Early Intervention: Team Profiles
Julia Bentley, M.A. – Family Resources Coordinator
Julia graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from West Virginia University and worked as a preschool teacher for several years. She received her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Antioch New England Graduate School and established a private practice in Portland, Maine. After relocating to Seattle, Julia worked as a family therapist with clients receiving services through the Department of Social and Health Services and later as a Case Manager with Childhaven. Julia joined the staff of Northwest Center in 2002, first working for adult services and then moving to the children’s program in 2005. Julia completed the Promoting First Relationships (PFR) Train the Trainer program in 2011. The PFR program was developed at the University of Washington and is designed to help parents and other caregivers of young children best support social emotional development. In 2013, Julia completed training as a Circle of Security™ Registered Parent Educator.
Melinda Bourgette, B.A. – Family Resources Coordinator
Melinda graduated from Western Washington University earning a B.A. in Spanish, Social Services and a minor in Psychology. As a part of her studies at Western Washington University she participated in Early Childhood Education and Child Development Classes. After graduating from WWU, she followed her passion and decided to take a chance with an up-and-coming law firm, Barraza Law. At Barraza Law, Melinda was given the opportunity to use her bi-lingual skills to assist clients in all aspects of the law firm’s practice. Melinda worked directly with clients to translate legal documentation, attend appointments, facilitate communication, and guide them through various application processes. Her positive experience with the law firm has further deepened her passion to provide and empower families with the knowledge of their rights and the resources available. Melinda jumped at the chance to work with NW Center and she now has the opportunity to work directly with families to advocate for early intervention services.
Jonelle Burris B.A., – Family Resources Coordinator
Jonelle graduated from the Western Washington University in 2007 with a General Studies degree with a minor in Communication Sciences and Disorders. As part of her studies at WWU, she took classes in Early Childhood Education, Special Education, and Audiology. Throughout college, she worked in a variety of childcare settings (home-based and center-based), here in Seattle and in Bellingham. In 2007, she came to Northwest Center Kids as a toddler teacher, and loved every minute getting to know all the wonderful families.
In May 2010, Jonelle joined the Early Intervention Team as a Family Resource Coordinator, to continue her passion for helping and connecting with families.
Shannon Clark, B.S. – Special Educator
Shannon has been with the Northwest Center Early Intervention program since the summer of 2008. She enjoys interacting with the families, teachers and children at Northwest Center Kids. Previously, she has worked as a public school special education teacher, consultant for children with autism, and as a provider in another early intervention program. She believes in empowering families to be the best advocates and teachers for their children. Shannon received her special education degree from Indiana University, and is licensed to teach in Washington State. In her spare time, Shannon enjoys tennis, figure skating, reading, genealogy and someday traveling the world.
Emily DeCarlo, M.S., CCC-SLP – Speech-Language Pathologist
Emily graduated from Truckee High School in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Language & Culture from California State University, Chico in May 2005. While in college she studied abroad at Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain. She speaks Spanish fluently and taught English as a second language to children and adults in Spain for a few years. Emily completed post-baccalaureate studies in Speech and Hearing Sciences at Western Washington University. She earned her Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Portland State University (PSU) in May, 2013. The PSU program is unique in that it offers a concentration in bilingual language development. During the summer of 2012, Emily volunteered at a neurodevelopmental center in Quito, Ecuador as part of her practicum experience. Emily has worked at elementary and middle schools in Lakewood and Seattle, serving a diverse population of students. Emily is passionate about providing equal educational experiences for bilingual children and their families.
Emily is thrilled to join the Northwest Center Early Intervention team, as of April 2016. She’s passionate about life-long learning and collaborating with community resources to provide culturally competent Birth-3 Services. In her free time, Emily enjoys hiking, traveling, snowboarding, reading, writing, dancing, and laughing with friends and family.
Stefanie Eilers, M.Ed. – Special Educator
Stefanie earned a B.S.Ed. in Special Education in 2005, and a Master’s degree in Special Education with a concentration in Early Childhood Intervention in 2006, both from Ohio State University. While in school, she did research on an inclusive model demonstration kindergarten program for children with autism spectrum disorders, completed student teaching in two special education preschool classrooms in public schools, and worked for 4 years in a center-based early intervention classroom. She then moved to Washington, DC, where she taught toddlers for 6 years at an inclusion school for children who were deaf and hard-of-hearing, as well as serving as Division Head for the school’s infant/toddler division and doing home therapy with toddler and preschoolers with autism.
In 2012, she moved to Seattle and joined Northwest Center as the Infant-Toddler Program Coordinator at Northwest Center Kids Early Learning in Queen Anne. She then became the Program Director in 2013 and helped move the program to its new home in Greenwood in 2014. She is thrilled to now have joined the Early Intervention department, which allows her to return to a special educator role while continuing to support the mission of Northwest Center. She holds teaching licenses in Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education in Washington State and Washington, DC. In her free time, she loves to hike, kayak, camp, knit, and travel!
Katie Gardner, M.S., CCC-SLP – Speech-Language Pathologist
Katie recently moved back to the Pacific Northwest after studying and living in England. She has a Master’s degree from City University in London, England and a B.A. in Fine Art from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Katie worked in early intervention, elementary schools, and high schools during her time as and SLP in London and joined the team at Northwest Center in November 2015. Her love for speech therapy began after she worked at a school for children with Autism and developed a strong passion for creating individual therapy plans, with functional goals to improve the overall quality of life for children and their families. Katie enjoys furthering her education in a range of areas, and has specific training in using Hanen It Takes Two to Talk® approaches to therapy, stuttering intervention for children and adolescents, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), TEACHH, and providing teacher trainings.
Katie enjoys exploring her new home in Seattle by hiking and going to cafes with her husband, a transplant from England, and their dog. She loves traveling the world, going to the cinema, and spending time with friends.
Rhiann Grills, M.S., CCC-SLP – Speech-Language Pathologist
Rhiann earned her Master’s Degree in Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences from San Diego State University and holds a Clinical Certificate of Competence through the American Speech Language Hearing Association. Rhiann moved from San Diego in June 2015 to join Northwest Center’s Early Intervention Team. She previously worked in both early intervention and preschool/elementary school settings in culturally diverse neighborhoods, and also taught mindfulness to children in San Diego. Rhiann particularly loves early intervention because it allows her to work closely with families to improve communication and enrich their relationships. Rhiann is thrilled to be at Northwest Center with a highly trained and collaborative therapy team.
Rhiann’s training includes naturalistic sound acquisition for young children with disabilities, SCERTS® Model Therapy, assessment of bilingual children, cultural competency, and an introduction to PECS.
In her spare time, Rhiann loves to be active outdoors, practice yoga, travel internationally, and read.
Amanda Harper-Phillips – OTR/L – Occupational Therapist & CHERISH Therapist
Amanda earned her Bachelor’s in Psychology from Whitman College in 2003. She then earned her Master’s in Occupational Therapy from the University of Washington in 2010. Amanda enjoyed her second internship with Northwest Center Early Intervention so much; she jumped at the opportunity to fill an open position and joined the team in early 2011. Amanda believes in the importance of family-centered care and working with children and their families in their homes and communities. In 2013, Amanda was excited to help implement the CHERISH program at Northwest Center for foster children and caregivers. She is also a Registered Circle of Security Parent Educator.
Amanda grew up in Seattle and in her free time she enjoys reading, playing board games, going to the beach, and playing Ultimate Frisbee with her husband.
Tracy L. Kaplan, M.S., CCC-SLP – Speech-Language Pathologist
Tracy has a Master of Science degree in Speech, Language, & Hearing Sciences from the University of Arizona and a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Disorders from New Mexico State University. Although Tracy’s clinical training and experience spans people of all ages with a variety of conditions, her passion lies within early intervention and serving children birth to 5 years of age. She specializes in helping infants and children with communication disorders and feeding/swallowing difficulties. Most recently, Tracy worked as a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Speech, Language, & Hearing Sciences at the University of Arizona.
Among her other involvements, Tracy is a Certified Lactation Counselor and she is also in the process of completing a Master of Public Health from the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona. In her free time, Tracy enjoys spending time with her husband, playing outdoors, cooking, being active, and visiting the local farmers markets each week.
Kayla Buswell Khan, MS, CCC-SLP – Speech-Language Pathologist
Kayla received a BS in Speech and Hearing Sciences and a BA in Psychology from the University of Washington and a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Gallaudet University in Washington DC. Kayla’s training and experience has focused on serving children with hearing loss from birth – 5. She has presented papers on the topic of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children in Early Intervention at the American Speech and Hearing Association annual conference and the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention annual conference. She is conversationally fluent in American Sign Language. Her training also includes PROMPT and Cued Speech. Kayla recently moved back to the Pacific Northwest from Washington, DC bringing with her two transplants, her husband and her daughter!
Alifiya Khericha, M.Ed. – Family Resources Coordinator
Alifiya graduated from Gonzaga University in 2012 with a degree in Psychology and Biology with a minor in Sociology. After graduating, Alifiya joined Teach For America where she taught 8th grade science and engineering at a Title One school in the Las Vegas Valley. While in Teach For America, Alifiya earned her Master’s degree in Elementary Instruction and Curriculum. Throughout her time in Teach For America, Alifiya loved working with kids, but saw the need for reform within school districts for special education. After Teach For America, Alifiya moved to Seattle and joined the Northwest Center Early Intervention Team in February of 2015. Alifiya believes Northwest Center gives students a chance to thrive in and out of the classroom.
Alison Lombardi, M.S., CCC-SLP – Speech Language Pathologist
Alison received a Master of Science degree in Speech Pathology from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in 1999. After moving to Seattle in 2000, she worked with young children in a variety of settings including the Lake Washington School District, a private practice, and Childhaven. Alison joined the Northwest Center Early Intervention Team in June of 2010 and believes strongly in the mission and philosophy of care where families and therapists work together to help children grow and learn. She is excited to continue working closely with children in their natural environments with the collaboration of a wonderful therapeutic team.
Her continuing education includes PROMPT Level 1, and a special interest in infant mental health including trainings from Bruce Perry’s Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics at the Child Trauma Academy, an introduction to Promoting First Relationships ® and cultural competency.
Alison enjoys spending time with her husband and two young daughters, cooking, and traveling.
Heidi Mills, DPT – Doctor of Physical Therapy
Heidi earned her Bachelor of Science in Physical Education with a minor in Psychology and Biology in 2005 from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. She went on to earn her Doctorate in Physical Therapy in 2010 from Chapman University in Orange, California. Heidi has worked in out-patient orthopedics, skilled nursing, and schools. She has always had a passion for working with children which is what inspired her to go into physical therapy. Heidi has partnered with families for several years working in early intervention. Her training includes massage and myofascial release for infants, therapeutic taping for children, yoga for children with special needs, Reiki, aquatics, and Circle of Security Parenting Facilitator.
In her free time Heidi enjoys spending time with her husband and two kids being active outdoors, going to the beach, and traveling.
Jennifer Nash, PhD, OTR/L – Occupational Therapist
Jennifer received a Master of Occupational Therapy in 2004, a Graduate Certificate in Infant Mental Health in 2011, and a PhD in Rehabilitation Science in 2014 from the University of Washington (UW). She has worked in a variety of settings as an occupational therapist including: adult acute care, school therapy, and outpatient pediatrics. In addition to being a part of Northwest Center’s Early Intervention Team, she is currently working at Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center and the UW’s Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Diagnostic and Prevention Network. She regularly lectures on pediatric topics such as sensory-based feeding challenges, family-centered care, and infant mental health at local and national conferences. Jennifer thoroughly enjoys working with children with special health care needs and their families! In her free time, Jennifer enjoys shopping at thrift stores, reading, eating delicious food, and playing video games/board games with her husband.
Molly Nolan, MS OTR/L – Occupational Therapist
Molly graduated with her Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy from Colorado State University in 2007. In early 2008, she relocated to the great Pacific Northwest. She spent her first eight years of practice in an outpatient pediatric clinic working part time with families in early intervention, and part time in the clinic with children 3-18 years old. With a passion for working in early intervention, she excitedly joined the team at Northwest Center Kids in early 2016.
Throughout her years as an occupational therapist, Molly has participated in a variety of continuing education on topics such as feeding fragile infants, feeding with toddlers and children with tube feedings, typical motor development and movement in children, beginning Infant Mental Health, and how to support children with sensory processing difficulties.
In her free time, Molly enjoys soaking up the sunny days by biking, hiking, skiing, and going to the local farmer’s markets.
Caitlyn O’Reilly, B.A. – Family Resources Coordinator
Caitlyn O’Reilly graduated from Pacific Lutheran University earning a B.A. in Psychology. As a part of her studies, Caitlyn interned at the Pierce County Juvenile Courthouse in both their clerks’ office as well as their Diversion Program. After graduating from PLU, Caitlyn took time and found herself drawn to working for a Licensed Staff Residential Program serving high needs adolescents with developmental disabilities. In moving from a supervisor position to managing the entire program, Caitlyn was able to gain a wide variety of experiences working with DDA, Children’s Administration, and many other entities under DSHS. This experience sparked Caitlyn’s interest in pursuing a position working with younger children in NW Center’s Early Intervention Program.
Lottie Olver, PGDip. CCC-SLP – Speech Language Pathologist & Early Intervention Director
Lottie moved from England to work at Northwest Center in February 2005. After graduating in 2002, she worked in London, UK with children and adults with developmental delays, and their families. Some things she loves about Northwest Center Kids is working closely with families to support their child’s development and working within a skilled, collaborative team. She divides her time between having a caseload and co-directing the early intervention department.
Her training includes extensive feeding training, Beckman oral motor, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), Hanen It Takes Two to Talk; More Than Words and Learning Language and Loving It caregiver training, PROMPT, TEACCH and sensory integration.
Outside work, Lottie is doing an extensive house remodel and loves to hike, ski and cook with her husband and two children.
Tina Paik – Family Resources/Intake Coordinator
In 2013, while in school for pharmacy technician, Tina stumbled upon Northwest Center Kids and applied for a part-time Office Assistant position. Tina instantly fell in love with Northwest Center and its families. So when a full-time position for Early Intervention opened up, Tina couldn’t believe her luck! Tina is passionate about kids and believes in changing today to provide a better tomorrow for our future generations. As a Family Resources Coordinator, she loves working closely with her families and being a positive outlet for them. As the Intake Coordinator, she loves the detail-oriented and organizational aspect of the position.
In her free time, Tina loves to cook and bake, read novels, watch movies, and play board games and travel with her husband.
Ashley Sharer, M.A., CCC-SLP – Speech-Language Pathologist
Ashley earned a Bachelor of Science in Speech and Hearing Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2007. She worked as a teacher at Early Learning in Champaign, IL for a year before returning to the University of Illinois to earn a Master of Arts in Speech and Hearing Science in 2010. Her continuing education includes Hanen It Takes Two to Talk® caregiver training, PROMPT Level 1, Oral motor/Feeding workshops and is a Certified Lactation Counselor.
Ashley moved to Seattle from Illinois to join the Early Intervention team at Northwest Center in August 2010. She enjoys reading, crafting, and hiking with her husband and their dog.
Rebecca (Becky) Smith, OTR/L – Occupational Therapist & Early Intervention Director
Becky joined the Northwest Center Kids Early Intervention team in July 2004 after obtaining her Masters degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Washington. Becky is dedicated to early intervention and loves what Northwest Center early intervention provides families and communities. She enjoys being able to co-direct the early intervention team while practicing occupational therapy in community settings and homes.
Becky enjoys being outside hiking, walking and swimming. She practices yoga on a regular basis. Becky tries to incorporate these activities into her occupational therapy practice. She also pulls from a variety of knowledge in feeding, sensory processing and typical movement and development in children.
Becky’s life was changed for the better with the arrival of her son in April 2008. She has much respect for the absolute delights and challenges that parenting brings.
Cynthia Svensson, B.A., PT – Physical Therapist
Cynthia earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Humanities from Seattle University in 1997. She worked in human resources, before moving to Sweden. While in Stockholm, she studied at Karolinska Institute, earning a Bachelor of Medical Science and Bachelor of Science in Physiotherapy in 2005. After graduating, she worked in hospital in-patient rehab in Stockholm for 2 years, before moving back to Seattle in 2007. Since returning to Seattle, she has worked primarily in out-patient orthopedics with socio-economically diverse and underserved populations.
Cynthia has always had a passion for serving children and their families and feels very fortunate to join the Northwest Center Early Intervention team in 2013.
Meghan M. Trigg, MSPT – Physical Therapist
Meghan graduated from the Medical College of Virginia with her Master’s of Science Degree and Physical Therapy degree in 1995. She worked with adults for 9 years focusing on neurological disorders and deficits. She transitioned to a pediatric focus in her practice to challenge herself and fulfill her initial purpose of becoming a physical therapist.
She has had a career focus on education as well. She has taught in the physical therapy assistant program at Whatcom Community College and has provided clinical education to students from all over the state, as well as being an item writer for the National Physical Therapy Examination.
Meghan’s treatment philosophies focus on neurodevelopmental treatment and she has always been interested in working on not just getting the task done, but HOW the task is done—and individualizing this for every client.
Iwona Zubrzycka, CC/BA – Contract Compliance and Business Analyst
Iwona recently moved to Seattle after working and studying on the East Coast. She obtained her B.S. in Psychology at State University of New York, where she also served as a Teaching Fellow for Statistics. Iwona has a broad experience in the medical field that ranges from direct work with patients- as a Behavioral Health Specialist at NYPH, to medical practice management and consulting service provider for professionals in the industry. She has joined the Northwest Center Early Intervention Team because she sees an incredible value in the philosophy of care where families and therapists work together (in children’s natural environment) to help children flourish. Iwona is excited to work closely with a wonderful therapeutic team and facilitate their growth by providing them with meaningful data reflecting their accomplishments and progress within the community.
Iwona strongly believes in professional and personal development through lifelong learning, therefore, she enjoys every single opportunity to learn new skills and explore new things.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program Staff
Sheila McMahan, RN, MSN, FNP – Family Resources Coordinator
Sheila is a Pacific Northwest native. After earning her Associates in Nursing, she worked as an RN in Texas while furthering her education. She earned her BSN, and then MSN at the University of Texas.
Her nursing career has allowed Sheila to work in a variety of settings including ER, trauma, pediatrics, Labor and Delivery, medical/surgical, and ambulatory care. Her career path brought her back to the Pacific Northwest as an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner in Family Practice.
While practicing as a Family Nurse Practitioner, she participated in the Washington State Cardiovascular Collaborative, and piloted a group-visit model for diabetic care in South King County. Her publications include topics such as Impetigo Management, Collaborative Practice, and the Diagnosis and Management of Lactose Intolerance.
After she and her husband welcomed their triplets, Sheila took time off from her practice to focus on her family. During this time she volunteered her time with The Arc in Parent2Parent support activities, stayed active in advocacy for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and gave of her time and expertise to local schools of nursing.
Sheila is excited to join NW Center and work with families of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community in King County. When she is not at work, she is usually found at elementary school PTA events or cheering on her kids at a variety of events.
Jodi Reimer, B.A., – Family Resources Coordinator
Jodi has a BA degree from Seattle Pacific University. Her life took a turn in 1991 when her son was born with disabilities and many medical issues and since then she has been working with both families and adults with special needs. She has a heart for supporting families and helping them envision a positive future for their child. Jodi and her husband are recent “empty-nesters” and when not working, enjoy time in their backyard sanctuary, traveling, photography and camping on the beach.