About us

<h2 style=”text-align: left;”><strong>MSSN Mission Statement </strong></h2>
The MSSN is committed to supporting siblings of people with disabilities in the following ways: creating welcoming communities for siblings across the lifespan; improving the range and availability of sibling support services; and providing education about sibling-related issues.

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<h2>WHAT IS THE <strong>MSSN</strong> ?</h2>
In 2009, a core group of adult siblings founded the Massachusetts Sibling Exploratory Committee (MA-SEC) to investigate the needs of siblings of people with disabilities across Massachusetts, and the types of supports that were available to meet those needs. MA-SEC quickly expanded into a diverse network of adult siblings, parents of young siblings, mental health professionals, and sibling service providers, all of whom were connected to sibling issues on a personal or professional level. In 2010, MA-SEC evolved into the Massachusetts Sibling Support Network (MSSN), and in 2011 we became a non-profit organization with bylaws governed by a Board of Directors. The MSSN collaborates with key stakeholders in the disability field, including the Sibling Leadership Network, The ARC, the Federation for Children with Special Needs, the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), and the Massachusetts Parent Advisory Committee (MassPAC), among many other agencies and stakeholders.

The MSSN is committed to supporting siblings of people with disabilities in the following ways: creating welcoming communities for siblings across the lifespan; improving the range and availability of sibling support services; and providing education about sibling-related issues.

Much like the parent and self-advocacy movements, siblings are taking on an increasingly active role in advocating for themselves and allying with their brothers and sisters with disabilities. For the last 10+ years, adult siblings, researchers, policy makers, and service providers have been working to raise awareness of sibling-related issues. Sibling groups are forming all over the country, many focused on local issues and needs. We at the MSSN are proud to support siblings in Massachusetts.
<h2 class=”center-title size_default” style=”text-align: center;”><strong>MEET OUR TEAM</strong></h2>
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<h4 class=”wsite-content-title”><strong>Emily Rubin, MA</strong>
<strong>Executive Director</strong></h4>
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<img class=”alignleft wp-image-12806″ src=”https://masiblingsupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/emily-e1557845791192-237×300.jpg” sizes=”(max-width: 148px) 100vw, 148px” srcset=”https://masiblingsupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/emily-e1557845791192-237×300.jpg 237w, https://masiblingsupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/emily-e1557845791192.jpg 535w” alt=”Emily Rubin” width=”148″ height=”187″ />Emily is co-founder of the MSSN and served as MSSN President from 2011-2019. She is an Assistant Professor in Psychiatry at UMass Medical School and Director of Sibling Support at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center. Emily’s research interests relate to resiliency among siblings of people with disabilities. Her current research examines the impact of a child’s mental illness on his/her typically-developing siblings, and strategies to build resiliency and decrease trauma among these siblings. She has published and presented her work nationally.

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<h4><strong>Emily Goodman-Simeone, MSW</strong>
<strong>Administrative Assistant</strong></h4>
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Emily Goodman-Simeone joined the MSSN as an Administrative Assistant in January of 2019.  As as a social worker and former school administrator in a school for children with severe therapeutic needs, Emily was thrilled to come on board with the MSSN and continue to support people with disabilities and their families. Emily received her BA in Psychology and Classics from Tufts University where she also played Varsity Basketball. Her MSW degree was awarded from Fordham University in New York City. She also holds a certificate in Educational Leadership from Stonybrook University in New York.

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<h4 style=”text-align: center;”><strong style=”color: inherit; font-family: inherit; font-size: 30px; text-align: center;”>MSSN Board of Directors</strong></h4>
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<h4><strong><img class=”alignleft wp-image-13511 size-full” src=”https://masiblingsupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Hillary-.jpg” alt=”Hillary Dunn” width=”103″ height=”104″ />Hillary Dunn, Esq., CO-President</strong></h4>
Hillary has an older brother with Angelman Syndrome, and, as a result of this experience, she has devoted her career to assisting individuals with disabilities and their families. Hillary is a Staff Attorney at the Disability Law Center where she represents individuals with disabilities in matters involving special education, housing and employment discrimination, abuse and neglect, and securing appropriate community supports and services from adult human service agencies. She has been involved in legislative and regulatory advocacy regarding disability issues and has trained individuals with disabilities, families and professionals in various areas of disability law. Hillary previously worked in the Special Needs and Elder Law Practice Group at Fletcher Tilton PC and focused her practice in the areas of special education, advocacy with adult human service agencies, and guardianship. Hillary earned her law degree from Northeastern University School of Law and a B.A. from Tufts University where she also played basketball.

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<h4><strong> Zach Rossetti, PhD, Co-President
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Zach Rossetti, a former special education teacher and inclusion facilitator from New Hampshire, is an Associate Professor of Special Education in the Wheelock College of Education &amp; Human Development at Boston University. His research focuses on social interactions and friendships between students with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities, family engagement in special education, and sibling roles and relationships. Much of this work is inspired by his brother Todd who is a huge Red Sox fan and has cerebral palsy. Zach received an M.Ed. in Special Education-Severe Disabilities from the University of New Hampshire and a CAS in Disability Studies and a Ph.D. in Special Education from Syracuse University.

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<h4><strong><img class=”alignleft wp-image-13489 size-full” src=”https://masiblingsupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Joe-C-1-1.png” alt=”Joe Cicero” width=”115″ height=”115″ />Joe Cicero, BA, Treasurer</strong></h4>
Growing up with an older sister severally disabled by cerebral palsy, Joe understands the issues that families of the developmentally disabled endure. He is passionate about increasing awareness of these issues and networking with those who understand them to develop scalable solutions. A management consultant by trade, Joe hopes to use his knowledge of business development to drive the MSSN’s strategic growth and fundraising initiatives. Joe earned his BA in Economics from the University of Rochester, where he was also captain of the varsity football team.

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<h4><strong>Elanna Seid, M.S., CCC-SLP, Clerk</strong></h4>
Growing up with a sister with special needs, Elanna participated in Sibshop groups for many years, learning to appreciate the unique bond between siblings of children and adults with special needs. As a result of her experiences within the special needs community, Elanna was inspired to pursue a career working with children with special needs and their families. She is currently a Speech and Language Therapist in Boston Public Schools, where she primarily works with students with autism. Elanna earned her master’s degree from Teachers College, Columbia University and her B.S. from New York University where she also was on the varsity swim team.

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<h4><strong><img class=”alignleft wp-image-14926″ src=”https://masiblingsupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/olivia-von-F.png” alt=”​Olivia von Ferstel” width=”104″ height=”104″ />Olivia von Ferstel, LMHC, SpED, Educational Coordinator</strong></h4>
Olivia is the Educational Program Manager at the Community Therapeutic Day School in Lexington, a school that serves children with severe emotional and neurologic disabilities. In this multi-layered position Olivia is able to employ and develop her educational, clinical, creative, organizational, business and administrative skills and interests. As a licensed counselor and expressive therapist, one of her many interests has been to support the siblings of the children that attend the school and in the larger community, leading her to develop their Sibling Groups, expressive art therapy based support groups and to complete a publication of this work entitled Sibling Group Lends a Helping Hand: A Guide to Facilitating Support Groups for Siblings of Children with Special Needs. Olivia has great compassion and  deep respect for this often overlooked population of children. She strives to have a better understanding of what the sibling experiences in this unique relationship, complex family dynamic and the circumstances that surrounds their lives and she is greatly dedicated to effectively and creatively supporting them in any way possible.

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<h4><strong>Stephanie Dort, M.Ed. </strong><strong><img class=”alignleft wp-image-14596″ src=”https://masiblingsupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Stephanie-D.jpg” alt=”Stephanie Dort” width=”104″ height=”105″ /></strong></h4>
Stephanie Dort, a Boston native, has a strong interest in disability awareness and received her Bachelors of Science degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Communication Disorders (Speech and Language Pathology and Audiology) in 2008. Having a sibling with a developmental disability prompted Stephanie to complete the Special Education M.Ed. program at the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2013 where she would be able to effectively advocate for students with disabilities.  Currently, Stephanie works for the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. Her role as a Qualified Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor allows her assist consumers with disabilities of the Commonwealth with obtaining or maintaining competitive employment.Stephanie Dort, a Boston native, has a strong interest in disability awareness and received her Bachelors of Science degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Communication Disorders (Speech and Language Pathology and Audiology) in 2008. Having a sibling with a developmental disability prompted Stephanie to complete the Special Education M.Ed. program at the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2013 where she would be able to effectively advocate for students with disabilities.  Currently, Stephanie works for the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. Her role as a Qualified Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor allows her assist consumers with disabilities of the Commonwealth with obtaining or maintaining competitive employment.

Stephanie has also served on the Haitian American Public Health Initiatives Family Support Center (HAPHI-FSC) Board, where her primary role was to assist and coordinate workshops as well as organize social events for program participants. Stephanie was also invited to speak at the 11th Annual Haitian Health Conference hosted by the Haitian Health Institute at Boston Medical Center where she conducted workshops for program participants. She also presented at the Parent Academy for the Randolph Public Schools on navigating special education. Stephanie’s overall desire is to advocate, educate, and inform families of the various tools and resources that can provide assistance to individuals with developmental disabilities.

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<h4><strong><img class=”alignleft wp-image-13518 size-full” src=”https://masiblingsupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/anne-l-.jpg” alt=”Anne-Laure Lehman” width=”106″ height=”106″ />Anne-Laure Lehman</strong></h4>
For the past 20 years, Anne-Laure has coached individuals with special needs in life skills and academic endeavors. With a brother diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder, she has appreciated the organizations which have provided her family various supports. Those networks have inspired her to help other families. As a French native with an enthusiasm for global interconnectedness, she has worked on educational and cultural services projects in France, England, Canada and Japan. She lives in Wellesley, where her two college-aged children come home to… when she’s lucky.

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<h4><strong><img class=”alignleft wp-image-14910″ src=”https://masiblingsupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/shruti-s-professional-headshot-1.jpg” alt=”Shruti Tekwani” width=”106″ height=”106″ />Shruti Tekwani, LMHC</strong></h4>
Shruti is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in trauma, grief, and loss. She is also a certified coach and spends most of her time in online and in-person private practice as well as by presenting workshops &amp; trainings. She received her masters in Counseling Psychology from Northeastern University and has 13 years of experience working with college students in crisis and in a counseling environment. Shruti credits most of her life work to her amazing sister Meghaa, who was born with Cerebral Palsy. Having Meghaa in her life has shaped who she is and is the driving force of compassion that Shruti practices in her<strong> </strong>day to day life. Shruti is also a Basic Instructor for the William Glasser Institute. She sits on the Board of Directors for the William Glasser International Organization, WGI-US, and the WGI-Northeast Region. Shruti also serves on the conference committee for the Sibling Leadership Network, an organization that supports siblings of people with disabilities.

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<h4><strong>Anne deBeaupre Williams, M.Ed</strong></h4>
For the past 13 years Anne has worked with nonprofit organizations helping to maximize their marketing, public relations and fundraising efforts. She currently serves as Communications Specialist for Care Dimensions and previously worked at the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce and Work/Family Directions, now W/FD Consulting in Watertown. Anne also has a background and a passion for helping children with special needs and their families, working for many years at the May Institute’s Early Intervention Program where she helped to start their first integrated preschool. Anne is excited to be a member of the MSSN Board and eager to help spread the word about the importance of all sibling relationships.
<h3><strong>Board Consultants</strong></h3>
<strong>Cynthia Haddad, CFP ®</strong>
As a result of her experience with an adult brother with special needs, Cynthia has dedicated her career to helping other families address their unique financial planning requirements. For over 20 years, she has held positions of leadership in a variety of public policy advisory organizations and is a frequent speaker at conferences for individuals with special needs and their families. She has shared her experience and expertise by co-authoring <strong>The Special Needs Planning Guide: How to Prepare for Every Stage of Your Child’s Life</strong> (Brookes Publishing). Cynthia is a Certified Financial Planner® and a Director of Special Needs Planning, a division of Shepherd Financial Partners. Cynthia earned her BA in Finance and Economics from Simmons College. She lives in Belmont, MA with her husband and 2 children. ​<em>Securities and financial planning offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC</em>

<strong>Doreen Arcus, PhD</strong>
Doreen Arcus is a developmental psychologist whose research addresses the development of children and youth, especially those with disabilities, in the context of school and family, with a special focus on siblings. She holds the Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard University, and is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and an affiliate of the UML Center for Autism Research and Education.

<strong>John Kramer, PhD</strong>
John is a co-founder of the MSSN as well as a co-founder of the Sibling Leadership Network (SLN). John received his Ph.D. in Disability Studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago, with his dissertation addressing the mutual support roles in aging families of people with disabilities and issues of future planning for people with intellectual disabilities and their brothers and sisters.

<strong>Peter Schuntermann, MD</strong>
Dr. Peter Schuntermann is a practicing child and adolescent psychiatrist who is affiliated with Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. He has published in peer reviewed journals in the areas of siblings growing up with developmentally challenged brothers and sisters, resilience, and proactive group support programs for sibling children and adolescents. Dr. Schuntermann has been a long-time member of the MSSN Board of Directors and he currently serves as a consulting board member.

The Arc of Massachusetts

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Massachusetts developmental disabilities council