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Atlas Foundation For Autism

Atlas Staff

Atlas Administration


Amanda Friedman
Amanda Friedman, MSEd, SBL
Executive Director

Featured Articles By or About Amanda

Amanda is the founder and Executive Director of the Atlas Foundation for Autism and a special education teacher with over 18 years experience within the educational field. She is a SUNY New Paltz alumni and has completed the Administrative Certification Program from the College of Saint Rose/CITE. Amanda has worked with students ranging in age from 3 – 25 years old with an array of differences including Autism, Cognitive Delays, Emotional Disturbances (PTSD, Schizophrenia, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, etc.) and other learning and developmental challenges. Prior to Atlas, Amanda had co-founded and run the Emerge & See Education Center polishing the framework for the integrative model that now is the baseline for the Atlas' program philosophy. Amanda has been through certified trainings in ABA, TEACCH, BART, and multiple trainings in DIR/Floortime. She is proud to act as a liaison within the NY ASD and special ed community sharing resources, support, and heart with our incredible students, families, and other community leaders.


Robert Taylor
Robert Taylor
Staff and Student Program Supervisor

Robert Taylor has over 15 years working with children, young adults, and seniors with diverse developmental differences. He has had multiple trainings in BART, safety measures, behavioral supports etc. Albeit, Robert's greatest knowledge comes from respecting students and learning their ways of navigating the world and communication. He believes that in order to truly help a child one must be consistent, mentally present, and observing all of the time. Communication comes in many forms and sometimes simplicity and trust are the greatest foundations.


Jennifer Fiorentino
Jennifer Fiorentino,
Assistant Director

My position at Atlas includes school admissions, human resources, interfacing with families and lawyers, billing, board development, strategic planning, budgeting, etc. I have an MBA in Finance and 25 years experience in the non-profit sector. I love working with Atlas because it provides an invaluable educational setting for its students where they are respected and valued and each child is supported to grow to his/her greatest potential.


Alex Rivera
Alex Rivera,
Program Supervisor & Educational Instructor

Alex has been working with children & young adults with diverse developmental differences for over 3 years now.He is a certified CPI (Crisis Prevention Intervention)instructor. Alex truly respects the neurodiversity of the individuals he works with and hopes to be a driving force in bringing about more acceptance and positive change to our community.


Faith Thayer
Faith Thayer, PhD, LPC, LCAT, ATR-BC
Director of Student Programing

Dr. Thayer is an ICDL Expert Training Leader & DIR Floortime® Provider; Registered, Board Certified Art Therapist; Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC); and Licensed Creative Arts Therapist (LCAT). She is an assistant professor in the Graduate Program of Special Education at Daemen College TTI. She is the former Director of Mental Health and DIR Floortime® at the Imagine Academy for Autism in Brooklyn and the former Director of the Creative Arts Therapy Center and Overnight Camps for the Connecticut Institute for the Blind/Oak Hill. She received her Doctor of Philosophy degree from Lesley University, which culminated in her dissertation entitled Evaluation of a Developmental Individualized Relationship (DIR®) and Creative Arts Therapies Program for Children with Autism.


Matthew Cohen
Carol Solomon
Office Manager

Carol is excited to rejoin the Atlas community as office manager having previously supervised the Saturday Open Play program. Carol has had a strong affiliation with the autism community for over 15 years as a film and video producer. She is excited to assist collaborate and work together with the Atlas staff and the parents of our students and community!


Matthew Cohen
Matthew Cohen, MA, EDTC
Administrative Assistant

Matthew is a native New Yorker and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brandeis University and a Master of Arts degree in Educational Theatre in Colleges and Communities from NYU Steinhardt. Matthew has worked in various offices in an administrative capacity for over a decade. The combination of his office experience and his background in education makes Atlas an ideal setting! While not at Atlas, Matthew can be seen on stage as a professional actor and singer.

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Kristein Lenzo
Kristin Lenzo, M.S., OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

Kristin is a licensed and registered occupational therapist who earned her Master’s of Science degree in Occupational Therapy from Seton Hall University. Prior to earning her master’s degree, she studied at The College of Staten Island and received a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Psychology. Throughout the past eight years she has gained experience with children of all ages that have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) while working at The GRACE foundation, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing support, education, and direct services to individuals and their families that are impacted by ASD. Kristin is a motivated team player and believes that with support, each child has the potential to meet their individual goals, improving their quality of life.


Matthew Pappadia
Matthew Pappadia , M.S., OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

Matthew Pappadia is a registered and listened Occupational Therapist who graduated from Ithaca College in 2014. He has worked in pediatrics for over 5 years, working in homes and schools. Matthew’s therapy practice utilizes a multi-contextual approach, understanding a child’s sensory, physical, and cognitive needs. Matthew continues to enjoy working with children from infancy to 21. Matthew has treated a multitude of children with sensory-motor delays and establishes an individual and unique approach for every child he works with.


Alyssa Esposito
Alyssa Esposito, M.S., CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist

Alyssa earned both her Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology, and her Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Adelphi University. She is a New York State Licensed Speech-Language Pathologist and holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), as well as a professional certificate as a Teacher of Students with Speech and Language Disabilities (TSSLD).

Before coming to Atlas, Alyssa provided speech, language, oral motor and feeding therapy for children and adolescents ages 5-21 with traumatic brain injury and brain-based disorders. Alyssa is PROMPT trained (Restructuring Oral Muscular Phonetic Targets), specialized in augmentative alternative communication (AAC), oral motor and feeding/swallowing disorders and has a strong foundation in Assistive Technology (AT).

Alyssa’s philosophy is every child has the ability to communicate and progress to their highest potential! She is passionate and motivated to work with all her student’s.


Erica Rahavy
Erica Rahavy, MS
School Psychologist

Erica has been the Atlas School Psychologist for since 2015. Erica received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Boston University, and her Masters in School Psychology from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has worked with children with special needs in a variety of settings, including inpatient psychiatric, BOCES, and non-public schools. In addition to her certification as a School Psychologist, Erica became a certified RDI Consultant in 2009, and has also received certification in Strategies for Crisis Intervention and Prevention, Cornell University's Therapeutic Crisis Intervention, and clinical training in administration of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale (ADOS). Erica has presented at the Annual Relationship Development Intervention Conference, for the New York Association for Applied Behavior Analysis, and the Keyspan Lecture Series. One of Erica's most humbling positions is as the mother of two young boys.


Justine Parrinello
Justine Parrinello, M.S., CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist

Justine Parrinello received her bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders at Queens College. She received her master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology from Long Island University Brooklyn Campus. She is a New York State licensed Speech-Language Pathologist and holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) from ASHA as well as a professional certificate as a Teacher of Students with Speech and Language Disabilities (TSSLD).

Over the past 7 years, Justine has had the opportunity to professionally work with children 0-21 with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Developmental Delays, Feeding/Oral Motor Disorders, Apraxia, Hearing Impairments, Fluency Disorders, Medically Fragile Children, Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), Cognitive Delays, Receptive & Expressive Language Impairments, Pragmatic Language Deficits, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. and Articulation/Phonological Disorders.

Justine is passionate and excited about working with all her students to reach their highest potential and communicate in the most functional and effective manner possible!



Atlas Staff
Rey Rivera,
Art & Music Educator

Rey Rivera has 10 years’ experience working with special needs children and adults ages 5- 20. He has worked in multiple capacities in serving our young people. His experience includes designing music and art activities and providing teacher assistance, and behavioral support. His main focus is the music and art program. He comes with 20 years of experience of music production in Hip Hop, R&B, dance, and electronic music. He is also a very talented artist whose style is very diverse allowing each student to express themselves freely because he firmly believes that art and music should flow naturally and organically. He says “You cannot force open the petals of a flower. When the flower is ready it will open itself up to you.”


Ella Berrian
Ella Berrian

I have enjoyed several years in the field of early childhood education; every day brings a different and new experience, there is never a dull moment! Graduating with a bachelor and master’s degree in early childhood education, has taught me everything from preschool to second grade! I believe educators of all children should equip them with a love of learning and the ability to continue to learn on their own.


Atlas Staff
Amanda Faison,

Amanda Faison comes to ATLAS from Newark Public schools where she worked for five years as a special education teacher instructing a self-contained class for students with autism. There she incorporated elements of both a behavioral and relationship-based approach to working with students.
Amanda received her Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College where she studied literature and photography. Prior to becoming a teacher, Amanda worked in film, television and theatre. She obtained her Masters in Education from Montclair State University where she participated in the Newark/ Montclair Urban Teacher Residency Program. As a teacher, Amanda starts from the premise that all students can learn, grow and develop. She brings her rich interests in the arts, yoga, communication and connection to the classroom where she works hard to get to know her students and what helps them thrive.


Shan Hill
Shan Hill
Educational Instructor


Taylor Nelson
Taylor Nelson
Educational Instructor

Taylor is a college graduate from University at Buffalo with a bachelors degree in Education. She has worked with children of all ages and volunteered at many different organizations since the beginning of her high school career. She loves working with children and hopes to pursue a masters degree in special education. She is very excited about working at Atlas and hopes to gain more experience as the years go by.


Lamont Thomas
Lamont Thomas
Educational Instructor

Lamont Thomas is a native New Yorker who has always enjoyed working with kids. He has worked with kids since he was a teenager concentrating on both work and leisure skills . Lamont has experience with teaching life skills and in the last couple of years has worked within BOE D75 school setting - His personal passion for art, music, travel, and technology along with his artistic ability keeps him open minded and able to accept people fully for who they are and what different backgrounds they come from. Lamont's style is calm and undemanding creating a sense of freedom for students to work at their own pace . Lamont says Atlas is unique because of its small and intimate size. The school is powerful and has impact because students get the attention and exposure to a wide array of personalities and experiences that they wouldn't in a larger setting.


Sydney Landsman
Sydney Landsman
Educational Instructor

Sydney is a college graduate with a bachelors degree in psychology. She is currently getting her masters degree in Occupational Therapy at New York Institute of Technology. Sydney has been working with special needs children since her undergraduate career. She has experience in the Applied Behavior Analysis model. Sydney has a passion working with special needs children and helping them learn, grow, and succeed in all aspects of life. She is looking forward to a great school year at Atlas!


Chereese Dickens
Chereese Dickens
Educational Instructor

I am a Queens’s native with 9+ years of experience working in special education. From ABA therapy, crisis prevention intervention, as well as therapeutic crisis intervention; I have the ability to approach a variety of situations from different angles. I believe every student as the capability and capacity to be great, we as educators have to understand every child’s unique way of communication. Armed with that knowledge, every child can achieve their personal best.


Loredana Tapia
Loredana Tapia
Educational Instructor

Hello, my name is Loredana Tapia and I am an Educational Instructor at Atlas. I was born and raised in a small town in the Dominican Republic in a rather large family. After graduating High school I moved to New York to pursue a career in taking care of life’s important gift “children”.

I started from a very young age working with kids and I grew to love their different behaviors. I enjoy every aspect of teaching and have realized in my years they can teach us as much as we teach them.

I had five-year experience in the Applied Behavioral Analysis Model also, certified in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention. I am dedicated to the social and emotional development of each child and made it my goal to make sure each child receives the best care and love they all deserve. I am humbled and honored to be working at atlas. I am always open to meet and engage with parents and community members to support the school.


Tamara DaCruz
Tamara DaCruz
Educational Instructor

Tamara’s educational philosophy is “My responsibility is to the students. We all are here to learn and to be the teacher.” She has been working with children for fourteen years and children with special needs for the past six years. Tamara enjoys bringing fun into the classroom by singing and dancing and building relationships with each of her students.

Tamara recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Speech Language Pathology, Audiology, and Hearing Sciences; and is looking forward to continuing her education in that field. “At the core of my educational beliefs is the belief that education goes beyond what is taught in a classroom, building a relationship is the goal.”

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