He continues to work hard to improve the lives of those living with autism in his state and elsewhere, with an eye on the future and a growing focus on the need for transition services as Jasper grows up.
Delasber is married to Warren Sanders and she is the mother of her amazing daughter, Amoree Rayne. Amoree was diagnosed with multiple health comorbidities beginning in 2013, including autism. In 2016, the Sanders family lost their entire home with all of its contents in the Great Flood of Louisiana. The waters rose up very quickly and Amoree was swept away from Warren by the river current, but she was able to pop back up out of the water and dog paddle to her father, thanks to her mother's insistence on swimming lessons only a couple of months prior.
Their story was featured on Special Books by Special Kids - as seen below.
Shortly after that the Sanders family met Unlocking Autism, a solid friendship was formed. The Sanders family is committed to improving medical healthcare delivery systems for our children in local pediatric offices, with specialists, in Emergency Rooms and especially in long term hospital care and outpatient services.
Delasber holds a BGS and MEd in Educational Technology from the University of Louisiana - Monroe, Northwestern State University of Louisiana and Louisiana College. She served in education for fifteen years. Delasber is also the CEO and founder of No Greater Love, Inc. and Amoree's Journey, and author of No Greater Love: Parenting Through Multiple Diagnoses, as well as the sequel - No Greater Love: 21 Days of Resiliency.
She works very hard to serve as a connector for families touched by autism realizing that by networking together shared experiences, our community is strengthened. Delasber loves working with families that have struggled with chronic physical health challenges with their children and provides support and resources for them.
E. Jennifer Brown
E. Jennifer Brown has been a passionate advocate for people with disabilities for more than 20 years. She believes everyone has something of value to contribute to the world and deserves a life of belonging. As an experienced special education advocate, support coordinator and support broker Brown has seen first-hand that systems change occurs in the community, one person at a time, from the ground up. She is dedicated to working with people that experience disability and their families to navigate complex services and support systems. Brown is a proud alumna of Penn State University where she earned her a BA in Speech Communication. She lives on a little farm in Tewksbury Township with her husband and is the proud mother of three young adults.
Founded in 2017, Eiros Group works with people who experience disabilities as they create their best lives. Specializing in connecting people to their community, Eiros focuses on creative ways to provide support both in and out of the Medicaid funded service system. Eiros is an ancient Greek word that means to bind together that which has been broken, divided or separated.
In 2021, Eiros Group will continue to work with people that experience disability as they self-direct their services. Daily, Eiros Group develops and creates sustainable, person-centered solutions to the many barriers people with developmental disabilities face: housing, employment, transportation, education, healthcare and community engagement. Eiros is qualified through DDD and Medicaid to provide supports brokerage, direct support as well as employment services. We currently support 58 people in 12 counties and employ 20 people.
Eiros holds space for all people to show up as they are, share their gifts and grow meaningful relationships. For more information please visit here.
Angela Butler Smith is the happily married mother of three beautiful children: two daughters and a son. Her oldest daughter is majoring in Psychology and after growing up living in a home with autism, plans to obtain her B.C.B.A. and serve other families.
Her son was non-verbal at age 3 when he was diagnosed with autism. Through a variety of biomedical interventions designed to treat inflammation issues, combined with traditional therapies like speech, occupational therapy and ABA, he is now 16 years old communicating and managing his personal care. Angela's family held onto hope as an anchor, and now wants to show other families how to anchor in hope for a future as well.
Angela graduated from the University of North Alabama with a double major in business and marketing. She completed her graduate studies at the University College London in the United Kingdom.
After 21 years of flying across the globe with Delta Airlines, as well as serving in Operations and Human Resources Management, she retired to start a new thing. She and her husband, Christopher, have a real estate development business in Nashville, TN. She also has grown a successful skincare business!
For over a decade, Angela has been engaged in a variety of legislative work for families living with autism, especially those concerned with medical freedom and informed consent.