Ilene Lainer

Co-Founder and President

ILENE LAINER Co-Founder and President, provides the strategic vision and tactical direction of NEXT for AUTISM.  She became a leader in the autism community for both professional and personal reasons.  Ilene co-founded NEXT for AUTISM, because she is committed to transforming the system of services and pursuing the latest innovations, so that all families living with autism would have access to the educational, social, recreational and support services they need. Formerly a partner at the law firm of Grotta, Glassman & Hoffman, P.A., Ilene practiced labor and employment law on behalf of management for nearly two decades, developing a strong interest in working with clients that were in the midst of internal structural change. Ilene has published and spoken widely about autism topics, and is currently on the Board of Trustees of the NYC Autism Charter School and on Advisory Committees for Felicity House and the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain.

Gillian Leek

Senior Vice President, Operations

GILLIAN LEEK, Senior Vice President, Operations, is responsible for internal operations and external affairs of the organization. Gillian has been with NEXT for AUTUSM since 2008, and is deeply committed to creating bright futures for individuals with autism and their families. She leads the execution and design of development efforts, including Night of Too Many Stars, a televised benefit, and the campaign to create the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.  In her external affairs capacity, she oversees NEXT for AUTISM’S brand and public engagement initiatives, and is the principal liaison of media relations and national partnership opportunities to promote and cross-promote NEXT for AUTISM. As a member of the senior leadership team, Gillian works closely with the president and board of directors on tactical decisions and strategic planning. Gillian is a graduate of Elon University and holds a J.D. from New York Law School.

Amy Wallace

Senior Vice President, Finance and Administration

AMY WALLACE, Vice President, Finance and Administration, oversees the finance and general operating functions at NEXT for AUTISM.  Her responsibilities include managing our accounting, finance, and human resource functions, risk management, overseeing operation of our facilities, and providing financial analysis and insights to support strategic planning efforts and partnerships. Amy brings decades of experience from The New York Times Company, where most recently, she was the Executive Director of NYTLive, an international live-conference and events business with a budget of $20 million. Previously, as Executive Director of Strategic Planning at The New York Times, Amy was responsible for analyzing revenue-generating businesses and partnerships as well as creating strategic and business plans for those initiatives.  Amy also held positions at The Times within operating groups and the corporate suite, where she was responsible for product development, resource allocation, budgeting, forecasting, pricing, compensation and expense control She holds an undergraduate degree and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Patricia Wright

Senior Vice President, Program Development

PATRICIA WRIGHT, Vice President, Program Development, provides leadership and oversight for program development and implementation.  Patricia supports strategic partnerships on behalf of NEXT for AUTISM by networking, profiling, and collaborating externally with organizations active in autism services, supports and research. Dr. Wright’s commitment to, and advocacy for, services and resources for the autism community has guided her work over the past 30 years. She has managed the design of a statewide system of support for children with autism for Hawaii, served as the National Director of Autism Services for Easter Seals, and held industry positions that leveraged technology to improve life outcomes for people living with disabilities.  Dr. Wright has held advisory roles on the Organization for Autism Research’s Scientific Council, the Executive Committee for the Friends of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Board of Directors for the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts and the Autism Society Panel of Professional Advisors. She has provided expert testimony at Congressional Hearings and is a frequent contributor in the media, raising awareness of effective intervention for those living with autism. Patricia completed her PhD and Master of Public Health at the University of Hawaii. Her research focuses on the delivery of evidence-based interventions in community settings and healthcare access for people with disabilities.

Maggie Boyd

Associate, Development and Marketing

MAGGIE BOYD, Associate, Development and Markieting, supports fundraising initiatives and events for NEXT for AUTISM. From assisting in planning events to organizing social media and online fundraisers, Maggie works to spread NEXT’s mission and goals. A graduate of the University of Dayton, where she studied political science and marketing, Maggie previously interned at the Montgomery County Department of Economic and Community Development, where she worked to increase the capabilities and reach of local organizations such as homeless shelters and food pantries. She also interned with the nonprofit World Central Kitchen, where she assisted in planning the annual Dine-N-Dash event and World Food Day. With an older sister on the autism spectrum, Maggie loves knowing that her understanding of her sister will grow with each work day.

John Bryson

Senior Manager, Corporate Consulting

JOHN BRYSON, Senior Manager, Corporate Consulting, creates partnerships with businesses and school districts to develop employment services at NEXT for AUTISM. As a consultant at ViaQuest Foundation, John specialized in school-to-work transition services and implemented innovative strategies to develop career pathways for workers with disabilities.  Prior to ViaQuest, John was an educator and public sector leader for ten years, where he supported students and adults with disabilities and other barriers to employment.  His use of direct instruction and cooperative learning strategies led to consistently successful outcomes. He is committed to exploring innovative strategies and using his experience in education to help companies work with individuals with ASD. John is a Board Member of the Ohio Association of People Supporting EmploymentFirst (APSE). He holds a Bachelor of Arts, Communications degree and a Master of Science, Education degree from The University of Akron.

Alison Bush

Senior Manager, Program Development

ALISON BUSH, Senior Manager, Program Development, supports program development and design, as well as ongoing program evaluation and management at NEXT for AUTISM. She has been working in the field of disability services and supports for nearly 10 years, beginning her career as a therapist and supervisor providing in-school and in-home ABA services to children.  Alison then supported the creation and implementation of programs for young children at First Leap, an ABA-based clinical therapy center, where she oversaw the day-to-day operations and supervised staff.  Prior to NEXT for AUTISM, Alison was the Professional Services Director of an educational software company, Rethink First. She supported the professional development of special education teachers with digital products that offered research-based teaching practices, digitization of data collection and data-based teaching decisions. In this role,  she worked with a range of educators, from paraprofessionals to superintendents.  Alison is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst with a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and an ABA Certificate from Nova Southeastern University.  She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Tampa.

Coleif Holte

Finance and Administrative Associate

COLEIF HOLTE, Finance and Administrative Associate, supports the finance and general operating functions at NEXT for AUTISM. Her responsibilities include assisting with accounts payable and receivable, the processing of financial reports, tracking grants, annual audits, and contract administration.  Prior to joining NEXT for AUTISM, she worked as a Bookkeeping Assistant for a restaurant, before going on to intern in the finance departments of a real estate firm and then a non-profit policy think tank committed to reducing economic inequalities. Coleif prefers to work in the non-profit field and contribute to NEXT for AUTISM’s mission to help improve the lives of people on the autism spectrum. Coleif holds an MBA in Finance from Molloy College.

Leah Spindell

Manager, Office and Administration

LEAH SPINDELL, Manager, Office and Administration, manages day-to-day office functions, social media channels, and provides administrative support to the President. She began her career in non-profit administration at the Friedberg Jewish Community Center in 2001 and continued at Sunrise Day Camp in 2009.  Leah worked briefly in the for profit sector before starting at NEXT for AUTISM in 2016. Leah holds a B.A. in Television & Radio Broadcasting from Queens College.

Lauren Todd Steinbacher

Director, Corporate Consulting

LAUREN TODD STEINBACHER, Director, Corporate Consulting, is responsible for implementation of corporate consulting efforts at NEXT for AUTISM. Lauren oversaw operations and was lead consultant for the Disability Inclusion division at ViaQuest Foundation.  She led the national, corporate consulting division, as well as the transition to employment teams in schools across the country. For the past 15 years, Lauren has helped individuals with disabilities become meaningful partners in their communities. She began her career working with individuals with developmental disabilities in residential settings, then in employment services where she has helped hundreds of individuals with disabilities gain employment.  As an active member of the national disability community, Lauren has served multiple terms as a Board Member of the Ohio Chapter of the Association of People Supporting EmploymentFirst (APSE). She holds a Bachelors of Arts, Psychology degree from the University of Akron.

Quynh Thai

Director, Communications

QUYNH THAI, Director, Communications, is responsible for content about NEXT for AUTISM that is communicated to the public, the press, and key stakeholders.  She creates, commissions, and edits original content, including blogs, articles for external publications, website content, and other enterprise messaging. She also works with the press to bring our work to life on external channels.  Quynh brings a storytelling sensibility to her work and broad experience in print, digital, photography, and video. Previously, Quynh enjoyed a career as a television producer at ABC News, then a media consultant to Citi’s Global Transactions business where she helped launch a thought-leadership content channel, working with international colleagues and C-suite clients.  Quynh has consulted to the Open Society Foundations, helping to launch the Soros Justice Media Fellowships and serving consecutive terms on that program’s selection committee, as well as on the committee of the Paul & Daisy Soros New American Fellowships. She is a graduate of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

Brad Walker

Vice President, Community Living Supports

 BRAD WALKER, Vice President, Community Living Supports, leads the community living efforts of NEXT for AUTISM, including the development and expansion of NEXT for NEIGHBORS, a program created by NEXT for AUTISM and CLO, in partnership with the Arc Westchester. Brad brings expertise in the Professional Family Teaching Model (PFTM), a model that provides immersive supports to individuals with autism using family-style living, behavioral and teaching competencies for staff, comprehensive training, crisis intervention strategies, and certification.  Brad has worked with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities since 1990 across the United States. His professional roles have included direct support, management, behavior consultant, quality assurance, and administration. He holds a Bachelor of Sciences in Organizational Management and Leadership from Friends University in Wichita, KS, and iscurrently pursuing graduate studies in Applied Behavioral Science at the University of Kansas.  


Jason Weppelman

Senior Manager, Corporate Consulting

JASON WEPPELMAN, Senior Manager, Corporate Consulting, develops disability integration programs for corporations, government agencies, non-profits and national funders at NEXT for AUTISM.  He works with clients to understand their work culture and needs, then matches them with disability industry resources.  Prior to this, Jason led development efforts at Northeast Ohio Regional Employment Network (NOREN), a collaborative network of 250 employment experts from corporate and disability industries. NOREN is dedicated to developing comprehensive employment engagement strategies and evidence-based practices to accelerate employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Jason has held leadership positions in both the non-profit and private sectors, and has served as President/CEO of the Permian Basin Better Business Bureau in Midland, Texas.  He combines his experience with a focused passion to find innovative solutions for talent acquisition and retention. Jason’s work has been vital to the creation of multiple collaborative groups that connect businesses with job seekers and disability support providers, resulting in positive outcomes and confirmation that disability hiring is a sound business decision.

Website photography primarily by Eric Vitale Photography.