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Executive Director

Jennifer Smith

Jennifer Smith has two children, Corinne, 21, and Cameron, 20, both with autism. Jennifer has been advocating for individuals with autism and their families for over 16 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.

Board of Directors 2015


Robin Masters

My daughter Morgan and I joined ASH when she was 8 and newly diagnosed with Aspergers.  We were in search of people going through the same thing that we were going through and found it here.  After a few years of being an active member I decided to join the board to help other families in our community . I served on the board as vice president for a couple of years then took a break for the last year during which time I married Brad Eaves.  Brad has two boys on the spectrum ages Connor who is 13 and Seth who just turned 15.  Morgan is also 15.  I am a hair stylist and worked for a number of years in the hospitality industry.  I am looking forward to serving on the board again and providing leadership to our community.


Jeff Blackwood

Jeff Blackwood is the co-founder, CEO and President of ABPathfinder, where he is responsible for the strategic vision for the company. Jeff ‘s passion for helping children combined with his management skills drove him to be a founder of ABPathfinder, giving him an opportunity to positively affect the lives of children on the Autism spectrum.

Jeff was recognized as a 2011 Fellow of the prestigious PIPELINE program, has an MBA with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship from the University of Missouri-Kansas, and a Bachelor of Journalism in Advertising from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He resides with his wife and two children in Overland Park, KS where he is involved in community organizations like Autism Speaks, Cub Scouts, KansasBio, the UMKC EMBA Alumni Organization, and PIPELINE Member Leadership Council


Jonathan Goering-

Jonathan is a proud father of two children, with the youngest 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.  



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.

Mandy Schefter-
I am a fairly new board member, but not new to autism! My 16 year old son is on the spectrum. My 16 year old cousin is on the spectrum. And my 13 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 13 year old daughter. 

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.

Sara Royalty-

Sara Royalty has two adorable children Bethany (10) and Samuel (4) who are both affected by autism. She feels her greatest achievement in life is being a mother and caretaker and being able to share her experiences and knowledge gained. Six years ago her life’s journey took a different turn when Bethany was diagnosed at the age of 4 and again when Samuel was diagnosed at 3.  After having gained knowledge since her daughter’s diagnosis, she immediately got Samuel into early preventative therapy when his speech regressed and symptoms began appearing, prior to any doctor’s concerns. Sara believes that this early therapy contributed to Samuel becoming completely verbal again and acquiring skills in coping with behavioral and sensory issues, etc.  She recognizes ASH as a major contributor to her being able to walk this path because she knows she is not alone. The support and family-type connection made is priceless as well as access to resources, networking, and events offered by ASH are so significant they led her to becoming the chairman of the Overland Park meetings committee and a current board member.

On her professional side, Sara Royalty earned an Associate’s Degree in Science in Paralegal Studies and worked for ten years as a paralegal ranging fields from Social Security Disability to  Asbestos Litigation to General Insurance Defense work.  She stayed busy preparing for and attending trials which required travel. During these years, she didn’t notice her daughter’s early symptoms of autism but the fact she couldn’t keep a daycare provider to keep Bethany started to raise concerns. She eventually left to stay home and figure out what was going on with her precious daughter. She found out, autism.  Over the years she tried to go back, but daycare and trying to deal with other issues created by the autism, she decided to stay home and be a full-time mother. Sara lives with her children in a rural Kansas town.  She formed a support group for rural Kansas families affected by any disability. The group is United Special Families, and to date most members she reports are families affected by autism, and Sara’s goal is to help in any way possible.

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 in Lansing, KS 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.