Co-Founder and President
ILENE LAINER Co-Founder and President, provides the strategic vision and tactical direction of NEXT for AUTISM. She became a leader in the autism community for both professional and personal reasons. Ilene co-founded NEXT for AUTISM, because she is committed to transforming the system of services and pursuing the latest innovations, so that all families living with autism would have access to the educational, social, recreational and support services they need. Formerly a partner at the law firm of Grotta, Glassman & Hoffman, P.A., Ilene practiced labor and employment law on behalf of management for nearly two decades, developing a strong interest in working with clients that were in the midst of internal structural change. Ilene has published and spoken widely about autism topics, and is currently on the Board of Trustees of the NYC Autism Charter School and on Advisory Committees for Felicity House and the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain.
Senior Vice President of Operations
GILLIAN LEEK, Senior Vice President of Operations, is responsible for internal operations and external affairs of the organization. Gillian has been with NEXT for AUTUSM since 2008, and is deeply committed to creating bright futures for individuals with autism and their families. She leads the execution and design of development efforts, including Night of Too Many Stars, a televised benefit, and the campaign to create the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. In her external affairs capacity, she oversees NEXT for AUTISM’S brand and public engagement initiatives, and is the principal liaison of media relations and national partnership opportunities to promote and cross-promote NEXT for AUTISM. As a member of the senior leadership team, Gillian works closely with the president and board of directors on tactical decisions and strategic planning. Gillian is a graduate of Elon University and holds a J.D. from New York Law School.
Vice President, Finance & Administration
AMY WALLACE, Vice President, Finance & Administration, oversees the finance and general operating functions at NEXT for AUTISM. Her responsibilities include managing our accounting, finance, and human resource functions, risk management, overseeing operation of our facilities, and providing financial analysis and insights to support strategic planning efforts and partnerships. Amy brings decades of experience from The New York Times Company, where most recently, she was the Executive Director of NYTLive, an international live-conference and events business with a budget of $20 million. Previously, as Executive Director of Strategic Planning at The New York Times, Amy was responsible for analyzing revenue-generating businesses and partnerships as well as creating strategic and business plans for those initiatives. Amy also held positions at The Times within operating groups and the corporate suite, where she was responsible for product development, resource allocation, budgeting, forecasting, pricing, compensation and expense control She holds an undergraduate degree and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Vice President, Program Development
PATRICIA WRIGHT, Vice President, Program Development, provides leadership and oversight for program development and implementation. Patricia supports strategic partnerships on behalf of NEXT for AUTISM by networking, profiling, and collaborating externally with organizations active in autism services, supports and research. Dr. Wright’s commitment to, and advocacy for, services and resources for the autism community has guided her work over the past 30 years. She has managed the design of a statewide system of support for children with autism for Hawaii, served as the National Director of Autism Services for Easter Seals, and held industry positions that leveraged technology to improve life outcomes for people living with disabilities. Dr. Wright has held advisory roles on the Organization for Autism Research’s Scientific Council, the Executive Committee for the Friends of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Board of Directors for the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts and the Autism Society Panel of Professional Advisors. She has provided expert testimony at Congressional Hearings and is a frequent contributor in the media, raising awareness of effective intervention for those living with autism. Patricia completed her PhD and Master of Public Health at the University of Hawaii. Her research focuses on the delivery of evidence-based interventions in community settings and healthcare access for people with disabilities.
Vice President, Corporate Consulting
LARRY WORTH, Vice President, Corporate Consulting, leads NEXT for AUTISM’s corporate employment service, providing strategic guidance to companies that seek to hire, train and retain individuals on the autism spectrum. He brings over a decade of experience in the field of disability employment integration, most recently as Executive Director of ViaQuest Foundation. Prior to that, Larry launched and owned small businesses. He also consulted to corporations and provided operational support. This corporate experience and deep knowledge of sound business strategies now informs the work that Larry does in developing sustainable employment models for individuals with autism. Larry is a member of the National Association of People Supporting EmploymentFirst (APSE). Larry holds a Bachelor of Science, Business Administration degree from Franklin University.
Special Projects Associate
MAGGIE BOYD, Special Projects Associate, supports fundraising initiatives and events for NEXT for AUTISM. From assisting in planning events to organizing social media and online fundraisers, Maggie works to spread NEXT’s mission and goals. A graduate of the University of Dayton, where she studied political science and marketing, Maggie previously interned at the Montgomery County Department of Economic and Community Development, where she worked to increase the capabilities and reach of local organizations such as homeless shelters and food pantries. She also interned with the nonprofit World Central Kitchen, where she assisted in planning the annual Dine-N-Dash event and World Food Day. With an older sister on the autism spectrum, Maggie loves knowing that her understanding of her sister will grow with each work day.
Senior Manager, Corporate Consulting
JOHN BRYSON, Senior Manager, Corporate Consulting, creates partnerships with businesses and school districts to develop employment services at NEXT for AUTISM. As a consultant at ViaQuest Foundation, John specialized in school-to-work transition services and implemented innovative strategies to develop career pathways for workers with disabilities. Prior to ViaQuest, John was an educator and public sector leader for ten years, where he supported students and adults with disabilities and other barriers to employment. His use of direct instruction and cooperative learning strategies led to consistently successful outcomes. He is committed to exploring innovative strategies and using his experience in education to help companies work with individuals with ASD. John is a Board Member of the Ohio Association of People Supporting EmploymentFirst (APSE). He holds a Bachelor of Arts, Communications degree and a Master of Science, Education degree from The University of Akron.
Manager, Program Development
ALISON BUSH, Manager, Program Development, supports program development and design, as well as ongoing program evaluation and management at NEXT for AUTISM. She has been working in the field of disability services and supports for nearly 10 years, beginning her career as a therapist and supervisor providing in-school and in-home ABA services to children. Alison then supported the creation and implementation of programs for young children at First Leap, an ABA-based clinical therapy center, where she oversaw the day-to-day operations and supervised staff. Prior to NEXT for AUTISM, Alison was the Professional Services Director of an educational software company, Rethink First. She supported the professional development of special education teachers with digital products that offered research-based teaching practices, digitization of data collection and data-based teaching decisions. In this role, she worked with a range of educators, from paraprofessionals to superintendents. Alison is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst with a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and an ABA Certificate from Nova Southeastern University. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Tampa.
BENJAMIN HILL, Office Assistant, wears many hats at NEXT for AUTISM, supporting team members in their office related tasks. He is an integral part of the team. Ben’s responsibilities include creating spreadsheets, maintaining office files, managing office mailings, and helping to procure and stock office supplies. Ben previously worked at UJA-Federation of New York in various departments, such as the Event Management Department, and performing various accounting tasks. Ben holds a Bachelors in Mathematics from the University of Connecticut.
Office and Social Media Coordinator
LEAH SPINDELL, Office and Social Media Coordinator, manages day-to-day office functions, social media channels, and provides administrative support to the President. She began her career in non-profit administration at the Friedberg Jewish Community Center in 2001 and continued at Sunrise Day Camp in 2009. Leah worked briefly in the for profit sector before starting at NEXT for AUTISM in 2016. Leah holds a B.A. in Television & Radio Broadcasting from Queens College.
Lauren Todd Steinbacher
Director, Corporate Consulting
LAUREN TODD STEINBACHER, Director, Corporate Consulting, is responsible for implementation of corporate consulting efforts at NEXT for AUTISM. Lauren oversaw operations and was lead consultant for the Disability Inclusion division at ViaQuest Foundation. She led the national, corporate consulting division, as well as the transition to employment teams in schools across the country. For the past 15 years, Lauren has helped individuals with disabilities become meaningful partners in their communities. She began her career working with individuals with developmental disabilities in residential settings, then in employment services where she has helped hundreds of individuals with disabilities gain employment. As an active member of the national disability community, Lauren has served multiple terms as a Board Member of the Ohio Chapter of the Association of People Supporting EmploymentFirst (APSE). She holds a Bachelors of Arts, Psychology degree from the University of Akron.
Director of Communications
QUYNH THAI, Director of Communications, is responsible for the creation of original content about NEXT for AUTISM and its work for the public, the press, and key stakeholders. She writes, edits and produces NEXT for AUTISM’s website content, Blog Stories, articles for external publications, and other enterprise messaging. Quynh brings a storytelling sensibility to her work and broad experience in print, digital, photography, and video. Previously, Quynh enjoyed a career as a television producer at ABC News, then a media consultant to Citi’s Global Transactions business where she helped launch a thought-leadership content channel, working with international colleagues and C-suite clients. Quynh has consulted to the Open Society Foundations, helping to launch the Soros Justice Media Fellowships and serving consecutive terms on that program’s selection committee, as well as on the committee of the Paul & Daisy Soros New American Fellowships. She is a graduate of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.
Senior Manager, Corporate Consulting
JASON WEPPELMAN, Senior Manager, Corporate Consulting, develops disability integration programs for corporations, government agencies, non-profits and national funders at NEXT for AUTISM. He works with clients to understand their work culture and needs, then matches them with disability industry resources. Prior to this, Jason led development efforts at Northeast Ohio Regional Employment Network (NOREN), a collaborative network of 250 employment experts from corporate and disability industries. NOREN is dedicated to developing comprehensive employment engagement strategies and evidence-based practices to accelerate employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Jason has held leadership positions in both the non-profit and private sectors, and has served as President/CEO of the Permian Basin Better Business Bureau in Midland, Texas. He combines his experience with a focused passion to find innovative solutions for talent acquisition and retention. Jason’s work has been vital to the creation of multiple collaborative groups that connect businesses with job seekers and disability support providers, resulting in positive outcomes and confirmation that disability hiring is a sound business decision.