Our Team

A team of 42 volunteers supports the activities and projects of Spectrum Institute.  We have a five-member board of trustees who govern the organization.  Seven volunteers work with the executive director to handle our research, technology, development, and outreach activities.  We have 3 student interns. The Disability and Guardianship Project has 3 legal advisors who are periodically consulted by its legal director.  It also has 12 advisors on the Attorney Fee Review Team.  The director of the Mental Health Project has 14 mental health advisors with whom she shares information and seeks advice about the project’s activities.  The organization also has four student interns. We are accepting applications for summer interns from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and hope to have summer interns from UCLA and Washington State University as well.

1717 E. Vista Chino A7 – PMB384
Palm Springs, CA 92262
(818) 230-5156

Board of Trustees

Thomas Coleman
Executive Director
Michael Vasquez
Board Secretary
Brook Changala
Board Member
Diane Coleman Rogers
Board Member
Tina Baldwin
Sheri Kellogg
Board Member

Operations – Research, Technology & Development

Paula Davis
Project Proofreader
Brent Druding
Social Media &
Outreach Associate
John DiPietro, Esq.
Legal Projects
Research Associate

Alex Sansevieri
Internet Technology
Jennifer Coleman
Website Design and Development
Adam Soch
Podcast Post
Production Advisor
Jessilyn Matthias
Development Associate

Student Interns

Sarah Barlow (WSU) is a student at Washington State University, Everett.  She will receive her bachelor’s degree in Integrated Strategic Communication in August 2021. Sarah has loved storytelling since she was 12 years old. Over the years, Sarah has acquired a variety of skills including public speaking, public relations, marketing, and journalism. Every day she works to refine and enhance these skills even further. Spectrum Institute is giving Sarah the opportunity to intern as a social media manager while also acting as an assistant producer to The Freedom Files podcast. When she is not working on her storytellling skills, Sarah is out traveling and enjoying time with friends. 

Emmi Deckard, an assistant producer and feature story writer for the podcast, is a third-year student at UCLA.  She is majoring in bioengineering and minoring in disability studies.  Emmi is involved with a campus organization known as Alternative Breaks.  Two years ago, she traveled with the group to New Orleans for week to learn about the widespread impact that Hurricane Katrina had on the area and how they have been rebuilding their community and reforming policy every since.  Emmi is a journalist with the Daily Bruin, the main campus newspaper for students and faculty.  She will use her journalism skills to develop stories for the podcast which will help guide the interviews. Her articles will be published online along with the release of each episode.

María de los Ángeles Reyes Olmedo, a legal summer intern, is a second-year law student attending Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. María was born in Guanajuato, Mexico, and they are a non-binary Mexican immigrant and first-generation higher education student. María attended Cal Poly Pomona for their undergraduate studies, majoring in Gender, Ethnic, and Multicultural Studies, with a focus on Latinx/Chicanx Studies, and minoring in Spanish. They enjoy conducting research and writing, and presented their original research titled “Existimos porque resistimos: Lyrics of Revolution and Resistance in Latin America” at the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Scholars Conference in 2017. Growing up as an undocumented immigrant exposed María to the difficulties experienced by those who live in underserved communities and form part of disenfranchised groups. María is passionate about becoming an active advocate for underserved people and will pursue a policy and advocacy-oriented public interest career post-graduation.

Ben Dishchyan (Loyola): After earning a B.B.A. in finance from Loyola Marymount University, Ben Dishchyan made the decision to attend law school. He currently is a first-year law student graduating in May 2023 from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, California. Prior to attending law school, Ben worked in the elder care industry, placing elders in affordable board and care facilities that met thier medical and personal demands. Being a licensed insurance broker, he also has knowledge in the sales and consulting of the insurance market. After law school, Ben’s goal is to serve the public need and be a successful public interest attorney. At Spectrum Institute he will use his work experience and knowledge to provide legal research and advocacy to further the mission of the organization.

Legal Advisors

After representing children and families in the Los Angeles child welfare system as well as treating patients, Meriam Bendat, J.D., Ph.D., founded Psych-Appeal — the nation’s first private mental health law firm in 2011.   Since then, Dr. Bendat has helped patients and providers successfully challenge the denials of mental health treatment through administrative appeals and impact litigation, recovering millions of dollars in wrongfully-withheld benefits.  Dr. Bendat is an attorney licensed by the State Bar of California as well as a psychotherapist licensed by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. With a background in law, clinical psychology, marriage and family therapy, and psychoanalysis, he serves as a consultant to national mental health advocacy organizations and frequently makes presentations on access to treatment and mental health parity. Dr. Bendat is a member of the American Psychoanalytic Association Committee on Government elations and a distinguished Ittleson Consultant to the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry. He has lectured at universities around the country, including Yale Medical School, Butler Hospital (Brown University), UCLA, and Antioch University.  We are pleased that Dr. Bendat has accepted our invitation to be an advisor to the Mental Health Project.

Anthony Chicotel is a staff attorney for California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR). His expertise is in the rights of long-term care consumers, conservatorships, and health care decision-making. Prior to working at CANHR, Tony was a senior staff attorney for Elder Law & Advocacy’s Nursing Home Rights Enforcement Project in San Diego. He received his J.D. from Ohio State University’s College of Law and a Masters in Public Policy from U.C. Berkeley. He is an adjunct professor at U.C. Berkeley’s School of Law and has written and lectured extensively about the rights of elderly Californians. Tony is the author of a legal guidebook titled “California Conservatorship Defense: A Guide for Attorneys.” He often is called to testify as an expert in elder law issues before various committees of the California Legislature.

Attorney Jenny Farrell has accepted our invitation to be an advisor to the Mental Health Project of Spectrum Institute.  Having an attorney with experience in mental health law will be of great value to the project.  Ms. Farrell serves as the Executive Director of Mental Health Advocacy Services (MHAS). MHAS has been a leader in the disability rights movement and specifically in the fight for equal rights for people with mental health disabilities for over forty years.  Through a combination of direct services, impact litigation, policy advocacy, education, and technical assistance, MHAS advocates for the civil rights, full inclusion, and equality of adults and children with mental health disabilities. As Executive Director, Jenny is responsible for overseeing the administration, programs, and strategic plan of the organization. Jenny earned her B.A. degree in Government from Smith College and her J.D. degree from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law.  She is licensed to practice law in the State of California. 

Marshall B. Kapp, J.D., M.P.H. (Colleges of Law & Medicine) was educated at Johns Hopkins University (B.A.), George Washington University Law School (J.D. with Honors), and Harvard University School of Public Health (M.P.H.).  Now a Professor Emeritus, he was the Founding Director of the Florida State University Center for Innovative Collaboration in Medicine and Law from 2010 through 2017, with faculty appointments as Professor, Department of Geriatrics, FSU College of Medicine, and Professor of Medicine and Law in the FSU College of Law.  He also was a Faculty Affiliate of the FSU Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy and the FSU Institute for Successful Longevity.  He currently is an Adjunct Professor, Stetson University College of Law (teaching in the Elder Law LLM program) and an Adjunct Professor at the FSU College of Law (teaching in the Juris Masters program).  Earlier, Kapp served as the Garwin Distinguished Professor of Law & Medicine at Southern Illinois University School of Law and School of Medicine and as Co-Director of the School of Law’s Center for Health Law and Policy (2003-2009).

Evan Nelson is a civil litigator in Walnut Creek, California.  He is of counsel to the Law Office of Jonathan McDougall.  Evan represented family members as objectors in a conservatorship case the Alameda County Superior Court and as appellants in the California Court of Appeal. Evan recently filed a major civil lawsuit against the Alameda County Superior Court and 22 other defenants for violating the civil rights of an elderly woman during the course of a conservatorship proceeding.  The lawsuit seeks damages for the woman and changes in policie and practices of the court so that such injustices do not happen to other seniors and people with disabilities in the future. 

Limited Conservatorship Advisor

Barbara Imle is a doctoral candidate in the sociology department at Portland State University, OR. Her current research is focused on the process of establishing limited conservatorships of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in California. Barbara, who has disabilities herself, has some 15 years of professional experience working in the disability service delivery system in California.  She was employed by two regional centers. This combination of experiences has provided her with a solid understanding of the complexities related to navigating the disability system, and the challenges that people with disabilities and service agencies face.

Mental Health Advisors

Thomas Buckley, Ed.D. has an impressive curriculum vitae.  For the past two years, he has been the Director of Population Health at YAI — a world class organization providing exceptional-quality, culturally competent, person-centered services and supports to over 20,000 persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Prior to that, Dr. Buckley was the CEO and founder of The Buckley Medical Home —  operated by a collaborative transdisciplinary team offering a healthcare delivery approach focusing on the whole person with an Intellectual/Developmental Disability (I/DD) and/or mental health conditions including progressive dementia.  He also serves on the board of directors of the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitative Facilities.  CARF International is an independent nonprofit organization that has accredited over 57,000 agencies, certifying that they meet specialized standards of care for mental health.

Simone Ebbers MSc. is a healthcare psychologist, child psychologist, psychotraumatherapist and EMDR-practitioner.  Simone has been working in secondary and higher vocational education. She also worked as a behaviour specialist within a treatment centre for children and teenagers with a mild intellectual disability and psychiatric issues.  Since 2013 she runs a private practice assessing and treating trauma and sexual abuse, and specializes in working with people with intellectual disabilities.  Next to the clinical work, Simone also works as an educator, trainer, supervisor and adviser. In 2002, she wrote a study book on sexuality and sexual abuse for care providing professions. She is also co-author of: Psychological First Aid for people with intellectual disabilities who have experienced sexual abuse.

Reverend William C. Gaventa is the chair of the National Collaborative on Faith and Disability and Director of the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability. As writer and author, Rev. Gaventa served as Editor of the Journal of Religion, Disability, and Health from 1996-2010. He edited the newsletter for the Religion and Spirituality Division of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, was an adviser for the Spiritual and Religious Supports Series for Exceptional Parent Magazine, and was a columnist for Insight, the national newsletter of the Arc USA. Rev. Gaventa is the author of Disability and Spirituality: Recovering Wholeness (Baylor University Press – 2018)

Dr. Matthew P. Janicki is co-chair of the National Task Grroup on Intellectual Disability and Dementia Practices. He is a member of the Federal Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services.  Dr. Janicki is an associate professor in the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Chicago.  He is also a research professor with the University of Maine’s Center on Aging.  Dr. Janicki is the author of many books and articles on aging, dementia, public policy, and rehabilitation of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including Dementia, Aging, and Intellectual Disabilities: A Handbook.

Biza Stenfert Kroese is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and a Senior Researcher in the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham, UK, and Chair of CanDo, a support service for parents with intellectual disabilities. Dr. Stenfert Kroese is co-author of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for People with Intellectual Disabilities: Thinking Creatively (Palgrave Macmillan 2017). The book is based on the authors’ clinical experiences and introduces novel approaches on how to adapt CBT assessment and treatment methods for individual therapy and group interventions. It explains the challenges of adapting CBT to the needs of clients with intellectual disabilities and suggests innovative and practical solutions.

Gary LaVigna, Ph.D. is the Clinical Director of the Institute for Applied Behavior Analysis in Los Angeles. He spends much of his time consulting with organizations on establishing nonaversive behavior support plans for individuals exhibiting severe and challenging behaviors and presenting seminars on the topic throughout the world. Dr. LaVigna’s work is reported in numerous articles and his coauthored books, such as Alternatives to Punishment, Progress Without Punishment and The Periodic Service Review: A Total Quality Assurance System For Human Services and Education. He is also coauthor of New Directions in the Treatment of Aggressive Behavior for Persons with Mental and Developmental Disabilities. (Nova Science Publishers, Ltd. 2015)

Daniel B. LeGoff. Ph.D., LS. is a licensed and board-certified pediatric neuropsychologist and the pioneer of LEGO® Therapy. He specializes in the assessment and treatment of neurodevelopmental and neurobehavioral conditions in infants, children, and adolescents. He is the author of LEGO®-Based Therapy: How to build social competence through LEGO®-based Clubs for children with autism and related conditions (Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2014). Action for Aspergers says this about the book: LEGO-Based Therapy defines a particular therapeutic approach. Its aim is to provide a social development intervention for children with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASCs). LEGO-Based Therapy teaches turn taking, sharing, making eye contact when needed and social rules adherence (using greetings). Children are encouraged to swap roles and tasks and engage in intelligent conflict resolution and social problem solving with very little adult intervention.” More recently, Dr. LeGoff wrote How Lego-Based Therapy for Autism Works. Through a series of case studies, the book explains how and why Lego therapy helps to promote the development of social skills for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and related conditions.

James A. Mulick, Ph.D. is a professor emeritus in the departments of pediatrics and psychology at Ohio State University and at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. His research has focused on developmental and behavioral pediatrics, emphasizing the application of behavior analysis in the treatment of autism and other developmental disabilities.  As a member of the Council of Representatives of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Mulick advocates for the right of individuals with developmental disabilities to effective treatment.  He is a fellow of four Divisions of the APA: Div. 1 (Society for General Psychology); Div. 25 (Behavior Analysis); Div. 33 (Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities/Autism Spectrum Disorders); and Div. 37 (Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice).  Dr. Mulick is a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ohio Psychological Association, the John W. Jacobson Award for Critical Thinking from Div. 33, and the Karl F. Heiser APA Presidential Award for Advocacy.  He is a published author in the scientific literature in his specialties and an editor or co-editor of 16 books, to most of which he was also a chapter contributor.  Dr. Muick studied psychology at Rutgers College in New Brunswick, NJ, and earned his doctorate at The University of Vermont. 

José R. Rosario is a speaker, author, and above all, an advocate. As a member of many diverse identity groups, José recognizes that common experiences bring people together and that taking stock of who we are gives us power. José wants to inspire others to acknowledge their identities, share their stories and empower those who are underrepresented to rise. As a mental health professional, José understands that this empowerment, and the creation of a space to be vulnerable, can lead to individual and group growth, awakening agents for change. José is a Clinical Psychology Ph.D. student at Clark University studying the factors associated with collective trauma and healing within silenced communities. From this passion, José launched The Phoenix Empowered, an organization focused on mental health disparities in minoritized groups. In addition, he is an Expressive Arts Facilitator through the PeaceLove Studios.

Aafke Scharloo MSc. is a fully licensed clinical psychologist and a remedial educationalist. She began in the late 1980s as a pioneer in the approach to sexual abuse in people with intellectual disabilities and has been involved in this subject ever since. Aafke is also forensic interviewer and one of the designers of the of Minimal Facts Interviews in suspicions of sexual abuse in the Netherlands. She works throughout the Netherlands as an expert for service providers and healthcare professionals, parents and people with developmental disabilities themselves. She also works with the police and justice system on issues concerning this subject. Alongside substantive clinical work, Aafke also works as an educator, trainer, supervisor and adviser. Aafke gives national and international lectures and publishes articles in journals and books and is a member of the ISPCAN working group on children with disabilities. She is independently established and specialist in issues concerning people with developmental disabilities, sexual abuse, maltreatment and trauma.  She is co-author of Psychological First Aid for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Who Have Experienced Sexual Abuse (Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2016). 

Nirbhay N. Singh, Ph.D., FAPA, FAPS, BCBA-D, is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.  He is also the CEO of MacTavish Behavioral Health LLC, an agency devoted to training, research and consultation focused on people who are disabled or disenfranchised. Formerly, Dr. Singh was a Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Clinical Psychology at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.  He is the author of 750 publications, including 26 books.  His research interests include mindfulness, mental health, assistive technology, intellectual and developmental disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, post-coma patients, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and multiple sclerosis. Among his recent books, Dr. Singh has edited Early Intervention for Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (with Lang and Hancock), Handbook of Evidence-Based Practices in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and Handbook of Positive Psychology in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (with Shogren and Wehmeyer). For about 30 years, Dr. Singh was an expert consultant in psychology, psychopharmacology, protection from harm, special education and mental health with regard to the care of people with disabilities for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Washington, DC. The DOJ investigates violations of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.

Martine Spijker MSc. is a healthcare psychologist, EMDR-practitioner and psychotraumatherapist. She co-founded a treatment centre for helping children and young adults with mild intellectual disabilities and trauma. Martine also runs a private practice specialising in treating trauma and sexual abuse in children, teenagers and young adults. Co-author of:  Psychological First Aid for people with intellectual disabilities who have experienced sexual abuse. A step by step programme (2017).