MnNEAT Minnesota Neurodivergent Education, Advocacy, and Therapy Services was incorporated at the end of January 2021, so we are a brand-new organization! Our board of directors consists of volunteers, with the majority being neurodivergent individuals who are united in their commitment to our mission and vision.
Nothing about us without us
We embrace the motto “Nothing about us without us” and acknowledge that our board of directors does not adequately represent the diversity that exists within the neurodivergent community. We are dedicated to building trust and relationships in the neurodivergent community, and by doing so, invite you to be involved as we grow and learn.
Meet the board
Lizzi Duffy, MS-OTR/L
I’m an Autistic Occupational Therapist parenting a neurodivergent child. I’ve been an Occupational Therapist for over 13 years, and have served people across the lifespan in schools, pediatrics, TCU/LTC/ALF, and home health.
I’ve also had to personally navigate the health care and education systems. I’ve observed and experienced challenges both providing services and receiving services.
My experience gives me a unique perspective, and I am determined to find solutions. In recent years, I’ve embraced:
– Quote from disability movements
Some of the methods I’ve used in the past, unknowingly likely caused harm to those I was trying to help. But, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better” –Maya Angelou
I believe as time moves along, we will continue to learn, and we will continue to do better if we are willing to challenge our biases and seek other perspectives.
I founded MnNEAT so professionals and the community can learn directly from the neurodivergent community in order to provide services that match their values.
Dr. Julia Sterman (PhD, OTR/L) is a lecturer in occupational therapy at Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, Scotland. She has clinical experience providing family-centered, strengths-based therapy in schools, inpatient rehabilitation, clinics, and home-based early intervention. In her teaching and research, she seeks to increase inclusion and well-being of children with disabilities, especially neurodivergent children, by changing environments, including addressing ableism and racism within occupational therapy practice and education.
Erika Hegland, MA LPCC
As a neurodivergent individual who provides mental health therapy services to primarily neurodivergent folks, I have been overwhelmed with the lack of education, support, and understanding there is for all things neurodivergent in the professional community.
Mis-diagnosis, problematic, and even trauma inducing therapy practices have caused insurmountable pain for far too many individuals and families. If as a professional it is difficult to find other professionals who truly support the autonomy and well-being of neurodivergent people and who “get it,” how are people looking for professional support going to find what they need?
We absolutely have to do better. I am so grateful to be a part of an organization that “gets it” and that is passionate about providing services and supports that will help move us in the direction we need to go. With all of my heart I hope that you will find the support that you need and the understanding that you deserve.
Molly Fraser Hoffard
Molly Fraser Hoffard is a Partners in Policymaking graduate and mother of 2 children. She became an advocate for neurodiverse and disabled people after the birth of her nonspeaking autistic son. She created a hybrid advocacy and consulting group consisting of people with disabilities with the goal of making places and spaces more welcoming for every single person, regardless of diagnosis.
She serves on several boards related to disability and special education and strives to advocate for self-determination. She works with several agencies and businesses to create events that not only meet the needs of everyone but also make them safe and welcoming for neurodiverse people and their families. She is an advocate working against restraint and seclusion in schools.
Kelly Killorn, Ed.D.
Dr. Kelly Killorn is an internationally recognized literacy expert with over 20 years of experience in public education at the primary and secondary levels. As a teacher leader in Bloomington Public Schools (Minnesota), she is implementing a district-wide initiative to build excellence-focused, good practices to prepare students for successful futures. She also works to enhance the performance of in-service educators as a professor in the Graduate School of Education at Hamline University.
Amanda Williams, Secretary
I am a neurodivergent individual, wife, and mother. I work full time as a clinical Athletic Trainer and believe that sports grow self confidence and are a great way to form relationships. I believe that every individual should have an opportunity to participate in sport regardless of race, religion, gender identity, or disability. I enjoy running, reading, eating donuts and drinking coffee.
Robyn DeCourcy (she/her) is a proudly neurodivergent and multiply disabled Accessibility and Inclusion Specialist currently working as the Accessibility Coordinator for the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. In addition to a self-designed BS degree in Liberal Arts and Autism Studies, DeCourcy also obtained a Certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She has been a disability professional for over 15 years and is a regular speaker, writer, and consultant for a wide range of organizations across the Upper Midwest.
Summer Shepstone, Treasurer
I, Summer Shepstone, have been supporting, advocating for, and collaborating with Neurodivergent Individuals since 1999. It all started with moving people out of institutions and in turn, supporting individuals with developmental disabilities living in the community. It is at this time the that the people I was asked to support, the trips to the capital to march, to chant, to help them be heard but also to speak on their behalf with lawmakers, to promote person first language and de-institutionalization that my passion for the grassroots disability movement was sparked. Eventually, this led to my discovery of Occupational Therapy and its role in helping all people Live Life to the Fullest. In 2008 I, Summer Shepstone, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Master’s in Occupational Therapy and felt I had truly found my calling.
As an Occupational Therapist, I have worked in many settings but am most passionate about supporting individuals and their families in their preferred and safe environments as they navigate their physical, cognitive, and emotional developmental journeys across the lifespan. I have Fellowship level training in Early Intervention and am passionate about building a strong developmental foundation. My special skill set is especially effective and supportive of Neurodivergent and Adopted families as well as those recovering from Multi-trauma and/or PTSD.
Over the past 14 years as an Occupational Therapist, the language and the service provision has changed. While person first language was the gold standard for advocacy in 1999, I observed in graduate school that students and Professors still struggled to grasp and apply it in 2005. I was the annoying girl in class offering revisions on people’s language and level of understanding. It took time and caught on, but today it is no longer the gold standard. Today, I realize that it is not my voice that needs to be amplified; it is theirs, and I am grateful to the “Nothing for us without us” movement for further lighting the way. I will continue to listen to and amplify ND voices going forward.
Over the past 14 years assessments and interventions have also changed. If a therapist was aware and working to provide the best standard of care, it was necessary to take parts of theories and interventions and pull them apart and piece them together in order to be as respectful as possible. Interventions once considered safe and effective have since been established as otherwise. Some of which are even considered harmful by those that experienced it. It was my experience as a therapist that year after year, the level of trauma recovery that people’s nervous systems, especially those that were Neurodivergent, were seeking and needing before being able to move forward in other ways was a clear symptom of a larger problem, some of our so-called “help” was indeed “hurting”. Our community was definitely not supporting them the best we could.
We must all grow, learn and evolve. I have studied a lot, yet I have learned the most from those I have had the honor and privilege to support over the years. Non-speaking people have taught me that it doesn’t take language to have connection, brilliance, communication nor relationship. Individuals with sensory differences have taught me to look at and explore the world through many different lenses, creating opportunities for play, satisfaction, and enjoyment I likely would have never found on my own. I have learned that we each have a unique experience that is valuable, and there are many ways to do things, even math.
Once we know better, we are called upon to do better. Through this personal and professional evolution, it has become apparent that there are deeper reasons why I have had such an affinity, felt so passionate about, and fell so easily into these roles of advocate, supportive therapist, or even friend from the beginning, I have realized that I too am Neurodivergent and am currently pursuing a diagnosis.
As a part of MnNeat, I hope to help grease the traditionally slow wheels of advocacy and change. To amplify the voices of those that know best, those with the lived experience, and in turn promote safety, access & equity in and across our communities so that all may Live their Lives to the Fullest
Santanna Ficken, MHP
Santanna is a Mental Health Practitioner with over 10 years of experience in the field. Santanna proudly identifies as a Disabled, Autistic/ADHDer with Multiple Neurodivergencies.
They support children/families by providing community-based services. They approach every client holistically, working collaboratively to promote self-determination and navigate barriers.
Santanna is deeply passionate about equity for all identities and intersections. They possess professional and lived experience and are proactively advocate in all areas of their life. Their work speaks to their commitment to advocacy and inclusion: holding a leadership role in the DEI Committee for their workplace, being a board member of MnNeat, and delivering numerous training to various audiences.
Help us grow.
If you are interested in more information, or would like to be involved in MnNEAT, please contact us! We would love to hear from you.