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The Autism Society the Heartland received the National Autism Society Affiliate of The Year for 2015 as well as receiving the Midwest Regional EMMY for the film Just Like You Autism

Executive Director

Jennifer Smith

Jennifer Smith has two children, Corinne, 22, and Cameron, 21, both with autism. Jennifer has been advocating for individuals with autism and their families for over 18 years, and has served on many community Board of Directors. Jennifer has a degree in Hospitality Management and has Marketing and Event Planning experience.  
Jennifer is excited to work with so many families, services providers, businesses and donors that support Autism Society - The Heartland and to be able to bring together the community to collaborate on the issues that touch the lives of those with autism and the organizations that serve them.

Office Manager

Kathy Bennett

Kathy is blessed to have boy & girl twins, with her son being on the spectrum.  Kathy has a Bachelors Degree in Business and has worked in the financial industry for over 20 years.  Kathy is an active member of the special needs community and has been for over a decade.  She has been on the leadership team of the Blue Valley School District Special Education Advisory Council since 2011, was a member of the Kansas City Autism Speaks Walk committee for 4 years, and co-chaired the walk with her husband, Rick, in 2011.  Kathy has a passion to advocate for all families and provide those families with resources and support needed to make their loved ones with special needs lead happy and successful lives. 


Board of Directors 2016




Mandy Schefter

I am very excited to be the 2016 Vice President. My 17 year old son is on the spectrum. My 17 year old cousin is on the spectrum. And my 14 year old nephew is on the spectrum. Besides the hours and hours (years and years!) of researching autism, therapies, and just how to survive, I have also served as the Resource Fair Committee Chair for Autism Speaks (Kansas City walk), and on the board of Alpacas for Autism. I currently teach Pre-K and am a special needs consultant for Sasone. I am married and also have a 14 year old daughter. 


Nan Perrin

Nan Perrin is a Doctoral level Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D) and has graduate degrees in Human Development and Special Education from the University of Kansas. She has worked with individuals with autism since 1990. Nan currently works as an case manager for an insurance company.  Nan’s passion continues to be working with children, families, schools and providers to reach the best outcome for individuals on the spectrum. Her primary areas of focus are autism, positive behavior support for individuals and families, as well as policy and systems change.  Nan is also appointed to the Kansas Governor’s Commission on Autism as the BCBA member.  


Georgia Mueller- 

Georgia Mueller is a parent to 15 year old Caleb who has the diagnosis of autism. She is a native of greater Kansas City and has been involved with supporting and serving families regarding disability issues for 13 years. Currently Georgia works at Missouri Family to Family as a Resource Specialist and is a CWIC which is a Certified Work Incentive Counselor/Benefits Specialist. She helps families with planning for future work training and employment options for their young adult family members with disabilities.


Board Members


Spencer Hunley

Spencer Hunley was diagnosed at age 17 with Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of high-functioning Autism) and is a proud self-advocate, working to start his own business aimed at lowering the cost of assistive technology by utilizing linux-based open-source technology and software.
Previously, Spencer was a Research Specialist for the University of Missouri-Kansas City's Institute for Human Development, working on several grants, including the Missouri Adults Transitioning to Healthcare (also known as the Youth Leadership Council) for the Missouri Partnership for Integrated Community Services for Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs and the Youth LEAD project. Mr. Hunley also wrote an article featured in the Research to Practice in Self-Determination guide published by the National Training Initiative on Self-Determination and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities.
Currently, Spencer is a Board Member of the Kansas City Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilities; member of the Autism Spectrum Disorder Youth Coalition - Missouri Rapid Response Project, and former Board of Directors Member of the Autism/Asperger Resource Center under Kansas University Medical Center. Active in his community, he attended the Missouri Youth Leadership Forum in 2003 and returns each year as a volunteer staff member and is also a Missouri Partners in Policymaking alumni. A Kansas City Barbeque Society Certified Barbeque Judge, Spencer is also a seven-year veteran of Missouri State High School Athletic Association and National Federation of High Schools and a five year member of the Greater Kansas City Officials Association.


Jonathan Goering- 

Jonathan is a proud father of three children, with his son being on the spectrum.  Jonathan came into contact with ASH as a support group member.  The resource’s that he has received drives his dedication to the ASH board for other families and individuals that are seeking resources and support.  He current provides leadership for the Wyandotte County Support Group.  Jonathan is a middle school teacher with a Master’s degree in Administration.  Jonathan works close with school districts writing curriculum, district assessments and teacher evaluation systems.  He also sits on the local teacher association board ensuring that great, effective teachers are in every public school classroom.  


Kate Duffy-

The mother of two grown-up sons on the spectrum, Kate Duffy has worked as a transition navigator for college-age students with disabilities and as a faculty trainer at UMKC’s Institute for Human Development. A writer by training, Kate received her M.S. in journalism from the University of Kansas, wrote a monthly careers column for The Kansas City Star for six years and has written four books about employment, including two about employment for people with disabilities. Her experience also includes mentoring new adjunct faculty and teaching writing and entrepreneurship classes at Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City. Her last book, Developing Talents: Careers for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism was coauthored with Dr. Temple Grandin and focuses on removing employment barriers for those on the autism spectrum.

Lorena Mendoza- 

I'm 34 yrs.old, born and raised in K.C.K I have two wonderful children on the spectrum my son is 10yrs. old he is a high risk of non verbal my daughter is 6yrs. old, She is mild risk. I can also say I'm a very out going person once you get to know me, you can say that I'm that person that people come to when they need help with a gathering. I'm also bilingual in Spanish, I love spending time with my family, I have volunteered several times at the soup kitchen in my neighborhood. I do know this is my next step in life to help others in my community and my heritage.You have to live life to the fullest..... my families quote Santos "Believe"


LaKrystal McKnight-

LaKrystal McKnight is currently a Special Education teacher  and teaches an Autism Program for grades K-5. She teaches students of all different levels of the Autism spectrum including kids who are nonverbal and/or need to be toilet trained, all the way to some that just need social skills instruction or self-advocacy skills. LaKrystal is taking classes and working on her supervision practicum experience in the field of behavior analysis. Her journey and experience with autism began when her cousin was diagnosed about 12 years at age 2. He is now 14 and growing and learning more everyday. She has always wanted to teach and help all children learn and because of her cousin Khoury, she developed a passion to impact and better the lives of children specifically with Autism or related diagnoses. She loves what she does and feels so blessed to be able to watch all of the children she has worked with, in both the school and home therapy setting, grow and learn to develop skills to be successful and interactive members of society.

Terri Wible

Terri is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Paws 4 Autism based in Lee’s Summit, MO. Paws 4 Autism is the region’s only agency dedicated to not only training autism service dogs, but also providing one of a kind social and communication skills groups through their Canine Assisted Social Skills In Education (CASSIE) program.
Terri has two children (three if you include her husband) on the spectrum. Her look out on like is that “Everything is PAWSable”!

Erik Nelson

  Erik Nelson is the proud father of two children, his oldest, Noah, age 5, is on the Autism Spectrum.  Erik is a Supported Employment Manager at The Whole Person, where he assists in finding employment for people with disabilities.  Prior to his time at The Whole Person,  Erik worked for Johnson County Developmental Supports providing direct care, employment assistance, and residential supervision.  Erik Graduated from the University of Kansas in 2004, with a Bachelors in Sociology.

 Michelle Boyer

Michelle is a special education teacher in the USD 368 school district and a proud mother to Parker, 22 and Regan, 19 who are not on the spectrum.  She has been teaching special education for 28 years.  Her classroom consists of children with a variety of diagnosis and needs but she has seen the numbers in autism rise through the years within her program and the struggles her families face daily.  She realized that they needed more support and resources but those resources were not available in their area.  Michelle started a parent support group before joining ASH that was more conveniently located for her families.  The mission of this group was to provide knowledge and education, opportunities, support to the families and awareness to the community.  It is important to her that these families did not feel they were alone.  She feels it is equally important that society adapts to the needs of autism as it is for autism to make adaptions to fit into society. 

Michelle believes that we are all here to give back and serve in some way and God puts passions in our heart so that we know where to serve and for her it is to serve the families that live with autism.  She is very driven to be part of the changes that need to happen to support the families that face so many challenges and to help the world see how capable and beautiful these kids are.