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Our Board of Directors

Lisa Ryan-Twast works as a Teacher's Assistant in the Strait Regional Centre for Education.  She lives in Port Hawkesbury and understands the needs of families who have children on the Autism spectrum because her life is centered around Autism. Both of Lisa’s young boys are diagnosed on the Spectrum, she has a vast knowledge of what our community has to offer and what gaps exist.  Lisa is ready to share her experiences as a parent and also the experience as a TA working with many students on the Spectrum. 
Olivia Melnick is the Regional Director for Nova Scotia Early Childhood Development Intervention Services in the Strait area.  This program provides services and supports to young children who have developmental delay.  It covers the counties of Inverness, Richmond, Antigonish and Guysborough.  
Olivia is the mother of two amazing young adults, she has lived in Port Hawkesbury most of her life and has been involved with the Strait Area Autism NS in one capacity or another over the last 10 years.  In the early days of the Strait Chapter Olivia supported Amanda Samson-MacPherson with various activities and programs – they would often partner for family events and to organize the Walk for Autism.  When the Strait chapter was assigned a dedicated position Olivia stepped down, but now she is ready to re-engage with Natalie and with the chapter Board to help shape the direction of the program.  Olivia is very excited to try and expand the reach to areas that the chapter has not been able to reach before.  
Dorothy Bennett lives in Heatherton and works as a Community Health Board (CHB) Coordinator for the three Strait area Boards; Antigonish Town & County, Guysborough County and Strait Richmond.  She supports these Boards who are a group of committed volunteers working together to improve the health of their communities through community partnerships.
Dorothy is a mom of two adult children and a Grammy to three beautiful grandchildren who she gets the pleasure of living with and seeing every day!   Dorothy is new to the Strait Area Autism Chapter and she looks forward to working with Natalie and the Board to help programs in the area become more inclusive to all through understanding and acceptance.  Dorothy is excited to bring her community development experience and passion for inclusion to the Board Table.
Holly Wilson has been a board member for Autism NS- Strait Area Chapter since 2021. Holly grew up in Richmond County, moving away to Halifax to complete her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Saint Mary’s University as well as Bachelor of Social Work at Dalhousie University. After Graduating in 2012, Holly moved back to Cape Breton where she worked for non-profit organizations such as Cape Breton Family Place (2012-2013) and Nova Scotia Early Childhood Development Intervention Services (2013-2018) before accepting a Social Worker position with Primary Health Care (2018- Present).
Holly has volunteered many hours for Autism NS - Walk for Autism over the years, and continues to volunteer her time as a board member. Holly sees the need for children, youth, and families in our communities and always strives to make our communities a more accepting and inclusive place to live. 
"The world needs different kinds of minds to work together"- Temple Grandin
 Cathy Cooke moved to the Strait Area in 2008.  She is currently on Long Term Disability leave from her career as an Environmental Scientist, and volunteers with several Strait Area groups and committees.  Through her family, friends and involvement with community groups, she has met many families coping with the needs of one or more children as well as adults with ASD.  She is interested in helping friends, family and others access resources and information to enable them to face any challenges ASD may present.  In her spare time, she enjoys knitting and other crafts and has started a community theater group with her husband.
Not a Board Member but a little about our Support Co-Ordinator: 
Natalie Stevens works as Support Co-Ordinator for Autism NS Strait Area Chapter and also works for Tamarac Education Centre as a Lunch Supervisor plus runs an After School Program through her business PowerPlay Entertainment.  She is the mother of 6 children; her 9 year old daughter is on the Spectrum.  Natalie is very passionate in advocating for the autism community and loves to share her knowledge as a parent and care provider.