Helping adults with Autism flourish
Northeast Arc’s Adult Autism Support Center assists adults with Autism ages 18 and older, enabling them to flourish in their everyday lives. Our Center is a resource for navigation, community events, educational workshops and trainings, as well as support groups for individuals and families. This creates an environment that encourages personal growth, social inclusion, and self-advocacy. An Advisory Council ensures that our Center is providing the appropriate support and resources our community may need.
The Adult Autism Support Center is funded by the Department of Developmental Services for adults 18 and older with Autism Spectrum Disorder who are independent within the community. The Center serves individuals living in the Central Middlesex area, Lowell area, Merrimack Valley, Metro North, and North Shore.
Meet our team
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Daphne Thompson, Central Middlesex
Daphne is originally from Kentucky but has also lived in Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, and now Massachusetts. She is the mother of four adult children, two of whom have been diagnosed with Autism. She was a stay at home mother who home educated her children in Texas for many years before she decided to place them in the public-school system. At that point, Daphne became a full-time advocate for her son and a volunteer for several different organizations, including the Arc of Northeast Tarrant County, where she served on the board and as an interim President. She began working as a Regional Coordinator at the federally funded state Parent Training and Information Center where she worked to empower and educate families of individuals with a disability and professionals in how to advocate for the children in their care. Daphne decided to earn her Bachelor of Science in Public Policy and Service with a Certificate in Leadership and Ethics at Arizona State University. She interned at the National Disability Rights Network in Washington, DC. Daphne has served in many roles for several non-profit organizations in support of adults with Autism Spectrum.
Daphne and her son now live in Acton where she likes to spend time with her family and friends as much as possible. She enjoys nature, gardening, arts and crafts, and continuing to learn. She also loves to sing at karaoke.
Kathy Callahan, North Shore
Kathy comes to the Northeast Arc with 20 years of experience with Autism. She lives this life every day and knows it well. In addition to working with children and young adults on the spectrum, she also has an adult son who was diagnosed when he was two. Kathy has dedicated the past two decades to training and researching best practices so that people with Autism can access and receive support that allows them to live within their community.
Kathy’s experience includes Transition and Advocacy Training, Guardianship and Financial Planning for Special Needs, College and Career Access and Housing and Funding. She has attended over 400 hours of workshops, seminars and conferences relating to the world of special needs and transition. In addition to continuously learning, she has conducted several workshops in Behavior Management, Home Programming, Person Centered Planning and Goal Setting. Kathy has worked as a Transition Coach helping families navigating public benefits, supports and eligibility services, is a Parent Support Group Facilitator and has held the position of an ABA Program Coordinator.
Kathy’s goal as an Adult Autism Service Specialist is to help adults living with Autism live their most meaningful life with as much independence as possible.
Kathy is a married mother of two incredible young adults. Most weekends you can find her cooking with her kids and playing board games or watching a good movie. Her family is the most important aspect of her life. She loves to spend time with family and friends vacationing – especially at the beach. She enjoys meditation, walking, yoga, gardening, and interior decorating.
Phyllis Kizner, North Shore
Phyllis is the Adult Autism Specialist for the North shore area of DDS. She is part of the Adult Autism Support Center and assists individuals and families with loved ones 18+ to obtain services and resources available to them. She runs several support groups and holds community and center-based events for the ASD population. She also collaborates with other area specialists to run local events and seminars. Currently, due to COVID-19, her events, including weekly games, are being held online. She has been with the Ne-Arc for over 5 years, most recently as a member of the Autism Support center and has expertise in relevant resource topics for this population, including Social security, Transition, and Guardianship alternatives. She has many years’ experience in both Autism and Mental health and holds an MBA, as well as some post grad coursework in ABA.
Phyllis grew up on the North shore and moved back here after college to pursue her master’s degree. Phyllis is also an Educational Advocate and has attended numerous trainings and workshops pertaining to Autism, as well as seminars on public benefits and insurance. She has helped advocate for educational rights for families throughout the years. She is an active member of the Northshore Citizens Advisory board and has volunteered with the Genetics program at Brandeis University and currently Operation House call. She was a girl scout Leader for 16 years.
Phyllis resides locally with her husband and son. She is the proud mother and fierce advocate of a young man with Autism. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, including her new grand puppy. She and her son enjoy cooking, taking walks, gardening, swimming, and doing crafts together. She also spends a lot of time with her daughter and fiancé, who live locally as well.
Heather Burgess, Merrimack Valley
Heather grew up in a small town on Cape Ann where she still lives. She loves spending time with her family and their family dog, Spike. Heather spends her summers at local beaches, on the ocean, and listening to live music at local restaurants. She loves paddle boarding, swimming, and fishing. She plays on a summer softball league, coaches when she can, and volunteers for the Special Olympics softball program. Heather also enjoys drawing and gardening in her free time.
Heather began her journey with the Northeast Arc in 2018 within the Autism Support Center. She then transitioned into her role as Merrimack Valley’s Adult Autism Specialist as a team member in the Family Resource Center and now in the Adult Autism Support Center. Heather has been working towards her master’s degree in Social Work and has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Special Education. Heather is also a facilitator within a research study out of Boston University, SiblingsFORWARD, which is designed to assist siblings of autistic adults in their future planning goals surrounding caregiving.
Heather specializes in the areas of mental health, including suicide prevention and awareness, and social skills building.
Mary Ellen D’Angelo, Merrimack Valley
Mary Ellen has spent the last twenty years working tirelessly with, and advocating for, her son, 25, whose current diagnosis is High Functioning Autism and ADD. During these last twenty years, she has worked closely with the public school system in IEP development, as well as agencies such as MRC, the Arc of Greater Haverhill and Newburyport, AANE, and the Northeast Arc. She is knowledgeable about areas resources including SSI/SSDI, MassHealth, Housing, and much more. Mary Ellen has a passion for helping individuals and families navigate programs and systems and is excited to join the Merrimack Valley team in order to help put in place the supports needed for individuals to live their most independent and satisfying lives possible.
Mary Ellen earned her BA in Creative Writing and English, and a certificate in Internet Technology Fluency from SNHU and NECC. Since then, she has worked with this population in Boston teaching English, technology, and vocational skills. She has worked in the Merrimack Valley teaching students with various disabilities and trauma reading and math. Finally, she has worked in a public high school library to teach students the love of reading and implement programs and settings that invite the love of lifelong learning.
Mary Ellen loves spending time with her family having great conversations, hiking local rail trails, and enjoys yoga, poetry, rowing, travel, and is a brand new golf player. She is a member of the Grey Court Poets of Methuen. She is a certified yoga instructor through YogaFit. She is also a cuddler volunteer and Flu & COVID vaccine clinic volunteer at Lawrence General Hospital.
Macarena Arruda, Metro North
Macarena will be serving as the Adult Autism Specialist for the Metro North region. She is joining the team with over 10 years of experience at the Northeast Arc supporting young children diagnosed with Autism. During her time at the Northeast Arc she has provided direct service to children, supervised ABA providers, and helped translate for Spanish speaking families. Growing up with an older brother with Autism has taught Macarena the importance of supporting the whole family, the need for resources, and always placing the specific needs of the individual first. In her spare time you will find her crafting seasonal decorations to decorate the mantel, playing with her rescue dog, or re-watching the same three shows on Netflix. Macarena is joining the team with a bachelor’s degree from Stonehill College. She is very excited to be bringing her enthusiasm to the team.
Lara Raymond, Lowell
Lara comes to the Northeast Arc following 7 years of supporting those with developmental disabilities in New Hampshire, including a year with NH START, a program that specializes in supporting those with both a developmental disability and a mental health diagnosis. Lara also has experience working as an employment specialist alongside Vocational Rehab in New Hampshire. In 2019 Lara graduated with her master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling. She is energized to bring her passion for person-centered approaches, which enable participants to set and achieve their goals, to her role as Lowell’s Adult Autism Specialist.
Lara grew up in and continues to reside in Hudson NH, where she lives with her husband. She is an active member of the Lions Club in town. Her favorite way to spend the weekend is by finding places off the beaten path to explore with her husband, her favorite so far being a studio that provides beginner glass blowing instruction. She also enjoys baking and sewing in her spare time.