Meet our Volunteers!
¡Hola! Mi nombre es Ashley Lira-Rivera y soy una estudiante de segundo año en la Universidad Estatal de Middle Tennessee. Me especializo en Biología con una concentración en Genética y Biotecnología y mis subespecializaciones son Árabe, Desarrollo de la Vida y Química. Por el momento trabajo como asistente médica, pero espero avanzar más en el aspecto médico y eventualmente trabajar con Médicos sin Fronteras. Decidí ser voluntaria en Autism TN por la amabilidad del personal y su dedicación a dar a las familias el apoyo que se merecen. Autism TN ha dado esperanza a mi familia, algo que espero que llegue a todos los que lo necesiten. Estoy realmente agradecida por la oportunidad de ser voluntaria de una organización tan maravillosa.
Translation: Hello! My name is Ashley Lira-Rivera and I’m a sophomore at Middle Tennessee State University. I’m majoring in Biology with a concentration in Genetics and Biotechnology and am minoring in Arabic, Lifespan Development, and Chemistry. I currently work as a medical assistant, but I hope to advance more into the medical field and eventually work with Doctors Without Borders. I decided to volunteer at Autism TN because of the staff’s kindness and dedication to giving families the support they deserve. Autism TN has given my family hope, which is something I hope reaches everyone in need. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to volunteer for such a wonderful organization!
I volunteer because it brings me joy to help the Autism community. I started volunteering when my grandson, Ryan was diagnosed with autism. Even though he lives in KY, I realize that parents need help. I feel that even the smallest thing I do may help someone.
My autism journey started with my wonderful son around age 3 but he did not receive his diagnosis until age 8. He is now 10. I wanted to volunteer because I can relate with the challenges families face when raising a child with autism. We need each other for support, understanding and encouragement. My hope is that one day autism will be normalized and embraced by all, starting with education in the general classroom. Volunteering humbly reminds me that there are so many others facing similar challenges. Even if what I contribute helps in only a small way, it matters and hopefully furthers our collective goals.
Like most of us, I came to the world of Autism quite unintentionally. Diagnosed at 29 months, our son Eric has given us experiences that are familiar to all parents, yet utterly unique. Above all, we have learned that whatever happens, we must simply keep trying. Despite the roadblocks, despite the failures, despite the mistakes, we've learned that our charge is to never quit trying to help Eric become the best version of himself. Now 19, we hope and believe that Eric is on his way there. And we hope that we are, too.
Spectrum Families of West Nashville
Stephanie became involved as a volunteer in April of 2023 after membership for several years in Autism Tennessee. She has two young sons, one affected by autism, and the Barca boys enjoy the inclusivity and friendliness of the events - especially Game Day! Stephanie started Spectrum Families of West Nashville to connect with families and share resources and experiences. As a mom, a therapist, and a social worker, she is inspired and informed by the different perspectives shared each month.
Greetings! My name is Amira Raja and I’m currently a student at Nashville State Community College striving to become an Occupational Therapist. I have joined Autism Tennessee as a Connect volunteer to help those feel that they are in a safe and inclusive environment. In doing so, I want to learn more about neurodiversity and how I can be a better ally to my brother and the autism community. I am so thankful to be part of this incredible group!
Natalie is a recent Nashville transplant and works as a research fellow at Vanderbilt (feel free to ask about her disability research – she loves talking about it!). In her spare time, she loves checking out new restaurants and live music venues, improving her pickleball game, and listening to her favorite podcasts.
Danny (ADHD, Dyslexic, questioning Autistic) is a Hungarian-American music and video producer with degrees from Berklee College of Music. He plays seven instruments. He loves working out, hiking and being outdoors, counting his macronutrients, spending time with family, and connecting with other neurodivergent people. On weekends, you can find him at Costco or Goodwill checking out the deals.
Adult Program Volunteer
Kristen Reed (she/they) is a student, parent, & volunteer co-facilitator of two of the adult groups at AutismTN: Connect and Unveiling Autistic Identity. She assists Casey Davis in guiding group discussions and troubleshooting the Discord. Kris was late-diagnosed as AuDHD (co-occurring Autism and ADHD) in December of '22 and with central auditory processing disorder in July of '23. Kristen enjoys journaling, hiking, wellness practices, gaming, urban exploring, camping, card and dream interpretation, mechanical keyboards, and engaging with one of their many spins (special interests), including: digital design, coding, neuroscience, nutrition, physiotherapy, psychology, accessibility, assistive tech (AT), and open source. Kristen is passionate about promoting awareness and acceptance around Autism to spare those she cares about from residual stigma. She wishes to hold space for Autists dealing with difficult issues, such as: adverse living situations, recovery from addiction, and bullying, something many late-identified Autists experience into adulthood, often without knowledge of or support from their community. Nothing about us without us.