Founded in 2011, PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. encourages and enriches the lives of children by helping them achieve their fullest potential through our therapeutic services. We truly believe to make a significant influence on a child's development; we must provide care in a comfortable setting, as well as support and educate the parents and caregivers involved in the child's life. It is this same supportive attitude and thirst for learning that brings our team together to share, advise and learn from each other's professional and personal experiences. Read on to learn more about each team member's professional background, experience and personal story.
Amy Wechsler, MSW, LCSW, DT
Clinical Director and Founder
From an early age, Amy realized her passion for working with young children, both with and without developmental differences. She spent many summers as a counselor and teacher’s assistant at Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association and working in various pre-school and daycare settings.
Amy earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006. During her time at the University of Illinois, Amy gained clinical experience interning at the Champaign County Juvenile Detention Center conducting psycho-social groups for juvenile inmates. She also enjoyed volunteering at the Crisis Nursery.
After graduating, Amy continued her education at Loyola University Chicago where she studied social work and earned her Master of Social Work degree in 2008. During her time at Loyola, she interned as a hospital social worker in the neonatal intensive care unit at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County and as an outpatient therapist at Niles Family Services.
She began her career in Illinois Early Intervention following graduate school. Amy is a licensed clinical social worker and credentialed Early Intervention Specialist and Evaluator in both Developmental Therapy and Social Work. She specializes in treating children with neurodevelopmental disorders, anxiety disorders, sleep disturbances, and behavioral challenges. Amy uses her extensive knowledge of sensory processing and global development to guide her treatment style. Amy loves providing family support and teaching parents how to effectively support their child’s challenges.
In 2011, Amy proudly founded PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. It is her strong passion, creative energy, caring personality, and knowledgeable experience in the field that led to the creation of PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. Amy feels lucky to have parents who taught her the principles of hard work, entrepreneurship, respect, and standing up for what you believe in.
Amy loves mentoring therapists and is dedicated to ensuring all PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. clients receive the highest standard of services. Integrated into the core values of PlayWorks Therapy Inc., it is Amy’s mission to support a practice that provides intentional, high-quality care to children and families by therapists who are exceptionally passionate and knowledgeable about the work they do.
Amy lives with her husband and three children in the northern suburbs. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, biking, and discovering new restaurants.
Kimberly Shlaes, MAT, DT, CIMI
Director of Developmental Therapy Services
Director of Therapeutic Preschool Programing
Kim taught Pre-K for multiple Head Start programs around the city. It was during her tenure as a teacher that she learned about developmental therapy and recognized her passion for working one-on-one with children with developmental delays. She has experience working with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing concerns, a variety of genetic disorders, and global developmental delays. Kim loves developing a therapeutic relationship with the whole family and encouraging parents and caregivers to get involved in therapy sessions. Kim is a credentialed developmental therapist and evaluator with the Illinois Early Intervention program, and a certified infant massage instructor. As the Director of Developmental Therapy Services, Kim enjoys mentoring developmental therapists and providing collaborative support to the teams at PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. She is also proud to support the co-leaders of PlayWorks Prep and other social groups as the Director of Therapeutic Preschool Programing.
In her spare time, Kim enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter, trying out new restaurants, exploring the city, listening to live music, and traveling.
Brittany Hill, MS, MSW, LCSW, DT
Director of Social Work Services
Brittany is a developmental therapist and licensed clinical social worker who enjoys helping children meet their individual needs while also supporting caregivers and families. Brittany earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She attended graduate school at Loyola University Chicago and Erikson Institute, earning her Master of Social Work and Master of Science in Child Development. Brittany’s experiences include working with children with generalized anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, autism spectrum disorder, regulation difficulties, sensory processing disorders, and global developmental delays. Brittany also specializes in potty training and supporting children with toileting difficulties. She has a passion for developing meaningful relationships and strengthening the parent-child relationship. Brittany enjoys the collaborative and supportive nature of the PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. team. She loves helping children reach their fullest potential while celebrating each success along the way.
Outside of work, Brittany enjoys listening to music, playing volleyball, visiting with family, and snuggling up with her two cats.
Kelsey Lanham, MA, DT
Therapeutic Preschool Teacher
Kelsey is a therapeutic preschool teacher who is passionate about working with young children and their families. Kelsey is dedicated to helping every child reach their fullest potential!
Kelsey earned her Bachelors of Social Work from Indiana University in 2016. During her time at Indiana University, Kelsey gained experience working with children while interning at the Youth Services Bureau. After graduating, Kelsey’s first full-time job was as a Service Coordinator with Indiana’s early intervention program, First Steps. It was during her time with First Steps she became passionate about early intervention and the important work this program does to support young children with developmental delays and disabilities.
Kelsey decided she wanted a more hands-on role working with children and joined a transition to teaching program. She worked as a Special Education Teacher with Indianapolis Public Schools while earning her Masters in Special Education at Marian University. In 2021, Kelsey decided to combine her loves of early intervention and teaching and joined the PlayWorks Therapy team in Chicago.
Outside of work, Kelsey enjoys traveling, hiking, cooking, reading, and spending time with her friends and family (including her two nieces)!
Reenie Luze, MS, DT
Before joining PlayWorks as a developmental therapist in 2021, Reenie taught in a variety of early childhood and primary education settings for seven years and received bachelors and master’s degrees, each with a focus on early childhood and early childhood special education. Reenie received her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and Early Childhood Education from the University of Northern Iowa in 2011. It was the meaningful relationships, experiences in her classroom, and the important development that she was able to witness and scaffold when working with young children in the early childhood classroom that motivated Reenie to go back to graduate school. She received a Master of Science in Early Childhood Education with a concentration in Early Childhood Special Education from Erikson Institute in 2021. She also holds a Type 04 Illinois Professional Educator License in Early Childhood Education. Through a valuable combination of prior teaching experience and her education at Erikson, Reenie learned to truly understand and value the significant development that occurs during the early childhood years. She also learned to recognize the crucial roles that professionals and families contribute to a child's overall growth and development and the positive effect that these relationships have on a child's future. While Reenie enjoyed her years as a classroom teacher, she had the desire to seek out a more intimate environment where she could work closely with children to help them learn and develop valuable skills and strategies in one-on-one and small group settings. Her professional journey led her to the very talented team of professionals at PlayWorks Therapy, Inc.
Reenie is thrilled to be a part of a program that consistently promotes and implements treatments and therapies through a play-based approach to assist all children in reaching their fullest potential. She believes that teaching children through play-based techniques and strategies is developmentally appropriate and that play creates a non-threatening and intrinsically motivating environment where children can comfortably interact with others to learn and practice new skills. Reenie also understands the significant role that families and caregivers play in their child's development, as she believes that they are the true experts when it comes to knowing and understanding their child. She looks forward to collaborating with these individuals as she gets to know each child that she has the opportunity to work with.
In her free time, Reenie enjoys playing golf and going on bike rides with her husband, getting involved in intramural sports around Chicago, going to Cubs baseball games, gardening, and going on hikes with her two labs, Decker and Murphy!
Rachel Weiser, MS, DT
PlayWorks Prep Curriculum Coordinator
Rachel is a developmental therapist who enjoys working with children and their families to create positive therapeutic relationships. Rachel earned her Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Families Studies with a concentration in Early Childhood Special Education from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. Rachel received her Master of Science in Early Childhood Education from Erikson Institute. Prior to her career at PlayWorks Therapy, Inc., Rachel taught in a variety of settings for six years. It was through her experiences teaching in Head Start and in daycare settings that Rachel first learned about developmental therapy. While at Erikson Institute, Rachel interned at the Pediatric Developmental Center where she provided support for the Early Intervention Socialization Group as well as home-based therapy. Rachel prides herself in her ability to take a global perspective when working with children and to always make therapy fun! Rachel enjoys her role as a co-leader in PlayWorks Prep, a therapeutic preschool program, where she has the amazing opportunity to support a variety of children and collaborate with co-leaders across disciplines.
Outside of work, Rachel enjoys practicing yoga, traveling, and exploring new events around Chicago.
Melissa Svec, MSW, LSW
Melissa is a licensed social worker who is passionate about establishing solid therapeutic foundations that both children and families can prosper and grow on. Melissa is a Chicagoan born and raised who traveled to the wonderful cornfields of Iowa for both undergrad and graduate school where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Master of Social Work from Saint Ambrose University.
Some of Melissa’s experiences include working with kids and families affected by a cancer diagnosis and utilizing trauma-informed care while working with children. Melissa believes every child and family is the expert of their own situation and as the social worker she is there to shed light on and enhance already existing strengths and gifts within each individual. As a therapeutic professional, Melissa loves interdisciplinary work and thinks there is so much to learn from other professionals who share a common goal of helping children and families. She is excited about the range of care provided at PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. and cannot wait to grow as a clinician alongside such passionate and driven individuals.
In her free time, Melissa loves traveling to new places with friends, watching The Office, listening to true-crime podcasts and spending time with her incredible family.
Elizabeth Gilbert, MSW, LSW
Elizabeth is a licensed social worker with a passion for working with children and their families to promote positive growth and development, social-emotional wellness, and mental health.
Elizabeth earned her Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Kansas with a minor in behavioral science. Elizabeth worked as a preschool aide for four years during her time at the University of Kansas, and through this experience Elizabeth developed a passion for working with children while promoting emotional regulation, self-esteem, and coping skills in the classroom.
Elizabeth moved from Kansas City to Chicago to pursue her Master of Social Work from The University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. During her graduate career Elizabeth gained clinical experience providing school-based therapeutic services to elementary aged students. Elizabeth gained experience and developed skills in trauma-focused therapy, play therapy, mindfulness, and social-emotional learning curricula. She has also provided comprehensives services and support for children and their caregivers involved in the foster care system, including individual and group therapy, caregiver support, psycho-education and advocacy. Elizabeth is also pursuing certification as a trauma-informed children’s yoga teacher.
Elizabeth believes in empowering children and families in developing common goals and providing support and strategies for promoting positive development and growth. She practices with a special focus on building relationships, creating routines, and promoting positive self-concept through a strengths-based and family-centered approach. Elizabeth loves incorporating play, mindfulness, yoga, movement, and art into therapeutic interventions.
Elizabeth enjoys running, reading, and baking for her family and friends. In her spare time, you can find Elizabeth exploring new coffee shops and restaurants through-out the city of Chicago!
Silvia Castillo, MSW
Silvia is a social worker with a passion for helping children and families overcome difficulties and creating meaningful connections. Silvia earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Loyola University of Chicago. Silvia attended graduate school at Erikson Institute where she earned her Master of Social Work. Silvia has experience working with children with developmental differences as well as children who were experiencing physical illnesses.
Silvia feels passionate about providing on-going counseling services and support to children and their families. Silvia values the collaborative environment at PlayWorks Therapy, Inc., specifically collaborating with wonderful professionals from different disciplines. She also values providing developmentally appropriate interventions to children as well as psychosocial education and parenting/family support. Silvia has a passion for supporting children’s socio-emotional development and self-regulation skills. She also has a passion for helping children strengthen their relationships with others, including the parent-child relationship. Silvia enjoys using play therapy interventions within her work with children and families.
Outside of work, Silvia enjoys spending time with loved one’s, traveling to new places, trying new restaurants, trying different exercises, watching romantic-comedies and reading non-fiction books. Silvia also enjoys traveling back to the Dominican Republic to visit her family (including her two nieces who she loves to play with)!
Clare Thoele, MSW
Clare is a social worker who is dedicated to helping kids and their families build resilience and grow together to reach their full potential. Clare grew up in the Roscoe Village neighborhood in Chicago and is happy to be back in the area at PlayWorks! Clare graduated from Scripps College in California with a major in media studies and a minor in theater. She has studied and performed improv at Second City, iO and The Annoyance in Chicago following graduation. While pursuing theater, Clare worked as a nanny and a daycare aide and is excited to use her childcare skills in her work as a pediatric social worker. Clare received her Master’s of Social Work from DePaul University in Chicago and is looking forward to employing her community practice focus at PlayWorks to empower kids and their families/caretakers.
Clare has a particular interest in helping children and their families work together to heal and build resilience when tackling behavior, emotions, regulation, and medical difficulties. Believing that a mental or physical health diagnosis is an opportunity for a family to grow and support one another, Clare utilizes a strengths-based, trauma-informed approach to her work with children. Clare loves to incorporate acting and play into her work and is excited to use these techniques to help build confidence, mastery, and strength in the kids and families she works with.
When not working, Clare loves going for long walks along the lakefront while listening to history podcasts. At home, you can find her hanging out with her two one-eyed cats, chatting with her friends and family, and tending to her extensive houseplant collection.
Autumn Smith, MS, CCC-SLP
Director of Speech and Language Services
Autumn is a speech-language pathologist who enjoys creating meaningful relationships with her clients and families throughout the therapeutic process. Autumn earned her Bachelor of Science in Communicative Disorders from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Upon graduation, she moved to Chicago to complete her clinical fellowship year with PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. and has enjoyed working with the dedicated team of therapists here ever since! Autumn has comprehensive experience working in the pediatric setting, including supporting children with speech and language delays and disorders, motor planning disorders, and feeding/oral motor concerns. She has a passion for supporting clients with childhood apraxia of speech to help them grow into successful, independent communicators. Autumn’s favorite part about working with the PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. team is the collaborative and inclusive environment that she gets to be a part of on a daily basis. As the Director of Speech and Language Services, Autumn enjoys providing clinical supervision to each member of the speech and language team and supporting a collaborative environment for group learning.
Autumn is trained in the PROMPT technique, Prompts for Restructuring Oral Muscular Phonetic Targets, which is a multidimensional approach to teaching the specific motor movements needed to produce accurate speech sound targets. This approach has been proven to be widely successful for children with motor planning disorders, such as childhood apraxia of speech. She has also completed the Kaufman Speech to Language Protocol training and uses the Kaufman approach for children across the age span.
Autumn is trained in the Sequential Oral Sensory (SOS) Approach to Feeding and uses the program's four basic tenets to guide her sensory feeding therapy sessions. SOS is a transdisciplinary program that specializes in assessing and treating children with feeding difficulties/refusals, including children with sensory aversions, limited or restricted diets, and children who struggle to transition between feeding milestones. Additionally, Autumn has completed training for the Beckman Oral Motor Protocol and uses the assessment and intervention strategies from this protocol to create a client-specific oral motor exercise program to support feeding success.
In her spare time, Autumn enjoys reading a variety of fiction novels, hiking the trails at nearby state parks, and visiting her family back in Wisconsin (especially her nephews!).
Sarah Lydon, MA, CCC-SLP
SLP Student Education Coordinator
Social Media Coordinator
Sarah received her bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Central Michigan University and her master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology from Kent State University. After graduating, Sarah spent three years working as a public-school speech-language pathologist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In addition to her full-time school job, she spent many weekends working at both a rehabilitation hospital and a skilled nursing facility. Prior to working at PlayWorks Therapy, Inc., Sarah and her husband moved to Denver, Colorado, where she was employed at a private therapy clinic focusing on speech, language, and feeding therapy. It was at this clinic that Sarah began to further develop her passion for working with children with feeding difficulties and childhood apraxia of speech, among other speech and language impairments. Thanks to the variety of settings Sarah has worked in, she has gained experience with a wide variety of speech and language needs, including articulation and phonology, fluency, motor planning disorders, craniofacial abnormalities, developmental disorders, genetic syndromes, and alternative augmentative communication (AAC). Sarah is the Social Media Coordinator for PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. As the Social Media Coordinator, Sarah enjoys curating relevant and easily accessible content for our community, including parents, clinicians, and students alike.
Sarah is trained in the Sequential Oral Sensory (SOS) Approach to Feeding and uses the program's four basic tenets to guide her sensory feeding therapy sessions. SOS is a transdisciplinary program that specializes in assessing and treating children with feeding difficulties/refusals, including children with sensory aversions, limited or restricted diets, and children who struggle to transition between feeding milestones. Additionally, Sarah has taken courses covering neonatal feeding and swallowing, oral motor development related to feeding and swallowing, and introduction of new foods to children with limited food repertoires. Sarah is also trained in the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), which helps children who are minimally verbal or non-verbal communicate their wants and needs. She uses this technique to teach both parents and children how to facilitate effective communication skills across many environments.
In her free time, Sarah enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter. You can frequently find her chasing her daughter around the local park or taking walks on a nature path. Additionally, Sarah loves traveling back to Michigan to visit her family!
Ana Burgoon, MS, CCC-SLP
Assistive Technology Coordinator
Ana came to PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. from Michigan, where she earned both her Bachelor of Science in Allied Health Science with an emphasis in Speech-Language Pathology and her Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology from Grand Valley State University. During her graduate program, Ana enjoyed supporting elementary-age children in both general and special education classrooms as they worked towards their speech and language goals. Ana completed her graduate level externship at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, where she had the opportunity to work with children with varied needs in the areas of aural rehabilitation, expressive and receptive language, pragmatics, phonology, and more. Ana then began her clinical fellowship at PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. and has been with us since! As an Assistive Technology (AT) Coordinator at PlayWorks Therapy, Inc., Ana enjoys conducting research on available AT options as well as pathways for obtaining these options. She also enjoys working collaboratively with team members across disciplines to ensure that each child has access to these tools as needed. Ana also enjoys her role as a co-leader in the PlayWorks Prep therapeutic preschool program. Being a speech-language pathologist allows Ana to combine her love of science with her love of language and learning. She enjoys shaping therapy sessions into highly motivating and communication-rich experiences for children. Ana also values working with parents and feels privileged to have a career that is rewarding, ever changing and fun!
Ana is trained in the Sequential Oral Sensory (SOS) Approach to Feeding and uses the program's four basic tenets to guide her sensory feeding therapy sessions. SOS is a transdisciplinary program that specializes in assessing and treating children with feeding difficulties/refusals, including children with sensory aversions, limited or restricted diets, and children who need support transitioning between feeding milestones.
Ana and her husband enjoy long walks, watching classic films, and spending time with their friends and family (including their two nephews)!
Kelsey Martin, MS, CCC-SLP
Lead PlayWorks Prep Speech-Language Pathologist
Health and Wellness Coordinator
Kelsey is a speech-language pathologist who is passionate about fostering meaningful relationships with her clients and their families in order to create an environment that promotes development. Kelsey received her Bachelor of Arts from Indiana University and her Master of Science in Speech, Language, and Learning from Northwestern University. Following graduation, Kelsey completed her clinical fellowship year with PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. and has enjoyed working with the amazing team since then! Kelsey has experience working with a wide variety of pediatric clients, including those with language delays and disorders, phonological and articulation disorders, autism spectrum disorder, feeding disorders, and oral motor difficulties. Additionally, Kelsey is involved in PlayWorks Prep, a therapeutic preschool program, where she has the amazing opportunity to support a variety of children in a curriculum-based classroom setting. As the Health and Wellness Coordinator at PlayWorks Therapy, Inc., Kelsey enjoys sharing her passion for living a healthy lifestyle with the team by providing ideas and recommendations for self-care and well-being.
Kelsey is trained in the Sequential Oral Sensory (SOS) Approach to Feeding and uses the program's four basic tenets to guide her sensory feeding therapy sessions. SOS is a transdisciplinary program that specializes in assessing and treating children with feeding difficulties/refusals, including children with sensory aversions, limited or restricted diets, and children who struggle to transition between feeding milestones.
Having grown up in the Chicagoland area, Kelsey is an avid Chicago sports fan who can often be found cheering on her favorite teams, specifically the Cubs. Kelsey also enjoys spending her free time singing along to her favorite music, attending Broadway shows or concerts, checking Chicago’s many restaurants off her list, or taking a quick trip to the suburbs to see her family and their golden retriever, Riley.
Jackie Donahue, MS, CCC-SLP
Food Explorers Program Coordinator
Jackie is a speech-language pathologist who enjoys building relationships with families and children in order to help them achieve developmental milestones and communicate effectively at home and in the community. Jackie earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communication, Sciences, and Disorders from the University of Iowa and her Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology from St. Ambrose University. Upon graduation, she moved back to Chicago to be near her family and begin her clinical fellowship at a pediatric clinic in the Chicagoland area. Jackie has several years of experience working with families to support their child’s speech and language skills as well as feeding and oral motor development.
Jackie is trained in the Sequential Oral Sensory (SOS) Approach to Feeding and uses the program's four basic tenets to guide her sensory feeding therapy sessions. SOS is a transdisciplinary program that specializes in assessing and treating children with feeding difficulties/refusals, including children with sensory aversions, limited or restricted diets, and children who need support transitioning between feeding milestones. Jackie is also trained in the Beckman Oral Motor Protocol. She has taken additional coursework, such as Joan Arvedson's course, Solving Complex Pediatric Feeding and Swallowing Problems, to better support families with feeding concerns such as failure to thrive, limited diets due to oral-sensorimotor or oral motor difficulties, and other feeding transitions. She is passionate about using a multi-disciplinary approach to improve feeding skills and make mealtime an enjoyable experience for both children and families! Jackie is also trained in the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), which is a type of assistive communication used to support children who are minimally verbal. She works with both the child and parents to teach PECS and encourage effective communication skills across many environments.
After work, Jackie enjoys trying new restaurants around the city - especially those with patios that her dog Wilson can enjoy, too! When not in Chicago, she and her husband enjoy traveling to different countries to try new foods and meet new people.
Emma Baime, MS, CCC-SLP
Emma is a speech-language pathologist who is passionate about supporting her clients’ communication by building strong relationships with them and their families. Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she completed both her Bachelor of Science in Human Communication Sciences and her Master of Science in Speech, Language, and Learning at Northwestern University. Emma has provided pediatric services in the areas of speech, language, fluency, social communication, literacy, and learning disabilities.
Emma is delighted to return to PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. after completing a clinical practicum here during her graduate program. Through the Northwestern University Center for Audiology, Speech, Language, and Learning (NUCASLL), she also completed clinical rotations focusing on autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia and learning disabilities, and fluency disorders. Additionally, she has worked in Chicago Public Schools where she gained experience providing teletherapy services to a wide variety of pediatric clients. Emma is dedicated to getting to know her clients and their families so she can help children meet their unique communication needs.
During her free time, you can find Emma playing board games with friends and family, doing Pilates, singing along to showtunes, or attempting to cook new dishes.
Nicole Sherlock, MA, CCC-SLP
Assistive Technology Coordinator
Nicole is a speech-language pathologist who strives to empower children and their families throughout the entire therapy journey! She earned her Bachelor of Science in Speech and Hearing Sciences from Indiana University and her Master of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology at Ohio State University. While living in Ohio, Nicole completed clinical work in a variety of pediatric settings, including outpatient clinics, preschools, elementary schools, an early childhood center for children with developmental disabilities, Ohio's Early Intervention program, and the Craniofacial/Cleft Lip and Palate Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Through these experiences, she learned that best outcomes are achieved when therapy is focused on a child’s strengths and preferred learning styles.
As a new Chicagoan, Nicole is beyond thrilled to be a member of the PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. family! She embraces the collaborative aspect of the organization, particularly the emphasis on building meaningful relationships with children, caregivers, and team members. She has a wide range of clinical interests, including early childhood language delays, articulation and phonological disorders, social communication disorders, oral motor/feeding impairments, childhood apraxia of speech, and hearing loss. Further, she is well-versed in many low-tech and high-tech Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems, which are tools and techniques that help people share ideas and feelings without verbalizing. Nicole also participated in Teaching PLAY, a program that coaches professionals on how to help students with autism spectrum disorder increase engagement and interaction in school.
In her free time, Nicole enjoys traveling, listening to audiobooks, trying new restaurants, and playing the piano and ukulele. She feels most vibrant when outdoors, particularly when snowboarding, hiking, or walking on the Lakefront Trail. Her favorite activity, however, is spending time with friends, family, and their furry companions.
Mary Long, MS, CF-SLP
Mary is a speech-language pathologist who is passionate about building meaningful relationships with her clients and their loved ones to create a collaborative and developmentally supportive environment. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Speech and Hearing Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology from Elmhurst University.
Mary is thrilled to return to the PlayWorks Therapy Inc. team after completing a clinical practicum here during her graduate program. She has experience in both the clinic and school setting treating a wide variety of pediatric clients, including those with speech and language delays and disorders, feeding difficulties, motor planning difficulties, autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, and other genetic syndromes. Mary enjoys being a part of a collaborative and passionate team of professionals working to make a positive impact on a child’s life.
In her free time, you can find Mary playing volleyball, listening to music and attending concerts, or spending time with her family and friends!
Jennifer Brown, MS, OTR/L
Director of Occupational Therapy Services
OT Student Coordinator
Jen is an occupational therapist with a passion for addressing the whole child and family experience through collaborative therapeutic intervention. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in Child Development from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Jen taught preschool and kindergarten for three years; during this time, she realized her interest in working one-on-one with children with developmental differences. She earned her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from Temple University in Philadelphia.
In 2017, Jen spent several weeks in Kijabe, Kenya, working as a pediatric occupational therapist with a local team at AIC Kijabe Hospital. She traveled with the team to a variety of clinics located in the bush (country) to provide developmental screenings and education to caregivers. While in Kenya, she worked extensively with children with spina bifida, hydrocephalus, and cerebral palsy. Jen especially enjoys working with infants on their motor development as well as addressing sensory and regulatory concerns and the caregiver-child relationship. As the Director of Occupational Therapy, Jen enjoys mentoring new clinicians and collaborating through a multidisciplinary approach to treatment.
Jen is certified in Therapeutic Listening, a sound-based intervention that is embedded in developmental and sensory integration. She is also certified in the Beckman Oral-Motor Protocol for oral motor skills for feeding. Jen has extensive experience using a variety of sensory-based curriculums, such as the Astronaut Training approach, and regulation-based curriculums, such as Superflex. As a former teacher, Jen has a multitude of experience with school-related OT concerns, such as executive functioning, grasp, fine motor delays, and cognitive deficits.
In her spare time, Jen enjoys cooking, reading a good book, exploring the city's farmers’ markets, and spending time with her nephews.
Natalie Machado, MS, OTR/L
Assistive Technology Coordinator
Natalie is an occupational therapist who is passionate about forming positive connections with children and their families. Natalie earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Dance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to attending occupational therapy school, Natalie spent several years dancing for companies and teaching dance to children ages 2 to 18. It was during these years that she realized her passion for working with young children and decided to become an occupational therapist to help children reach their full potential. Natalie earned her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Throughout her time in graduate school, Natalie used her knowledge of movement to enhance her work, completing rotations in Early Intervention, pediatric clinics, and acute care settings. Natalie particularly enjoys treating kids with sensory processing and motor planning concerns. Natalie loves combining her creativity, knowledge of movement, and love for working with children into a single career! As the Assistive Technology (AT) Coordinator, Natalie enjoys making sure that children have access to the tools and devices that they need to succeed. She loves helping children find the right technology or product that increases progress towards their developmental goals!
Originally from the suburbs, Natalie was thrilled to return to Chicago after spending nine years in Wisconsin. During her free time, you can find Natalie exploring the city, dancing, or taking as many yoga classes as possible. She also enjoys spending time with her husband, cheering on the Wisconsin Badgers, and spoiling her golden retriever, Dahlia.
Caroline Stevens, MS, OTR/L
Therapy Resource Coordinator
Caroline is an occupational therapist who is passionate about working with children and their families to support growth and development in their everyday life. Caroline received her Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a concentration in Child and Adolescent Development. While volunteering with various community organizations to provide adaptive sports and therapeutic group programming, Caroline realized that she was interested in working with children with disabilities in one-on-one and small group settings. Caroline completed a year-long fellowship focused on interdisciplinary care for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities while earning her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Caroline enjoys working with children of all ages, especially with children who are learning to regulate their sensory habits in order to play, learn, and grow alongside their family and peers. Caroline has experience working with children with medical complexity and neurodevelopmental disabilities through previous work and volunteer experiences. As the Therapy Resource Coordinator at PlayWorks Therapy, Inc., Caroline enjoys making sure that our therapy materials, books, and games are accessible for therapists for use to facilitate the growth of children's skills and provide support for families.
When not at work, Caroline enjoys practicing yoga, cooking, and riding bikes along the lake!
Urooba Khaleelullah, MOT, OTR/L
Urooba is an occupational therapist who is passionate about working with families in creative ways to help children as they move through the challenges of childhood. Urooba is a born-and-raised Chicagoan who earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Loyola University Chicago. Urooba’s drive for working in pediatrics one-on-one with children was sparked during her time volunteering in various pediatric clinics and working for an after-school program with the elementary population. She went on to receive her Master of Occupational Therapy at Carroll University in Wisconsin. She has a strong interest in human development, particularly the areas of fine motor coordination, attention regulation and sensory integration, and is continuously amazed by the learning capacities one carries. Urooba has gained experience through various clinical rotations in pediatric outpatient as well as Early Intervention. She is enjoys expanding her expertise through the collaborative approach with both fellow disciplines and with families at PlayWorks Therapy, Inc.
Outside of work, Urooba enjoys spending time with family and friends, exploring new brunch restaurants, watching The Office, and taking advantage of all of the events Chicago has to offer.
Julie Kappas, MOT, OTR/L
Julie is an occupational therapist who loves working alongside children and their families to create innovative treatment ideas to support their participation in activities they find most meaningful. Julie grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis and moved to Chicago two years ago. She earned her Bachelor of Occupational Therapy and Masters of Occupational Therapy at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri.
Julie became passionate about working with children in high school when she was a camp counselor and summer nanny. She feels incredibly lucky to be a part of such a rewarding career that strives to support children in reaching their fullest potential. Julie has experience working with a variety of pediatric clients, including those with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, sensory processing disorders, attentional concerns, motor planning/imitation difficulties, fine motor delays, and executive functioning difficulties in the school and Early Intervention settings.
In her spare time, Julie loves practicing yoga, biking along the lakefront, spending time with her friends and family, watching movies, and exploring everything Chicago has to offer!
Cristina Brown, MOT, OTR/L
Cristina is an occupational therapist who strives to provide the best quality of care in the most fun environment for her clients. Originally from Indiana, Cristina graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health. She realized her passion for working with young children while working in the elementary school system and pursued a Master of Occupational Therapy degree from Governors State University.
During her time in graduate school, Cristina completed clinical rotations in Early Intervention and outpatient pediatrics. She has experience in the areas of autism, ADHD, Down syndrome, sensory processing disorder, and developmental delay. Cristina’s favorite part of being an occupational therapist is watching kids grow and build the skills they need to participate in meaningful activities.
When not in the clinic, you can find Cristina making homemade pasta, exploring new restaurants, and taking her pup, Bodhi, to the dog park.
Amy Sauers, PT, DPT, c/NDT
Director of Physical Therapy Services
PT Student Coordinator
Amy is a physical therapist who is passionate about using fun and creative ways to help children get stronger and improve their motor skills to better play and move in the world. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from Wheaton College and then her doctorate in Physical Therapy at the University of Central Florida. After graduating, Amy began her career working with children with a variety of diagnoses and adults with neurological impairments. In just a few years, she realized her passion was working solely with children. Over the past several years, Amy has worked with children of all ages and skill levels with a wide variety of diagnoses including: hypotonia, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, torticollis, Down syndrome, developmental coordination disorder, toe walking, autism spectrum disorder, seizure disorders and a wide array of genetic conditions, medical complexities, and neurological impairments. Amy loves using her creativity and knowledge to cater each session to the individual child, while collaborating with the other disciplines to help each child reach their own goals and achieve milestones.
Amy is also certified in neurodevelopmental treatment which has enhanced her ability to provide therapeutic handling in treating children with neurological impairments. She also has extensive experience in adaptive equipment evaluation, orthotics recommendations, and kinesiotaping. Amy enjoys collaborating with the amazing team at PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. and integrating physical therapy support to better help address the needs of the children that walk through our doors.
After moving back to the Midwest following several years spent in both Florida and Colorado, Amy is enjoying exploring the city, spending time with family, running, biking, and playing with her husband and toddler.
Sarah D'Astice, PT, DPT
Sarah is a physical therapist and is so excited to be joining the PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. team. She grew up in a suburb of Chicago and is delighted to be back in the area after completing her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology and her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Sarah was inspired to become a physical therapist by her mom, who is also a PT. Sarah always had a passion for working with children. During physical therapy school, Sarah was lucky enough to have many experiences working and volunteering with children, including a rotation in inpatient therapy at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Sarah enjoys collaborating with others to promote positive outcomes and growth for both patients and therapists. She is looking forward to putting the “fun” in functional when she sees a wide variety of patient ages and diagnoses at PlayWorks!
Outside of work, Sarah enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling, working out, baking, and exploring new places in the city. She also loves playing with her parent’s dog, Sophie and her sister’s dog, Effy.
Born and raised in Chicago, Kyle could not be prouder to be part of the PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. family. As the Administrative Director and Intake Coordinator, Kyle enjoys introducing new families to our services and welcoming them onboard. Getting to learn about the progress a child is making along the way, from the family’s first phone call to their graduation of therapy, he is always thrilled to know that the PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. team has made a difference in a child’s life.
Insurance and Billing Specialist
Aimee has always been passionate about all things pediatric! She attended Medical Billing school in 2010 and has been in pediatric medical and therapy billing ever since. She even took some time getting certified as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) and working with kids with autism doing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy.
Aimee lived in Phoenix, Arizona most of her life, but has always loved the snow and changing seasons. With that being said, she decided to make the move to Chicago in 2018 with her little chihuahua mix, Maxene, to start a new adventure. She loves photography, and always has her camera in her hand.
Aimee loves to take on new challenges and help clients with whatever they may need, making their lives as easy as possible. She is excited to grow with PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. and is glad to be a part of the family!
Intake and Marketing Coordinator
Sara is thrilled to be at PlayWorks Therapy, Inc., a new industry to add to her already diverse resume. Her background in theatre has proven to be a great resource for interacting with a variety of different people and situations over the years, including with an e-commerce retail company, as a project coordinator with a quality assurance company, and in the pharmacology industry.
She is the mom of a wonderful pre-teen son, who keeps her on her toes, and a house full of furry pets. She is looking forward to welcoming foster kids to the family soon! Outside of work, you can find Sara reading a book, playing Mario Cart with her son, or trying to convince her pets to snuggle with her.
Susan earned her bachelor’s degree in Art History from the University of Michigan and her Master of Arts in Teaching from Loyola University Chicago. After teaching kindergarten and gifted children, the devoted mom took time off to raise her own three children.
Susan's focused, dedicated and thoughtful personality leads her to take on many roles. She gained business and administrative experience as the secretary and treasurer of RDR Productions, a 30-year-old corporate video production company based in Northbrook, Illinois, owned by her husband David. In addition to maintaining her duties at RDR Productions, she has been an ACE (American Council on Exercise) certified personal trainer and has run her own business, To Life Fitness, for the past 10 years. Susan, or as her husband has nicknamed her ‘Buff,' uses her sweet and encouraging ways, along with intense workouts such as interval training, to whip her clients into shape.
Her prior experience working in small business settings is critical to the success of PlayWorks Therapy, Inc., where Susan is responsible for administration and client billing. She finds joy in working closely with her daughter, Amy, and is thrilled to play an essential role in the continued growth of PlayWorks Therapy Inc.
Susan does not see herself slowing down anytime soon and plans to continue supporting all of the family businesses, and of course spending as much time as possible with her grandchildren. One thing is for sure though – her morning coffee is a must!
When the Detroit native finally takes a break from being the busy bee she is, you can find Susan cooking, gardening, reading, watching movies, or trying out the latest new gourmet restaurants in town.