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Join us on Sunday, March 17, 2024, from 2-4 pm for a question and answer session for caregivers of neurodivergent children. Our panelists are local parents and caregivers of neurodivergent children and adults who will discuss their journeys, share local resources, answer questions, and build a community to better support our neurodivergent children. Free childcare for all children ages 0 to 12 will be available starting at 1:30 pm. We look forward to seeing you there!

Creating Connections:
A Q&A Panel for Caregivers by Caregivers

Meet Kerri Hillman and tour her mobile therapy bus starting at 1:30 pm

What is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is the diversity of human brains.  A viewpoint that includes a wide range of different brain functions and behavior presentations such as Autism, Anxiety, Gifted, ADHD, etc. Neurodivergent individuals experience, interact with, and interpret the world in unique ways. This can sometimes create challenges, but it can also lead to creative problem-solving and new ideas — things that benefit everyone.

What led us to a Neurodiversity educational event?

At Westminster, one of our core values is taking care of God's children. We believe education provides foundational truths for all ages and makes a tangible impact on our world. In April,  Meg Yancey, a mom in our church, posted daily truths about Autism which included pictures and stories about her autistic son, Hux. On Mother's day, Pastor April Cranford served with children in the nursery and educational classes. She noticed the presence of neurodiversity in each sacred space. She desired to enhance the spaces for neurodivergent children and empower the volunteers with knowledge about neurodiversity for optimal learning.  Soon after this conversation, one of our members, Kathy Baker, LPC, learned of a community grant and encouraged the church towards extending an educational opportunity about neurodiversity into our community.

We are grateful for our financial partners

In June, we submitted a 2023 Behavioral Health Equity grant to the Office of Behavioral Health Wellness with a focus on hosting two educational events about neurodiversity. In July, we were awarded grant funds totalling $7,839. In addition to these funds, Valley Community Services Board approved $1,500 for the fall event with speaker, Greg Santucci.

Kerri Heilman

Kerri is the founder and owner of Milestones On The Go, LLC, a pediatric Occupational Therapy practice in Charlottesville


VA, and home of the Milestones OT Bus. Kerri has over 20 years of OT experience in out-patient pediatric, early Intervention, school-based, hospital & rehabilitation settings, treating individuals across the lifespan with a variety of diagnoses including neurodiversities. Kerri is also a passionate volunteer of Reclaimed Hope Initiative (RHI), a non-profit organization devoted to serving families navigating the challenges of raising children with neurodiversities and those in the foster care and adoptive communities. The highlight of her volunteering is 

 bringing her OT Bus to Camp Hope (a therapeutic day camp) each summer to serve its campers with special needs and neurodiversities. Kerri is married to her loving husband, Chris, and has four children. Of her four children, her oldest is diagnosed 2E (Twice Exceptional), having ADD and intellectual giftedness. Her youngest son has learning differences including severe dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia. In her free time, Kerri loves spending time with her family and friends, traveling, listening to music, writing, watching K-Dramas, and studying Korean. 

Meet Our Panelists

Lori Benson

John and Lori Benson have been a married team for twenty years and counting! Their family is well blended with five children ranging from 10-36 with a teenage nephew in the midst. As therapeutic foster parents with a local agency, they have fostered over 25 children, short and long-term.

John was called to the ministry as a Lay-Supply Pastor thirteen years ago for a 3-church Charge with the United Methodist Church. He also works as an independent auditor during early morning hours each week. At times, he may be low on energy but never low on patience.

Lori is a Therapeutic Day Treatment Clinician working under contract in Waynesboro. She has been working with children for over 30 years and plans to retire doing what she loves.

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Paige Edwards

The Edwards family lives in the Shenandoah Valley. Greg is a commercial flooring & ceiling project manager and Paige is a choral director in the public school setting. Carson, age 18, has autism and is a student at the Virginia Institute of Autism in Charlottesville. Cullen is 27 and spent much of her adolescence and young adult years adjusting to the dynamics that autism brings to a family. The Edwards are currently in the midst of all the “transition to adulthood” processes that are necessary when a person with autism turns 18 years old.

Sarah McGill

My name is Sarah McGill, I am a mom of two children, a ten year old boy and a seven year old girl. My son was officially diagnosed with Autism and ADHD when he was seven. However we knew long before then that he was neurodiverse.  From the time he was an infant to the time of his actual diagnosis, there were so many different signs, and we had approached many different providers about them. The first few providers brushed them off, telling me I was a new mom. instead giving diagnoses like sensory processing disorder, multiple forms of anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder, so we did the best we could as parents. We had him in occupational therapy from the time he was four and diagnosed with sensory processing. We had him in play therapy from about that time onward as well. Play therapy continues although it has turned more into a combination of play therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy given his age of 10 now. He is

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doing quite well. We do have the ups and downs or what's known as the fluctuations with these diagnoses. That roller coaster at times can be rather rough, but knock on wood, right now it's more smooth.

I myself was diagnosed with autism last year at the age of 40. Going through everything with my son, made me question a lot of what I grew up with and the traits that I continued to have that I just explained as being my own little quirks.  It's not easy for an adult to be diagnosed with autism, I have found, or even to find a provider to assess for autism, but after questioning and requesting multiple times since my son was small, I finally was able to have a provider listen to me and send me for the testing that I had been requesting. For me the diagnosis was about tying up what felt like loose ends. Sort of like wrapping up that package with a bow instead of having the ends of the ribbon dangling and flopping around in the wind. To finally have an answer as to why you do some of the things that you do and it's not just to annoy people, or because you're weird, or introverted. It’s made me feel more normal with myself and not be as self-critical as I once was of those traits, what I’d grown up hearing and thus saying to myself. I’m now normalizing it myself, and part of that is being available to talk openly about my experiences and those I’ve had as a parent with my son. 

I have worked as a Nurse Practitioner and a nurse for 19 years and I can honestly say that we need more inclusion for neurodiversity and more explanation and education about the different forms it can take. It’s not the same for any of us and we need to be able to talk about it and normalize it so that our children and our world can better come together. 


Bettina Stevens

Bettina Stevens is the Founder of Reclaimed Hope Initiative and also serves as the Executive Director. She and her husband, Paul, have three adopted children with varying levels of disability, and are also licensed foster parents. Their oldest son, Jordan, is twelve years old and has autism, intellectual disability, PANS, sensory processing disorder, PTSD, and ADHD. Their middle son, Sebastian, is also twelve and has ADHD. Their youngest daughter, Olivia, has Sturge-Weber Syndrome and Phakomotosis Pigmentovascularis. Paul and Bettina have had to navigate intense seasons of medical and behavioral hardship, which resulted in the founding of Reclaimed Hope Initiative. During these periods, they felt the depth of

loneliness and isolation this journey can bring, and felt compelled to change this for other families. In her free time, she enjoys exercising, baking, and lounging in her sweatpants.

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Megan and Spencer Yancey

The Yancey family lives in the Shenandoah Valley. Spencer and Megan both work as public school educators. Huxton, age 5, is autistic and in a general education Kindergarten class at the local elementary school. Bodie, age 2, is neurotypical and a very talkative and energetic toddler. Huxton was diagnosed at age 2 and has received speech and occupational therapy since. He uses an AAC device to communicate. The family believes in using neurodiversity-affirming approaches to autism and parenting.

Re-Framing Behavior

We had a wonderful afternoon with Greg Santucci, MS, OTR/L as he discussed Re-Framing Behavior: How Understanding Safety, Regulation, and a Child’s Sensory Needs Can Help Us Shift From 'Managing' Their Behavior to Improving It.  We hope you watch the recording above and benefit from his amazing knowledge.

Every child wants to do well.  Every child wants to succeed and make their parents and teachers happy.  However, it can be really hard to be a kid sometimes, especially for our neurodivergent children.  We are demanding more from then than ever before in school.  While the academic demands have changed, what hasn't changed is the course of human development.  Current advances in neuroscience have taught us some much about 1) how the brain works and 2) what kids need so they can feel safe, regulated and ready to meet our expectations.  Despite this new knowledge about the brain, parents, teachers and professionals still often see "the behavior" as the problem instead of trying to understand the underlying cause of the behavior.  Workshop attendees will gain a new understanding about "the why" of childhood behavior and learn strategies to support kids and improve behavior durably; no prizes, points or punishments needed. 

Greg Santucci is a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and the Founding Director of Power Play Pediatric Therapy. Greg has been working with children and families for over 20 years, providing OT services in schools, homes and outpatient therapy centers throughout New Jersey. Greg is certified in Sensory Integration and the creator of the Model of Child Engagement, a clinical framework to help professionals and parents focus on a child’s safety needs prior to addressing their regulation and sensory processing skills, with the goal of improving a child’s participation in daily activities. Greg has been lecturing nationally for over a decade on topics related to sensory processing, child development and behavior, and consults with parents and educators around the world. Greg has dedicated his career to promoting neurodevelopmentally-informed, relationship-based interventions to help parents and teachers support children of all abilities and learning styles. Greg is the father of two children and is married to a Pediatric Occupational Therapist, so he shares his toys with everyone in his family.

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