START Project Staff
Amy Matthews, Ph.D., LP, BCBA, LBA - Project Director
(616) 331-3513, [email protected]
Amy Matthews is a Professor of Psychology at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) and Director of the GVSU Autism Education Center. She has served as the Director of the Statewide Autism Resources and Training Project (START), funded by the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Special Education, since its inception in 2001. She supports implementation of the START project activities, supports Regional Collaborative Networks, and presents modules in both the Early Childhood and Classroom Supports training series. Amy is actively involved in various state projects to improve integrated opportunities for autistic individuals and support positive, self-determined outcomes. She is the Chair of the Michigan Autism Council with a focus on implementation of the Michigan ASD State Plan. Amy has been involved in various grant awards over the past 24 years, and she has published and presented in the field of autism. To balance time at work, she enjoys being outdoors, hiking, and paddleboarding, and when time allows, traveling to explore new places.
Jana Benjamin, J.D. - Project Manager
(616) 331-6482, [email protected]
Jana Benjamin joined the START Project in 2014. As the Project Manager, she is responsible for the administration of the START Project grant, including managing the budget and ensuring regulatory compliance. Jana works closely with START’s RCNs and contributes to START’s work in the areas of family engagement, effective school-family collaboration, special education law, and Peer to Peer support programming. As an “autism parent,” she works closely with school teams to implement effective strategies for supporting students with autism and is passionate about authentic inclusion and meaningful transition opportunities for autistic individuals. Jana earned her B.A. and J.D. at the University of Michigan. Prior to joining START, she worked for the Michigan Supreme Court, the Michigan Court of Appeals, the State Court Administrative Office, and the Board of Law Examiners. Jana enjoys spending time with her family, traveling (especially Up North), and cheering on the University of Michigan and Detroit sports teams.
Lisonn Delcamp, Ed.S. - Autism Education & Intervention Specialist
(616) 331-6842, [email protected]
Lisonn Delcamp has been involved with the START Project for over 19 years and joined full-time in 2018 as an Autism Education and Intervention Specialist. Her key responsibilities in this role involve the development and delivery of K-12 and Secondary Transition educational training and resources. Lisonn provides technical assistance and training to Regional Collaborative Networks and Trainers/Coaches of START Content. Additionally, she serves as an adjunct instructor for GVSU, teaching courses in the autism endorsement program. Prior to joining the START Project, she was a director of special education and a teacher of students with autism for 20 years. Lisonn is an English Bulldog rescue enthusiast and enjoys camping and the outdoors.
Stephanie Dyer, Ed. S., BCBA - Autism Education & Intervention Specialist
Stephanie Dyer joined the START Project full-time in 2022, after contracting with START since 2008. Stephanie’s role at START includes content development and training in behavior, coaching, FAPE in the LRE, inclusive practices, and education-based evaluations and developing EPLI Trainers of START Content. Working to create equitable and inclusive systems is a passion for Stephanie and forms the foundation of her work. Previously, Stephanie worked with the MiMTSS Technical Assistance Center for 10 years, primarily focusing on implementation of PBIS, including the intensification of behavioral interventions and FBA/BIP. A school psychologist and BCBA, Stephanie has worked in several districts and ISDs in Michigan throughout her career. Her favorite quote is, “To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded.”
Kellie Fitzgerald, MPNL - Strategic Communications, Design, and Development Specialist
(616) 331-6483, [email protected]
Kellie Fitzgerald joined the START Project in 2014 and currently serves as the Strategic Communications, Design, and Development Specialist. In this role, she is responsible for the strategy and dissemination of START’s communication efforts, including the Project’s website, email communication, accessibility, and visual design. Kellie also brings a passion for inclusion and belonging to START and serves as an Inclusion Advocate at GVSU, a role that supports inclusive talent acquisition and ensures equitable employment searches. Previously, Kellie worked in project coordination, communications, advocacy, educational outreach, and mission advancement serving nonprofits across Michigan. When she’s not working, Kellie enjoys spending time with her daughter and husband and reading (and loves book recommendations!).
Lindsey Harr-Smith, M.A., CCC-SLP- Autism Education & Intervention Specialist
Lindsey Harr-Smith joined the START Project in 2023 and serves as an Autism Education and Intervention Specialist. She came to START with prior experience as a speech-language pathologist, autism consultant, and Peer to Peer consultant. Lindsey is a content developer and presenter specializing in Peer to Peer, functional communication, self-management, and universal supports. She is passionate about supporting and collaborating with educators and families on inclusive practices that promote belonging for all students in their schools and communities. One of her favorite quotes comes from Norman Kunc, “No matter how good the swimming instructor is, you can not teach someone to swim in the parking lot of the swimming pool.” In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, and traveling, and is a plant and dog lover.
Melissa Kurek - Secretary
(616) 331-6480, [email protected]
Melissa Kurek joined the START Project in 2012. As the department's secretary, she is responsible for accounts payable, purchasing, event planning and setup, and general support for the entire START team. Occasionally, she gets to tap into her creative side by making special trophies, awards, and other fun items for various START trainings. Previously, she was the Administrative Assistant for the Vice-Chancellor of Administration and Finance at Kendall College of Art & Design. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Management from Spring Arbor University in 2020. Outside of work, Melissa enjoys life with her family, helping people, and keeping her hands busy by fixing things around the house, crafting, and restoring old, broken yard ornaments via repairs and beautification.
Jamie Owen-DeSchryver, Ph.D. - Project Faculty
(616) 331-8703, [email protected]
Jamie Owen-DeSchryver joined START part-time as Project Faculty in 2005. She participates in various workgroups and Communities of Practice with START, including Family Engagement, Peer to Peer, Early Childhood, and Sexual Health. Jamie enjoys developing resources, collaborating with START staff and school partners, and designing acronyms. When she is not working with START, you will find Jamie teaching undergraduate and graduate students at GVSU, many of whom are training to become special educators or school psychologists. Jamie has a master’s degree in Special Education and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. Jamie’s favorite quote applies to both START and her work as a university faculty, “The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action” (Herbert Spencer).
Stephanie Pulido, M.Ed. - Program Evaluation and Resource Development Specialist
(616) 331-6455; [email protected]
Stephanie Pulido joined the START Project in 2022 and currently serves as the Program Evaluation and Resource Development Specialist. Stephanie is responsible for developing systems for data collection and management, analyzing and visualizing project data, and working alongside the team to evaluate the impact of the project’s activities and make data-based decisions. She also develops content and resources to support the implementation of evidence-based practices. Her many passions include empowering educators, fostering belonging, Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), secondary transition, and more. Prior to joining START, Stephanie has experience in education, research, online content creation, and resource development in the areas of intellectual and developmental disabilities and Positive Behavior Supports and Interventions (PBIS). Outside of work, Stephanie enjoys time with her husband and pets, especially when coffee is involved.
Andrew West, M.Ed. - Project Coordinator for Training, Logistics, Material, and Technology Support
(616) 331-6484, [email protected]
Andrew West joined the START Project in January 2022 and currently serves as the Project Coordinator for Training, Logistics, Material, and Technology Support. In his role, he is responsible for the logistics, materials and technology, and site coordination for all trainings and training series. He has a background in operations, and process improvement which serves START as it continues to grow and serve more families, school professionals, and community partners within Michigan. Prior to joining START, Andy served Special Olympics Michigan as a Southwest Fundraising Coordinator and Facility Manager for the Unified Sports and Inclusion Center. Andy has also managed collegiate recreational and athletic facilities, supervised and led hundreds of student employees, and coordinated events ranging from sporting events to concerts to commencement ceremonies. Andy's favorite START-ism is “We did what we did when we knew what we knew. When we know better. We do better."
Carrie Carr, M.A.; Curriculum & Instruction - Consultant
Carrie Carr has been with the START Project since 2016 as a contracted state-wide presenter and content developer for Peer to Peer Supports for Students with Autism. Carrie also serves as the regional Teacher Consultant for Students with Autism for the Eastern Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District. Previously, she was a general education classroom teacher and earned her Autism Endorsement and master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Carrie assisted with the development of content for Michigan’s ASD State Plan in the focus area of Educational Supports and Services. She has extensive experience working with school-based teams to support meaningful engagement and inclusion in the general education setting for students with autism.
Amanda Foster, M.Ed. - Consultant
Amanda is a teacher consultant for the Montcalm Area ISD and started her career in education in 2003. Amanda previously spent 11 years teaching in categorical classrooms for students with severe emotional impairments. She has an undergraduate degree from Hope College in elementary education and special education with endorsements for Emotional Impairments and Autism Spectrum Disorders and a Master's in Education from Spring Arbor College. As a consultant for the START Project, Amanda is a trainer and specializes in Educational Supports and Strategies and Peer to Peer. Amanda is passionate about inclusion and ensuring every child feels welcome at school.
Kimberly Miller, M.Ed. - Consultant
Kim began her career in education in 1994 as a teacher for students with ASD in Clarkston, MI. She has had the privilege of delivering instruction in a variety of settings, including center based, cross-categorical, resource, and general education classrooms in Michigan, Louisiana, and Indiana. In 2014, Kim became a teacher consultant for students with ASD for Saginaw ISD and an EPLI Trainer of START Content. She has been active in the START Peer to Peer Community of Practice as well as the ASD and Sexual Health Community of Practice. Kim began contracting with START in 2019 and thoroughly enjoys the opportunities that the work has provided in integrating her passions for ASD, teaching, teaming, & solution oriented thinking to further develop resources & systems that lead to improved outcomes for students with ASD and their families.
Kelly Rogers, Psy.S., BCBA - Consultant
Kelly is a school psychologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Currently, she works as the Special Education Coordinator at Char-Em ISD. Prior to that, she worked with the Autism Education Center from 2001 as a contractor, and then full-time from 2003 until March 2020. Kelly has extensive experience and expertise on topics related to evaluation for special education eligibility, positive behavioral interventions and supports and ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis), IEP development and implementation, and guiding principles for establishing effective programs for students on the autism spectrum. She also contributes to the development of systems of support for students with ASD as they transition to employment settings, including the utilization of tools, checklists, and resources that improve the process of transition.
Stacie Rulison, M.S., M.Ed., BCBA - Consultant
Stacie Rulison is a Board Certified and Licensed Behavior Analyst contracting with the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), Office of Special Education (OSE) developing the Family Matters resources. She supports several MDE grant-funded initiatives including the START Project in the family engagement and secondary transition areas, Michigan Alliance for Families, the Michigan Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), and participates on various disability-related boards and committees. Stacie works clinically with young adults with disabilities to improve social communication, soft, and employment skills. She has presented statewide on ASD and behavior and consulted with service providers, school districts, MSU, CMH agencies, and Michigan Rehabilitation Services. Stacie enjoys spending time with her family, camping, judging horse shows, and soaking up the sun in the Florida Keys.
Gina Sanderson, M.S., BCBA - Consultant
Gina is a school psychologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). She has worked with the START Project as a contracted state-wide presenter and content developer since 2008, specializing in the areas of Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS), Asperger Syndrome, and Self-Management. With over 20 years of experience working with school-based teams supporting students with complex educational needs, Gina currently works for the Lenawee Intermediate School District as an Autism Consultant and provider of Practical Functional Assessment and Skills Based Treatment (PFA-SBT) for students with severe problem behavior.