Who We Are

About Our Team

Carol Dimas | President/Founder: Educational Advocate

Carol Dimas is an Illinois State-Certified Highly Qualified Teacher in Elementary Education and Special Education K-12. She is a Reading Specialist and Learning Behavior Specialist. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education and a Masters of Science in Special Education.

During her twenty-five-plus years of experience in education, Carol began teaching children with special needs in the public school system. She helped pilot a program that involved a collaboration between the school district and Loyola University Department of Psychiatry to better serve culturally disadvantaged youth in the area of mental health. She was also the chair of the Special Education committee to develop a district-wide Positive Behavior Intervention Program.

Sara Platenberg | Assistant Director of Advocacy - D.C. area offices

Sara Platenberg has a Masters Degree in Education with a focus in Gifted and Talented and Twice Exceptional Populations. She served the public school system in Virginia as a Gifted and Talented Specialist where she focused on Twice Exceptionality and meeting the needs of 2E students while utilizing researched based inclusion strategies. Her years as an educator and experience implementing strategies to meet the needs of students with learning differences, helped support Sara as she began navigating the public school special education system on a personal level.

Her 12 plus years of experience include: Gifted and Talented Educator in Fairfax County; Private tutor in written expression/language and SAT prep, and Educational Advocate. Sara is a member of the Council of Parents, Attorneys, and Advocates, the National Association for Gifted Children, and is a listed provider in the Wrightslaw Yellow Pages for Kids.


Cassie Clark | Director
Dyslexia Center: Educational Advocate

Cassie Clark holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Special Education with a concentration in dyslexia. Cassie is a Certified Wilson Dyslexia Therapist (W.D.T.) and CERI Certified Structured Literacy Dyslexia Specialist (C-SLDS). Her journey with Wilson began as a parent of a child with dyslexia and has ignited her passion to help support students with language-based learning disabilities.

Cassie is a strong believer in “Literacy for All” and is dedicated to helping students achieve success in school and beyond. Cassie provides private, individualized Wilson instruction, along with expertise on dyslexia rights and advocacy. Cassie is a Certified Special Education Dyslexia Advocate, approved provider for both the International Dyslexia Association & Everyone Reading Illinois, and a member of the Council of Parent Attorney and Advocates & the Learning Disabilities Association.

 

Deb Hillstrom | Educational Advocate

Deb Hillstrom holds a Master of Education in Early Childhood Special Education, a Bachelor of Music Education, and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She has worked with children with special needs and their families in both public school and private therapy settings for many years.

As a teacher, Deb worked in both self-contained and general education classrooms to modify curricula and adapt teaching and prompting strategies to accommodate the needs of individual learners. She worked with teachers to facilitate the appropriate and successful inclusion of children with special needs into general education settings. As a BCBA, Deb trained parents and school staff in implementing individualized, research-based teaching and prompting methods, data collection strategies, and developmentally-appropriate, measurable goals.

Deb has experience conducting a variety of formal and informal assessments and utilizing quantitative measures to develop skill acquisition and behavior reduction targets appropriate for the individualized needs of children. Deb is a member of the Association for Behavior Analysis International and the Council of Parents, Attorneys and Advocates.

Amanda Amburn | Educational Advocate

Amanda has worked in public education for the past 18 years. She has served in various roles including learning behavior specialist, inclusion facilitator, department chair, and district administrator. Each of these roles provided Amanda the opportunity to serve students with diverse backgrounds and exceptionalities, and to gain extensive experience navigating and improving the educational environment for all students.

Amanda’s life experiences ignited a desire to support families in a different way, leading her to pursue a career in advocacy and consulting. Through her career to date and personal experience, Amanda has also gained extensive knowledge of educational law, as well as therapeutic and residential treatment for social-emotional, communication, and learning needs. She has a special interest and expertise in working with our families whose children are looking toward transition. Amanda is excited to merge her personal and professional expertise to help families in need.

Amanda holds a professional educator license in Illinois and as a Learning Behavior Specialist and Educational Administrator. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Special Education and a Master of Education degree in Educational Leadership. Amanda is passionate about collaboratively working towards positive outcomes for all students. Amanda is a member of the Council of Parents, Attorneys and Advocates

Stephanie Dawson | Educational Advocate & Educational Diagnostician ​

Stephanie Dawson is a Virginia State-Certified Teacher in Special Education K-12. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Masters of Science Degree in Curriculum and Instruction with extensive Masters level work in Special Education. She has worked in the field of Special Education for more than 20 years as a Special Education teacher, Educational Diagnostician, and Special Education Designee in the public school settings. As a Diagnostician, Stephanie will be administering our comprehensive reading assessments and screenings. Stephanie supervised teams of Special Educators, and developed and implemented ongoing training sessions for both Special Education and General Education staff alike. In addition to being a Registered Behavior Technician, Stephanie also brings the expertise of having her certification in Trauma-Informed Care through RACSB to support our clients impacted by trauma. Stephanie is a member of the Council of Parents, Attorneys, and Advocates.


Kelly Houston
Dyslexia Therapist/Educational Advocate

Kelly Houston is an Illinois-certified K-12 Teacher with a Masters of Arts in Education: Reading Specialist.  She worked in the public school system for 10 years before her current role as a Dyslexia Therapist and Educational Advocate.  Kelly obtained her Wilson Dyslexia Therapist (W.D.T.) and Wilson Fundations Facilitator certifications through Wilson Language Learning.  

Kelly provides individualized Wilson Reading System instruction to individuals with language-based learning disabilities, such as; dyslexia. Kelly is a Certified Special Education Dyslexia Advocate, an approved provider for Everyone Reading Illinois, an ambassador for the Reading League Illinois Chapter, and a member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates and the International Dyslexia Association.

BrieAnne Rader | Educational Advocate

BrieAnne Rader holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master Degree in Social Work, with licensure in the State of Illinois as a School Social Worker. BrieAnne is currently obtaining her Doctorate Degree in Special Education Leadership. Her dissertation emphasis is on factors that lead to successful collaboration among school professionals and parents of children with low incidence disabilities. As a school social worker, BrieAnne worked closely with students, parents, and other school professionals to create meaningful educational plans. She has extensive experience conducting behavioral assessments and implementing effective behavioral strategies. Additionally, she led the implementation of school-wide social emotional learning curricula for grades K-12. BrieAnne also currently serves as a rare disease legislative advocate and has experience working with students who have low incidence disabilities.

She is passionate about working collaboratively to ensure that students are met with an education that is purposeful and calculated according to their unique circumstances. BrieAnne is a member of the Council of Parent Attorney and Advocates.

Marisa Saxen | Educational Advocate

Marisa Saxen has a Bachelor's degree in communicative sciences and disorders with an emphasis on educational policy science and a Masters in Speech-Language Pathology. She holds a certificate of clinical competence in Speech-Language Pathology nationally through the American Speech- Language- Hearing Association (ASHA), State of Illinois licensure, and a Professional Educator License through the Illinois State Board of Education. Throughout her professional career, she has worked in both public and private therapeutic day school programs developing and implementing services that best promote student success in the classroom and optimize their ability to access curriculum and demonstrate their educational knowledge. Marisa has worked closely as part of a behavior management team to promote creative and innovative ways for students to access their language abilities during the performance of behavioral interventions. Furthermore, she has conducted trainings on communication strategies and IEP development. Marisa is a strong believer that every student deserves the opportunity to achieve their highest potential, through personalized modifications and supports that best fit the students needs, the classroom, the teacher, and the family routine and dynamics of the home. Marisa is a member of the Council of Parents, Attorneys, and Advocates.

Abby Shapland | Educational Advocate

Abby Shapland holds a Bachelor's degree in Special Education and a Master's degree as a Reading Specialist. She is professionally licensed in the state of Illinois as a Learning Behavior Specialist.

Over the past 16 years, Abby has worked in various Special Education teaching roles including multi-needs, resource, co-taught, cross-categorical and self contained classrooms. Each of these experiences enhanced Abby's ability to implement individualized instruction, creatively problem solve student needs and concerns, and foster student growth through meaningful data collection processes.

As a case manager, Abby worked collaboratively with her students' families to build trusted and authentic partnerships. She ensured that all aspects of a student's Individualized Education Plan was executed accurately and ethically, created an open line of communication with families, and fully advocated for her students' needs. Abby is eager to transition into a role where her expertise of best teaching practices, knowledge of special education services, and passion for advocating for students' rights will be utilized to the fullest. Abby is a member of the Council of Parents, Attorneys and Advocates.

Amanda Taglia | Educational Advocate

With a career spanning 18 years in education, Amanda Taglia has been a steadfast advocate for inclusive and equitable educational practices. Amanda’s experience as a certified Learning Behavior Specialist encompasses both the public and independent education sectors. Her expertise as an educational specialist spans across all content areas, with a specialized focus on honing executive functioning skills in students. Her commitment to empowering all learners goes beyond traditional approaches, incorporating innovative, research-informed strategies tailored to individual needs. Amanda utilizes her experience as a Testing Coordinator in leveraging data to support student growth and facilitating personalized learning experiences. Amanda is committed to supporting the individual needs of all learners and collaborating with parents and educational professionals. She is a member of the Council of Parents, Attorneys and Advocates.

Jay Smith | Educational Consultant

Jay Smith's experience in the field of education is far-reaching with thirteen years of experience as an elementary teacher, and 24 years combined as an elementary, middle school, and special education principal for bright students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, including Principal at the Hyde Park Day School. Additional experience includes teaching middle school endorsement classes as an adjunct professor for 12 years.

Amanda Luciano | Intake Coordinator

Amanda Luciano holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree and her Early Childhood Teaching credentials. As a Preschool Teacher, Amanda worked closely with families and students to provide developmentally appropriate instruction while supporting the needs of our youngest learners. Amanda is also a parent of a child with an IEP and Autism so she can understand some of the obstacles parents face. She is passionate about supporting our families and looks forward to communicating with them as they begin the process of consulting and partnering with our firm. Amanda is excited to join our team as our Intake Coordinator.

Laura McLean | Educational Advocate (Retired)

Laura McLean joined Educational Advocacy and Consulting in 2012. Laura is an Illinois Certified Special Education Teacher whose specialty is Early Childhood Education and Early Intervention. Her experience with our younger special needs population, especially those on the Spectrum, adds another wealth of expertise to our staff.

Laura performs most of the student observations for our clients which helps to support our staff in advocating for students as we realize the importance of seeing the student in his or her educational environment. Laura has attended training through Wrightslaw and her experience and expertise make her a valuable member of our team. Laura is a member of the Council of Parents, Attorneys and Advocates.

Timothy Clark | Educational Advocate (1980-2019 In Memoriam)

Tim Clark joined Educational Advocacy and Consulting in 2017. Tim holds a Master’s degree in Special Education and a Master’s degree in Educational Administration. He is an Illinois Certified Special Education & Elementary Education Teacher, as well as School Administrator, endorsed as a Director of Special Education whose specialty is the development of IEP and 504 plans for students with academic, social, and emotional needs. Tim’s experience developing IEPs and 504 Plans for students at the elementary and secondary level, combined with his extensive experience working in both the public and private education setting, adds another wealth of expertise to our staff. He has experience with navigating disciplinary situations at the elementary, middle and high school levels, including suspension appeals and expulsion hearings.

Carol worked as a reading specialist in both public school districts and private practice. She started a private practice as a specialized tutor supporting students with Specific Learning Disabilities, as well as preparing students for ACT and SAT exams, while also supporting families through the Special Education Process.

She then focused her efforts on assisting students and families through her firm, Educational Advocacy and Consulting. This successful practice partners with families, parent groups, clinicians, private therapeutic schools and public school districts to serve families and children by advocating for their needs.

Carol is a member of the Council of Parents, Attorneys and Advocates, the International Dyslexia Association, the International Literacy Association, the Council for Exceptional Children, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and is a listed provider in the Wrightslaw Yellow Pages for Kids.

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