ABA CONNECT LEADERSHIP TEAM

Our core team of leaders is comprised of dedicated professionals who bring a wealth of expertise and passion to the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). With diverse backgrounds and extensive experience in ABA therapy, clinical operations, business development, research, and client care, our leaders work collaboratively to ensure the highest quality of care and support for children with autism and their families.

Meet the exceptional individuals who drive our mission forward and inspire positive change in the lives of those we serve.

Jessie Smedley, CEO

Jessie Smedley, CEO of ABA Connect, upholds the vision to ensure families have access to excellent, compassionate ABA therapy in the neighborhoods where they live. She has over 20 years of executive healthcare experience in business operation roles at inpatient rehabilitation hospitals. As a strategic thinker, she spearheads company growth, marketing efforts, and innovative program development. Known for building teams and creating cultures focused on reaching goals with a positive, accountable approach, Jessie is committed to the employees and families at ABA Connect. 

Inspired by the transformative impact of ABA therapy on her friend’s grandson, Matthew, who has autism, Jessie is passionately dedicated to leading this organization. Her focus on collaborative, client-centered care and optimistic outlook drive ABA Connect to deliver exceptional therapy services that positively impact families. 

Beyond her professional pursuits, Jessie and her husband have four adult children. As empty nesters, they enjoy traveling together, are active in their local church, and love to host game nights at their house.

Kirsten Brooks, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA, Vice President of Clinical Quality

Kirsten Brooks, the founder of ABA Connect, has dedicated the past decade to serving in various roles within the organization, culminating in her current position as Vice President of Clinical Quality. With an unyielding commitment to the values of client care and dignity, Kirsten built an organization focused on a play-based therapy approach in a natural learning environment, celebrating each child’s uniqueness and humanity. At ABA Connect, every child is embraced, and individualized ABA programs are crafted to harness their unique motivations.

Driven by a profound belief in the potential for connection in every child, Kirsten collaborates with a team of passionate and skilled individuals, all working tirelessly to impact the lives of children with autism positively. Her journey has been defined by gratitude for her team, passion for play-based ABA, and a relentless focus on client-centered care, shaping the essence of ABA Connect.

Kirsten places utmost trust in the capable hands of the leadership team, composed of directors, BCBAs, and lead therapists, ensuring ABA Connect’s continued success with the same unwavering dedication to excellence that inspired its inception.

Her profound dedication to ABA Connect’s mission and the well-being of the children and families they serve makes Kirsten Brooks an inspiring leader and a dynamic force in Applied Behavior Analysis. Under her guidance, ABA Connect shines as a beacon of hope for all those seeking exceptional care and unwavering support.

Shasta Brenske, MS, BCBA, Chief Clinical Officer

Shasta Brenske’s passion for improving the lives of students, patients, and families through applied behavior analysis (ABA) formed more than 20 years ago in Kalamazoo, MI, implementing early intervention ABA services with preschoolers at the Croyden Avenue School, one of the nation’s top ABA programs.

Since then, she’s taught, treated, and overseen treatment for thousands of individuals as a special education teacher, board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA), senior BCBA, leader of multidisciplinary patient care teams, and a state director of a national network of health and human services providers overseeing multiple patient care teams and facilities.

In 2017, Shasta drew from her deep collective ABA experience to found Bright Behavior, Inc., which serves children and their families ages 2-7 who’ve been diagnosed with Autism, Down syndrome, developmental delays and disabilities, and emotional behavior disorders.  Bright Behavior, Inc. has been a top provider of quality ABA services for the Colorado Springs area.

In August 2023, ABA Connect and Bright Behavior, Inc. formed a partnership, and Shasta accepted the role of Chief Clinical Officer for these sister companies.  With Shasta’s extensive clinical background, this is a natural fit for this new partnership to be successful.

Tim Plachta, Chief Operating Officer

Tim Plachta is a dedicated professional who joined ABA Connect in 2018 as a partner and is currently the Chief Operating Officer. His passion for the disability community has been the driving force behind his career journey. It all began in 2007 when Tim became a special education math teacher for middle school kids. Still, his commitment solidified when his second daughter was born with Down syndrome in 2010.

Since that pivotal moment, Tim has been actively involved in various ventures aimed at improving the lives of individuals with special needs. He founded or collaborated with several companies, including a financial planning practice that supported families with special needs children. Together with his wife, Liz, Tim co-founded a nonprofit organization, Ruby’s Rainbow, which has awarded over $1,000,000 in college scholarships to adults with Down syndrome.

Additionally, Tim served as the Presiding Officer of the Texas ABLE advisory committee for two years, contributing to developing and establishing ABLE accounts in Texas. Now, he focuses on propelling ABA Connect to become the leading provider of ABA services in Austin, creating a center where he would proudly bring his own children. Tim’s unwavering dedication to the special needs community and his business expertise have played a crucial role in the growth and success of ABA Connect.

Tyler Landis, Vice President of Finance

Tyler Landis brings a wealth of experience and a passion for building impactful organizations. Starting his career in consulting, he soon transitioned to working with startups and scaling business operations. Over the last six years, Tyler has worked in healthcare, driven by a desire to make a difference. In his role, Tyler oversees all aspects of finance, accounting, strategy, and taxes. Tyler thrives on the challenge of building and shaping the financial landscape of organizations. This quality drew him to ABA Connect, where he aims to make a lasting impact on the company’s future. His overarching vision involves continued growth, focusing on opening well-run, sustainable clinics that have long-lasting positive effects on the lives of children and families. Tyler is a Brown University alum. Outside work, he enjoys spending time with his wife and their rescue dog, Riggins, especially while watching football.

Lynn Cruz, Director of Business Operations

Lynn Cruz plays a crucial role in supporting the organization and its employees, focusing on internal customer service and facilitating the onboarding process for new talent. Lynn’s ABA journey began while volunteering with an equine therapy group, which sparked her interest in the field. She started as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) at ABA Connect and was later offered the opportunity to build out the HR function due to her unique background in HR.

In her role as Director of Business Operations, Lynn prioritizes open communication and creates an inclusive work environment that values work-life integration and personal growth. She believes in approaching tough conversations with curiosity and providing support for individual abilities. Lynn’s dedication to the positive employee experience and commitment to ABA Connect’s mission make her an invaluable asset to the organization.

Sarah Weisshaar,  M.Ed., BCBA, LBA, Director of Clinical Operations

Sarah Weisshaar supervises and empowers regional directors, clinic directors, and their board-certified behavior analysts (BCBAs) at ABA Connect. Her focus is on developing strong organizational leaders and ensuring excellent client care through ongoing training and support for the clinical team. Sarah’s career began in research, where she gained a foundational understanding of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and its potential to improve people’s lives. Specializing in Relational Frame Theory (RFT) and Peak Assessment, Sarah addresses rote responding in children with autism, helping them make meaningful associations between items in different contexts. She is dedicated to providing therapy for underserved populations, including socio-economically diverse groups and often overlooked age ranges. With extensive experience in clinical research and ABA, Sarah contributes her expertise to the ABA Connect team, committed to enhancing the lives of children with autism.

Amanda Dixon, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA, Director of Clinical Quality

Amanda Dixon, in her role at ABA Connect, ensures BCBA reporting meets insurance standards and maintains the company’s insurance contracts. If audited, she develops plans and processes to meet standards. As a certified ACE instructor, she provides ongoing training for BCBAs to fulfill licensure requirements.

Amanda’s passion for ABA sparked during an undergraduate practicum working with children with autism. She is dedicated to communication, employing sign language, the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), and speech to help clients break down barriers and connect with parents in new ways.

With nearly 20 years of experience in various roles, including behavior therapist and BCBA, Amanda finds fulfillment in giving back and making a difference in the lives of children and their families. She emphasizes understanding different perspectives to meet everyone’s needs, bridging the gap between insurance and therapist considerations.

Ben Craighead, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA, Director of Clinic Development

Ben Craighead, serves as the Director of Clinic Development at ABA Connect, steering the organization’s expansion by managing market selection, site development, data analytics, and marketing initiatives. Commencing his journey as a behavioral therapist in 2006, Ben brings over 18 years of expertise in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). His initial exposure to at-risk and underserved communities at CARD ignited a passion for ABA, leading him to attain BCBA certification, where he later became the Regional Manager of Expansion. Ben is committed to extending ABA services to underserved areas, addressing critical gaps for families in need, with a focus on ensuring accessible ABA care without uprooting families to major cities. His wealth of experience and dedication to empowering families positions Ben as an invaluable asset to ABA Connect. Guided by his visionary leadership, ABA Connect is dedicated to fostering inclusivity and expanding access to transformative ABA services. 

Taylor Russell, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA, Regional Director, Austin, Texas

Taylor Russell manages clinic directors, completes ADOS diagnostic assessments and provides staffing and case consultations at ABA Connect. His team develops customized treatment plans that prioritize individual goals and maximize growth opportunities in the areas that are most important to their clients.

Taylor’s passion for working with children on the autism spectrum was ignited during his time supporting teenagers in group homes. Witnessing the misunderstandings surrounding autism, he dedicated himself to providing deserving support to these individuals.

As a supervisor, Taylor emphasizes creating an inclusive and holistic environment for clinical team members, administrative staff and clients. ABA Connect stands out by prioritizing client and family well-being over quick behavioral changes, ensuring quality treatment and positive treatment experience.

Specializing in trauma-informed care, adolescent social skills development, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Taylor’s work is fulfilling when clients enjoy the treatment process while achieving personal goals, making friends, improving social interactions, and excelling academically. The gratitude expressed by older clients further reinforces the positive impact of therapy on their lives.

Cheryl Scuadroni, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA, Regional Director, Houston, Texas

Cheryl Scuadroni, Regional Director at ABA Connect, brings extensive experience in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and a passion for making a difference in the lives of children and families. She provides vital support to her clinical team, ensuring the success of each client.

In her role, Cheryl takes on diverse responsibilities. She offers personalized and empathetic initial consultations to caregivers, reviews behavior intervention plans (BIPs) to ensure alignment with ABA Connect’s philosophy, and focuses on underserved populations, including Medicaid recipients and Spanish-speaking communities.

Cheryl’s journey in ABA began as a single mother in New York, receiving a full scholarship for her psychology degree. Her experience in a rehabilitative program for adults with various diagnoses fueled her dedication to making a positive impact. She is particularly committed to serving overlooked individuals.

With expertise in operational behavioral management, trauma-informed care, mentorship, and training, Cheryl is a strong advocate for professional development within the ABA field. She actively supports Clinical Directors and aims to develop a comprehensive curriculum for ABA Connect’s supervisees.

Rosa Lujan Tarango, Client Care Coordinator

Rosa Lujan Tarango is a dedicated member of ABA Connect’s administrative team. With an educational background in psychology, Rosa joined the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) after interning at ABA Connect during her college practicum. In her current position as Client Care Coordinator, she efficiently navigates the onboarding process for new clients, ensuring families receive the necessary care without delays or confusion.

Rosa’s empathetic communication style and attention to detail set her apart. She takes the time to understand each family’s unique needs, offering support and reassurance throughout the intake process. Collaborating closely with the administrative team, Rosa ensures prompt responses to parents’ questions and concerns.

Her expertise and streamlined approach have contributed to the development of an organized system that allows her team to onboard multiple children simultaneously. With Rosa’s support, families feel empowered and at ease, knowing they are in capable hands.

The ABA Connect Core Leadership Team shares a passion for play-based ABA.

Together we help kids with autism make meaningful progress!