MEET OUR TEAM
Director of Community & Strategic Partnerships
Mary Valachovic has been working in the field of disability services for over 35-years. She began her career in New York state working at a state institution providing direct care support for people with autism and developmental disabilities. After graduating from the University of New York, Albany she moved to Massachusetts and since then her professional experience spans not only the state of Massachusetts but all areas of service provision. Mary is committed to strong, ethical and values-based leadership. Mary’s brother Matthew, who has a developmental disability, serves as her inspiration both professionally and personally.
Emily Goodman-Simeone, MSW
Emily Goodman-Simeone joined the MSSN 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.
Sarah Davidson is an undergraduate student at Brandeis University with a double major in Psychology and Health: Science, Society, and Policy, and a minor in Social Justice and Social Policy. She is a coordinator for Brandeis Best Buddies, a program that seeks to build friendships between Brandeis student volunteers and adults with developmental disabilities who work on campus. She is particularly interested in disability policy and the effects of stress.
MSSN BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Hillary Dunn, Esq., Co-President
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.
Zach Rossetti, PhD, Co-President
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 & 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 was a huge Red Sox fan and had 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.
Joe Cicero, BA, Treasurer
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.
Elanna Seid, M.S., CCC-SLP, Clerk
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.
Stephanie Dort, M.Ed.
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.
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.
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.
Shruti Tekwani, LMHC
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 & 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 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.
Anne deBeaupre Williams, M.Ed
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.
Emily Rubin, MA, LCSW
Former Director, 2019-2021
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 within families. Emily has published and presented her work nationally. She is opening a part-time therapy practice as a licensed social worker.
Cynthia Haddad, CFP ®
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 The Special Needs Planning Guide: How to Prepare for Every Stage of Your Child’s Life (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. Securities and financial planning offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC
HISTORY OF THE MSSN
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.
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.