SPECIAL EDUCATION EXPERTS
Our STAR NET team along with other expert consultants share their knowledge and experience at our Workshops and Webinars. They offer tailored instruction to give you the skills and strategies required to support your student’s learning and developmental needs. Their expertise is wide-ranging, from speech-language pathology to counseling to inclusion and early intervention programs. Many of our specialists have presented at the state and national levels as well as locally, committing countless hours to conferences, parent groups, seminars and workshops on topics related to early childhood special education.
Christian Bellissimo is a play therapist who has maintained a private practice for more than 20 years, where he specializes in working with children between the ages of 3-8. He has been contracted with New Jersey’s Child Protective Services for more than 15 years, for whom he has treated the youngest victims of trauma, abuse, and neglect. Christian also served as a Preschool Intervention Specialist for a public school district in New Jersey for more than 19 years. In 2016, he published Universal Play Therapy: A Guide for Supporting Young Children’s Development. The manual has served as a framework for coaching parents, foster parents, and teachers in how to use play to support children’s emotional growth. Christian maintains that the skills he utilizes as a play therapist should not be relegated to a therapeutic context and should be shared with early childhood educators and caregivers. To support this endeavor, he has created Play to Grow, an online community that helps teachers and parents use play to support children’s social-emotional learning.
Megan Carlson is passionate about children’s education and social emotional health. She has a BA in elementary education, early childhood certificate through the National Board and MS degrees in Reading and Administration. She currently mentors hard working teachers around the Chicagoland area, as well as learning about children's mental health and supporting parents of children with Selective Mutism.
As a parent of a child with SM, we have overcome challenges with the help of SM experts, therapists, doctors, and educators these past few years. Meg now wants the world to better understand our hard working, unstoppable SM Warriors. She is extremely grateful for the support and training provided by the Selective Mutism Association and Kathy Slattery. Meg is honored to be able to collaborate with others through Star Net and the Selective Mutism Association on her family’s day-to-day struggles and celebrations.
Emily R. Doll, M.A. M.S., CCC-SLP/L, is a school-based speech therapist. Her primary interests are in the influences of psychological factors, such as anxiety, on children's speech and language development. Emily currently serves as the Speech Pathology Representative and Secretary of the Selective Mutism Association's Board of Directors. She has presented on selective mutism at national, state, and local conferences, and has participated as a team member in the treatment of many children with selective mutism and other comorbid diagnoses. She has been recognized for her work with selective mutism and other speech and language disorders as the recipient of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s Distinguished Early Career Professional Certificate, the Pennsylvania Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s Rising Star Award, and the East Stroudsburg University Young Alumni Award. She is the author of the book, Treating Selective Mutism as a Speech-Language Pathologist.
Becky Handler, Resource Specialist: Becky Handler has her B.S. and a M.S. in speech language pathology. Her past work experience includes team teaching Kindergarten children with severe communication disorders, consulting and an inclusion facilitator in a school district. She has extensive experience consulting and mentoring in early childhood and elementary classrooms, day care sites and Head Start programs. She is a trainer of trainers for, Portfolios, ECERS-3, IELDS and ELS.
Nancy Kind is an Early Childhood Educational consultant. She has been involved in the field of Special Education, Early Childhood Education, Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education as a classroom teacher and administrator for over 33 years. Over her career, Nancy has been a presenter for many regional workshops, state and national conferences regarding key topics in Early Childhood Special Education. Nancy has participated in many state level committees including Early Childhood LRE Stakeholders and the Stakeholders Committee for Early Childhood Outcomes.
Toni Linder, Ed.D.
Toni W. Linder consults and presents nationally and internationally on the role of play in assessment, intervention and curriculum. Dr. Linder is Professor Emerita at the Mortgridge College of Education at the University of Denver, Colorado. She has authored books on transdisciplinary play-based assessment (TPBA) and intervention (TPBI). Toni is currently advising a game company on how to modify games for children with special needs, is helping to develop a technology app for grandparents to play with their young grandchildren online, and is working with a team of professionals on the development of TPBA3, which will be an online version.
Jill Molli has the uncanny ability to help people laugh and learn at the same time. Her past position in a Title 1 elementary school offered her opportunities to apply Dr. Bailey’s Conscious Discipline in a school setting and her family offers her constant real-life experiences to share with her audiences. Jill was selected as a Loving Guidance Associate because of her no-nonsense ability to get to the heart of a situation and her commitment to living Loving Guidance principles at school and at home. Jill began her teaching career in a behavior disabilities classroom, moved into a regular third grade classroom and then completed her requirements as a Guidance Counselor. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education, a Master’s in Counseling, and over 15 years’ experience working with children who have behavior problems.
Lisa Murphy has been involved in early childhood education for over 30 years. She has written five books, produced numerous training DVDs, serves on many early childhood advisory boards, is an international speaker and trainer, is co-host of the podcast Child Care Bar and Grill and is the founder and CEO of Ooey Gooey, Inc. Lisa is an outspoken advocate known for her commitment to creating child-centered, play-based early childhood environments and her fierce protection of childhood. In 2013 she received her Masters in Early Childhood Education from Champlain College, in 2018 she received the Patricia Monighan Nourot Award for Play Advocacy from NAEYC’s Play Policy and Practice Interest Forum, in 2020, her book, Lisa Murphy On... Being Child Centered was nominated for “Best in Education” by Midwest Book Awards, and in 2022 she received the honorary Dr. of Play Award from the USA branch of the International Play Association. Her seminars have been called humorous, energetic, content-rich and inspiring. She currently resides in Central Florida.
Gina Musielski is the Family Resource Specialist for STAR NET Region II, and has worked as a parent and family resource and support specialist since 1999. As the parent of a child with a developmental disability, Gina draws on both her personal and professional experience in all of her training presentations. She has presented at state and local conferences, for parent groups, early intervention, childcare, and education professionals on a variety of topics relating to special education and parent rights. Active on state level committees such as ISBE/DHS Transition Guidance Committee and Early Childhood LRE Stakeholders committee, Gina is involved in training and resource development for parents of young children with special needs on topics such as transition, IEPs, LRE, parent rights and advocacy.
Sarah Pappas received her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education w/ special education approval from University of Illinois, a master's degree in Literacy, and became a National Board Certified Teacher in the field of ECE. Sarah has been working in the field of Early Childhood Education for sixteen years as a teacher (blended PreK and 1st grade) and most recently an Instructional Coach. Her passion for teaching centers around inclusion for all learners, best practice in instructional strategies, and forming collaborative relationships with families and staff. She has implemented the Project Approach for over ten years to foster children's natural curiosities and published two project examples on the Illinois Early Learning Project website.
Emily Ropars has worked in the field of early childhood education for 20 years. She holds a developmental therapy credential and a type 04 with a special education endorsement. Emily has worked in all early childhood environments as a teacher, coach and administrator: lab preschool, child care, Head Start, and private schools. She currently is an LRE Specialist for Early CHOICES.
Jennifer Rosinia is an Occupational Therapist and Child Development Specialist. A master clinician and a gifted teacher, Dr. Rosinia has taken a stand for the body specifically the ways in which the neurobiological systems impact relationships, development, and learning. Areas of specialization include sensory processing, the stress response system, adverse childhood experiences and the ways in which experiences in and with nature impact development. Dr. Rosinia is on faculty at the Erikson Institute. Jennifer has a growing national reputation as a powerful speaker and consultant. Dr. Rosinia brings a healthy balance of humor, passion, and expertise to all of her presentations. She is the president of Kid Links Unlimited, Incorporated a company whose mission is to link theory to practice, parents with professionals and kids with their optimal potential.
Pam Shaw is currently the Director of Special Education in Riverside Elementary School District 96. She has been in education for 27 years starting her career as a special education teacher. For the past 14 years Pam has been a special education administrator, with eight of those years supervising early childhood programs in two large west suburban unit school districts. She serves on the Early Childhood Transition Guidance Committee, providing professional development in the state on IDEA Transition from Part C to Part B services. She attended Northern Illinois University earning a B.S. in Special Education and Elementary Education. She attended North Central College and received a M.A. in Educational Administration, later obtaining her special education director endorsement.
Keena L. Sims, Project Manager for the Early Intervention Training Program at the University of Illinois in Champaign Urbana, began working in the Early Intervention Program as a Credentialed Lead Service Coordinator and Developmental Therapist in 2000. As a Project Manager for the EI Training Program, Sims oversees the Credit Request process, Interpreter and Translator Project, as well as takes on a lead role in the Child and Family Outcomes projects. Mrs. Sims leads the effort of surveying all families exiting the Illinois Early Intervention Program annually, to help improve services provided to Illinois children and their families. Mrs. Sims is a graduate of Michigan State University with a background in social services specializing in Family and Community Services. She has more than 25 years of professional experiences ranging from helping children and families facing issues of homelessness, domestic violence and providing high quality services to children with special needs. Mrs. Sims is a Grand Rapids, Michigan native, and currently lives in Illinois with her husband and their three children.
Kathy Slattery is the Project Director and an Early Childhood Special Education Professional Development Specialist for STAR NET Region II. She has been involved in the field of Special Education, Early Childhood Special Education and Early Intervention for over 25 years as a classroom teacher, Early Intervention Provider, Parent Support Coordinator and as a technical assistance provider at STAR NET. Kathy has presented at the local, state and national level on topics related to supporting young children with disabilities and their families. In addition, Kathy has been a volunteer State Coordinator for the Selective Mutism Group for twelve years. Kathy participates on several state level committees including Early Childhood LRE Stakeholders and the Stakeholders Committee for Early Childhood Outcomes.
Katie Suchy is an Early Childhood Resource Specialist for STAR NET Region II. Katie holds a bachelor's degree from Iowa State University where she double majored in child, adult, and family services, and linguistics with an emphasis on communication disorders and a minor in psychology. Katie has worked in the field of Early Childhood in a variety of roles in the classroom and as an Administrator for Head Start where she partnered with the local school districts to support students and families in the community. She has a strong background with Head Start, is a certified CLASS observer, GOLD reliable, and CDA Professional Development Specialist.