Staff

 

Karen Thompson is the Executive Director at ASK. She works across all projects and serves on a number of statewide committees representing persons with disabilities and their families in the areas of healthcare and education. Karen is thrilled to be part of such a passionate, expert staff team! She credits the board members and staff with making the organization what it is today and considers herself lucky to be a part of it. Karen has worked in disability advocacy, rehabilitative training/counseling, and public program administration serving people with disabilities professionally for nineteen years. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology. Her family experience with disabilities spans three generations. She is the daughter of a stroke survivor, the wife of an adult with ADHD, the mother of two children with ADHD and a person with dyslexia. She sees her disability as an attribute and challenges others to do the same.

Ashley Gill is the Digital Marketing, Data and Operations Manager at ASK. She works under all projects, coordinating a wide range of training, data, marketing, and administrative support duties. Prior to joining ASK, Ashley spent six years working as an activity program coordinator at a nonprofit long-term care facility in Des Moines and has worked with individuals with disabilities for over 15 years as a Supported Community Living staff person with various agencies. She has a Bachelor's degree from Grand View College in Health Promotion with an emphasis in Wellness Management. Ashley has a younger sister with an intellectual disability, and also an individual with ADHD. She has a passion for helping others discover and develop their strengths, and believes the only disability in life is a bad attitude.

Mari Reynolds is a Family Support Coordinator, working primarily for the Parent Training and Family to Family Iowa projects at ASK. She has worked at ASK Resource Center for over a decade years. Mari has served on the Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Council for six years during which she served one term as vice-chairperson, and two years as chairperson. She has also served on the Iowa Safe Schools Coalition, and currently serves on the Olmstead Committee. Mari has a Bachelor's degree from Grand View College in Psychology and Human Services. Mari's passion for disability advocacy work is a family affair. She has a brother with Cerebral Palsy who lives independently with supports. Mari is passionate about the advocacy work that ASK provides to families and believes knowledge can be powerful!

Susan Gill is a Family Support Coordinator, working primarily for the Parent Training and Family to Family Iowa projects at ASK. She was an active board member of ASK in its early days as an organization. She has also served as an ASK volunteer and has worked with the FIND and Transition Projects in the past. She has over twenty years of experience as an advocate for individuals with special needs and their families. Prior to returning to ASK, Susan served for numerous years as a coordinator for the Parent Educator Connection with Des Moines schools. Her personal experience raising a child with multiple disabilities brings an understanding and empathy for parents - from anger to advocacy. She has served on statewide committees that have influenced the Iowa legislature and continues involvement with numerous councils and committees. Susan is a trainer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and has organized a support group for families of children with serious emotional disorders, and established several on-going youth leisure activities in the Des Moines area. Susan is passionate about connecting other families with resources.

Paula Connolly is the Family to Family Iowa Project Coordinator. Along with project coordination, her responsibilities include outreach and support on several other projects at ASK. Paula is the parent of four children. Her youngest child has significant, multiple disabilities due to a rare genetic condition called Neuhauser Syndrome. She has been an advocate for families of kids with disabilities for over twenty years and co-founded ASK Resource Center with a few other parents with similar interests. Helping other families to find the support and resources that their children and youth require is her passion. Paula truly enjoys hearing family stories and helping families work through needs.

Lori Moore is a Training Coordinator & EHDI Project Coordinator. She discovered her passion for assisting people with disabilities develop their disabilities while she was earning her Bachelor degree at the University of Wisconsin. She started as a volunteer for Muscular Dystrophy Association and a counselor at a camp for children who are deaf. After teaching Special Education for seven years in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she was offered a position as a grant assistant for the Wisconsin School Inclusion Project while earning her Master of Science degree in Special Education from UW-Madison. When Lori moved to Iowa, she worked for Des Moines Public Schools as a Special Education Consultant. She enjoys the unique professional environment ASK provides where she is able to combine her passions, education, and experiences to work with individuals with disabilities and their families.

Deb Chiodo is a Family Partnership & Professional Development Project Coordinator and Co-Director at ASK. She has worked there three years. Prior to working at ASK, Deb was an elementary school principal for over 20 years focusing on collaborative leadership, mentoring teachers and developing and designing curriculum to enhance and support all student’s needs. She has a Masters in Administrative Leadership and a Specialist in Administration from Drake University and received her Bachelors in Education with an emphasis on special education from the University of Michigan. Deb is highly active in the education community statewide, serving on the boards of United Way and Employee Family Resources. She is passionate about advocating for families and student’s needs, heading up the initiative Family School Partnership with leading education experts from around the country. Deb is driven to use data to help advocate for students and families in Iowa.

Joy Barlean is the EHDI Project Coordinator at ASK; she works to provide support to families with children that are Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Joy is a mom to three kids with Syndromes.  Her oldest daughter had a heart condition called Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome and went through surgery at the age of seven to get rid of the extra electrical pathway.  Her youngest two are twin boys that were born ten weeks early and have Down Syndrome and a variety of other diagnosis including hearing loss. Her experience of raising children with disabilities has given her a passion for helping other parents to connect and be empowered advocates for their children.