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Leadership

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.

Staff
 
Office Manager
Malleson Emmerling
Malleson is the mother of two daughters (the oldest with dyslexia and ADD) and she spent a large portion of her career in the marketing & communications field. When her daughters were born, she became a stay-at-home mom until her girls entered grade school. At that time, she became a Paraeducator in the Olathe School District. It was here that she was introduced to the world of Autism and came to admire the "special qualities & gifts" of those on the spectrum. For nearly 6 years, she spent one-on-one time with Autism students, both in the classroom and in their homes working through Helpers, Inc. She is now very excited to combine her educational background (B.A. and M.A., journalism and marketing, respectively) with her love for the autism community.
 
 
Board of Directors 2018
 
President
LaKrystal McKnight
LaKrystal McKnight is currently a Special Education teacher in the Shawnee Mission School District. She teaches students with all different needs and abilities. 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 16 years at age 2. He is now 18 and growing and learning more everyday. She has always wanted to teach and help ALL children learn, and because of her cousin Xavier 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, contributing members of society. Volunteering with the Autism Society the Heartland has been a great opportunity for LaKrystal to give back to the autism community and allows her the opportunity to help many families just as many other families have helped and contributed to her cousin’s life.
 
Vice President
Kandis Cranmer
Kandis and her husband, Brandon, have been blessed with three adventurous and amazing little boys (Brandon II, Ethan and Gavin). All of her children have unique special needs -- her middle son Ethan received an Autism diagnosis October 2011. Although she is currently a stay-at-home mom to be able to meet the needs of her family, Kandis previously worked in the nursing field with a focus in pediatric care. Kandis believes - "Special needs families need to come together to support each other on our journeys. I believe it is necessary for the success of our children that we share our experiences, knowledge and empower other families to do the same." She has devoted her time in researching evidence-based programs, therapies, nutrition, supplementation and biomedical approaches to helping her own child reach his fullest potential. With a passion for learning from other families and sharing information she has learned... Kandis is very excited to have the opportunity to be involved with Autism Society of the Heartland.
 
Secretary
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 for an insurance company as a director of a program to support members with IDD and Autism to achieve their highest quality of life. 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.
 
Treasurer
Maria Paez
Maria Paez was born and raised in Kansas City, KS, and is currently a resident in Kansas City, MO (in the Northland area). She’s 46 years old and a proud mother of a beautiful 12 year old little girl. Although her daughter doesn’t have autism, Maria is one of the biggest supporters in childrens' foundations due to a family members child (parents of another board member Lorena Mendoza) being diagnosed with high/medium autism. She’s currently employed with North Kansas City Schools in the finance department. Although not a teacher, she is very well educated with 9 years in the field of education. Maria has volunteered in many non-profit organizations to give back to the community. She also volunteers in childrens' fundraisers such as St. Jude’s, Children’s Mercy, etc. Her passion is to give back and pay it forward and hopes to impact her daughter and others in the community to follow in her footsteps. She’s of Spanish descent and is also bilingual and supports her Spanish heritage.  Her motto is "Live life to the fullest because tomorrow is not promised".
 
Board Members
 
Lorena Mendoza
Lorena is 34 years old and was born and raised in Kansas City, KS. She has two wonderful children on the spectrum. Her son is 10 years old and he is high risk and non verbal. Her daughter is 6 years old and mild risk. Lorena is a very outgoing person and once you get to know her, you know why she's that person that people come to when they need help with a gathering or event. She is bilingual in Spanish and loves spending time with her family. She has volunteered several times at the soup kitchen in her neighborhood. Lorena says, "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." Her families' quote is Santos -- "Believe".
 
Tammy Scherer
Tammy is the mother of 3 children; the youngest is diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. She was a Foster Parent from 2000 to 2013. She volunteers as an Education Advocate for the state of Kansas through Families Together, Inc., serving children currently in the State’s custody in Johnson and Wyandotte County. She is an active Member in the PTA and in ABATE. (ABATE is a motorcycle rights organization that brings attention to issues affecting riders. They are also involved in safety training and charity work. The acronym ABATE stands for American Bikers Aimed Toward Education.) Tammy is also instrumental in organizing several fundraisers a year, with the largest being Rattlesnake’s Ride for Autism, a benefit for Autism Society – The Heartland. Her family has two mottos they try to follow. “Be Silly - Be Honest – Be Kind” and “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.  
 
Joys Lind
Joys Lind is a currently a 5th grade teacher at a local school district. As a general classroom teacher she is able to interact with students at all different levels and with their families. She just completed her Masters in Educational Leadership and hopes to use the skills learned both in and out of the classroom to help students and families succeed. Joys has a 10 year old son who struggles with sensory processing and has ADHD. They spend most of their free time on a baseball field while he plays and she cheers him on in his passion.
 
Frances Mendoza
Frances is currently a first year graphic design student at Johnson County Community College. Two of her younger siblings, Maricio (14) and Amaya (11) are on the spectrum. Frances is also in the process of learning American Sign Language. She feels that it is important to communicate with others through not only language but art and music as well.
 
Brooke VanHouran
Brooke VanHoutan has her bachelor in science in business administration from Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, MO.  She has been in the Insurance Industry for 13 years primarily specializing and advocating for the human and social services industry.  She has been married to her husband, Todd, for 13 years and they have two wonderful children who are 10 and 7 (the oldest has high functioning autism).  Her family has two mottos, everyone is dealing with something so pick yourself up and get on with it and second if you mess up today start fresh tomorrow!
 
Kathleen Carlson
Kathleen is a fifth grade teacher in a local Kansas school district. Originally she is from Illinois, which is where her parents and younger sister (with mild cerebral palsy) still live. She has been teaching for four years and spent one year teaching abroad in Mexico. Kathleen finished her undergraduate degree at KU and finished her masters in Literacy Studies at UTA. Kathleen works with students from all backgrounds and abilities in her classroom, and strives to help all students succeed. In her spare time, Kathleen loves to travel, eat out with good company, and plan her upcoming wedding.
 
Rhonda Mason
Rhonda K. Mason grew up in Kansas City, Kansas and graduated from Washington High School. She then attended Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama and received a B.A. in History and a minor in Communications. After college, she attended Washburn Law School in Topeka, Kansas where she obtained a law degree. Rhonda has worked over 20 years in the legal field and in many different areas of the law. She has worked as a Jackson County Prosecutor, a Solo Practitioner running her own law office and as a managing attorney for a Fortune 500 insurance company.  She now works at the Johnson County Court House. Rhonda is married and has two sons, one of which is on the spectrum. It is her passion and desire to promote inclusion for those children on the spectrum. She loves mentoring children on the spectrum and hopes to provide a positive safe environment for them to be themselves.
 

 A special THANK YOU to all of our past Volunteer Board Members and past paid staff members. We truly thank you for your service to the Autism Community.  

The Board is currently looking for members of the community to fill vacant spots. If you are interested in finding out how to contribute please contact president@asaheartland.org.