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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.


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.


Christine Arias
Christine Arias,
Educational Supervisor and Curriculum Specialist

My core principal belief is that every child no matter their challenge, has the ability to learn. My M.A in Teaching and Special Education is from Adelphi University. I hold NYS permanent certification in Special Education. I worked as a NYCDOE Special Education teacher for over a decade. Throughout my career I have had experience with children ages birth to 21 with a myriad of challenging disabilities.

Before coming to Atlas, my position was Regional Director of Special Education of an organization that serviced almost 1800 children in Early HeadStart, Head Start, UPK, and school age children located throughout the south Bronx, East New York, and Staten Island. My position encompassed the supervision of 13 locations. That included pedagogical staff and children, coaching and supporting administrators in best practices. Initiating referrals and assisting families in retaining individualized services, as well as creating and modifying curriculum to help all children in becoming successful.

Personally, I am beyond blessed to have my own four children who have made my life complete. I thank them for all they have given me. Without them, I would not be here. On this new journey, I feel honored to become part of the professional, compassionate and warmhearted team at Atlas for Autism.


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.


Matthew Cohen
Matthew Cohen, MA, EDTC
Office Administrator

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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Laura Kielek
Laura Kielek, M.S., OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

Laura received her master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from Springfield College and her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a minor in Psychology from Roanoke College. She has worked with children between the ages of 18 months and 23 years old with various diagnoses including autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing disorder, Prader-Willi syndrome, cerebral palsy, and heart conditions. She is dedicated to providing an individualized, holistic approach when helping each child enhance their occupational performance in their school setting and other everyday environments. She also believes in the importance of promoting the carryover of skills and techniques by effectively communicating with other disciplines and families. Laura enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.


Dolores Ruiz
Dolores Ruiz, COTA/L
Occupational Therapist

Dolores received her Associates of Applied Science Degree from Mercy College, graduating from the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program, followed by her Bachelor’s in Science. She has worked in the pediatric field for over 15+ years, as well as worked with the adult and geriatric populations. Dolores has a passion for helping children be able to participate in everyday activities. She continues to broaden her knowledge on various topics and diagnosis through continuing education classes including; sensory integration/processing, implementing play based therapy, an introduction to DIR/Floortime as well as strategies for various behaviors. Dolores’ interests are working with kids of all ages on their fine, visual motor, and executive functioning skills to increase success within their school and community settings, as well as provide ADL training. Additionally, Dolores collaborates with teachers as well as related service providers, in an effort to positively impact the students' achievements for optimal success and performance throughout the day.


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!


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

My name is Alyssa Fisher and I am the new speech therapist joining to wonderful team at Atlas. I am a New York native and I earned my masters degree at New York University (Go Violets!). I have always had a passion for the Autism population and I have been lucky enough to work with kids of all ages on the Autism spectrum throughout my time in undergraduate and grad school. I am a lover of all things coffee, chocolate, and all dogs! In my spare time, you can find me brunching outdoors or soaking up the sun in Central Park.



Michael Marsalis
Michael D. Marsalis

Michael D. Marsalis holds both a BA in Philosophy and a MSEd in Early Childhood Special Education from Hofstra University. Mr. Marsalis has a combined total of more than 20 years of professional experience in teaching/social services. He also is a co -author of research that was published in the book entitled, Person- Centered Planning Research Practice and Future Directions, by Steve Holburn and Peter M.Vietze. Mr. Marsalis is new Teacher at Atlas and looks forward to working in the school.


Taylor Nelson
Taylor Nelson

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.


Rona Neman
Rona Neman

Rona received a bachelor's degree in English literature from Binghamton University in 2018. She worked as a substitute teacher and a student teacher at the local school district with students in a multitude of grade levels within both general and special education. After graduating, she moved on to teach in Dwight School's Early Childhood Division, alongside working towards a master's degree in adolescent English education at Hunter College. She has a genuine passion for teaching and providing children the best possible environment to suit their individual needs, educational and otherwise. Her hobbies include painting, watching sunsets, writing, learning, exploring new places, and spending time with loved ones.


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.”


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.


Loredana Tapia
Daniel Pierre-Pierre
Educational Instructor

I have worked with children of different backgrounds for several years and it has been an ever-rewarding and ever-challenging experience. Between a bachelors in speech language pathology, a masters in psychology my education and my own life experience, I have seen the need to being a pillar of strength and advocacy for children, especially in this community. I believe that with the support and guidance of others, anyone is capable of achieving success. I have a love for working with children and I look forward to bringing my experience to Atlas and to continue being an individual who supports others to be their best.


Rodney Edwards
Rodney Edwards
Educational Instructor / Program Assistant

Rodney Edwards has a BFA in Media Arts and Art Education from the School of Visual Arts. He is a Brooklyn NYC native. Rodney has been working with children and young adults with special needs, for 15+ years. His background consists of a Juvenile Counselor, Special Education Substitute Teacher, Psychosocial Assistant, and Crisis/ Behavior Specialist. He is well versed in Conflict Mediation, Classroom Management , and Crisis Prevention Management. Rodney is a self-taught visual artist, who has had several Art Exhibitions in the NYC area. He continues to welcome all opportunities and to learn new strategies, in promoting a positive and cohesive learning environment.


Krystle Smith
Krystle Smith
Educational Instructor

I am a Queens native with over 10 years of experience with working in special Education and love working with all children.


Ariel Solano
Ariel Solano
Educational Instructor

My name is Ariel Solano. I’m live in Yonkers, NY in Weschester and attended and graduated high school there. I’m out going, upbeat, funny, and I love working with children. I’ve worked with children from a young age, from teaching martial arts to sports, then academics, social skills, coping skills and life skills.


Tiffany Eliasi
Tiffany Eliasi
Educational Instructor

Tiffany graduated from Queens College with her bachelors in psychology and minor in studio art. She has worked with a variety of children during her experience as an aba therapist as well as volunteer work at a preschool. She is determined to work hard in order to best help students thrive in their academics as well as self esteem.


Tiffany Eliasi
Johanna Minaya
Educational Instructor

Johanna Minaya has been working with children for 13 years. While she was working towards her bachelor's degree in Speech Pathology (with a minor in Early Childhood Education), she worked as a teacher for infants and preschoolers, as well as in ABA therapy. She is just as passionate about teaching as she is about learning. She wants to bring her passion and dedication to her position as an Educational Instructor at Atlas, because she believes that every child can reach their fullest potential.


Lynn Azeez
Lynn Azeez,
Educational Instructor

Lynn received her bachelor's degree in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology from Long Island University C.W Post. She is currently working on obtaining her master's in Special Education. She has been working with children with special needs for the past 5 years as a Teacher's Assistant and an ABA Therapist.


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.”


Matthew Lopez
Matthew Lopez
Educational Instructor

Matthew Lopez is an Educational Instructor at the Atlas Foundation for Autism, ADHD, LD and other learning differences. Matthew’s professional aspirations are to create programs that serve 21+ low income individuals on the spectrum. Matthew originally began his career in the music industry but always wanted to find a way to fuse both passions of music and helping better the lives of individuals on the ASD spectrum.


Patrick Holaday
Patrick Holaday
Educational Instructor


Melissa Martinez
Melissa Martinez
Educational Instructor

I have been working with children and young adults on the autism spectrum for over five years. Enjoy music and dancing. But most importantly helping others.

News & Featured Content

  • New Pictures - From Our Latest Events

    View pictures and video from our Atlas events including two of our most recent, Autism Storytime with Barnes & Noble and the Wellness Workshop with SouthPaw.

  • Big Daddy Autism - Documentry by Aaron Feinstein

    A documentry about the inspiring relationship between a divorced father with sole-custody of his son, Alex, a non-verbal 16yr old on the autism spectrum. (An Atlas Family)

View All Featured Content

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