Michele Parkins, Occupational Therapist, Founder & Director
Michele Parkins MS, OTR is an Occupational Therapist specializing in working with children and families with Sensory Processing and Integration Disorder and challenges in social emotional development.
Michele is a fellow of Dr. Lucy Jane Miller, OTR and faculty of Sensory Treatment and Research Institute. She educates therapists from all over the country and world on treatment for sensory processing disorder. She is also SIPT (Sensory Integration and Praxis Test) certified.
Michele advocates for all children and families impacted by sensory processing differences to help them and others to understand the impact of these challenges on social emotional functioning and mental health. She believes that challenges in sensory processing always lead to challenges in emotional regulation, developing and maintaining relationships, social skills and overall mental health. She has embarked on a journey to learn more to support children and families by engaging in Advanced Certification in Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health at Montclair State University. She is certified in the Developmental Individual Differences Relation-based model (DIR) and is faculty of Profectum Foundation where she educates therapists all over the world on social-emotional development and the DIR model.
Michele has co-authored a chapter in the 3rd edition of Sensory Integration: Theory and Practice, the textbook for sensory evaluation and treatment, alongside world renowned pioneers in the field – Lucy Jane Miller, PhD OTR and Sarah Schoen, PhD OTR. She is currently co-authoring a chapter on the use of Developmental Individual Differences Relationship-based intervention (DIR) in Sensory Integration Therapy and working on articles for submission for publication on the relationship between sensation and emotion and the intentional use of play to treat both areas simultaneously supporting infant and early childhood mental health and development.
As Senior Faculty of the Sensory Therapies and Treatment Institute, she is a key opinion leader in assessment, treatment and education related to Sensory Processing and Integration development and disorders. Michele teaches and assists in the design of the certification courses in SPD/SI, educating therapists worldwide. She is assisting with the standardization and development of the latest assessment for Sensory Processing Disorder – soon to become the gold standard for identification of SPD and supporting research.
Michele is a clinical consultant for Flaghouse – a leader in providing sensory therapy equipment – where she assists in the design and development of the equipment and toys used for sensory-based therapy.
Michele Parkins is passionate about working with families and other therapists and she continues to do so as a clinician and educator. She continues to provide consultation to schools as she has done for over 10 years. Michele is also a mother of two children with sensory processing differences. She uses her real life experiences to help her clients better understand the impact of SPD on family dynamics and relationships and the day to day demands of life with sensory processing differences.
Elizabeth Rice, Occupational Therapist
Elizabeth Rice is an occupational therapist at Great Kids Place. She is a specialist in Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and social-emotional development. Liz has advanced training and certification from the Sensory Treatment And Research (STAR) Institute, developed by Dr. Lucy Jane Miller, OTR. She is DIR/Floortime certified in social-emotional development through the Profectum Foundation. Liz is Interactive Metronome certified and trained in the use of Listening Programs including the Safe and Sound Protocol. She is also trained in NDT (Neurodevelopmental Treatment) using guided or facilitated movements as a treatment strategy to ensure efficient motor control and correlation of input from the tactile, vestibular and somatosensory receptors within the body.
Liz has experience working in the New Jersey public school system with students living with developmental delays, behavioral challenges, physical disabilities, and autism spectrum disorder. She designed a sensory and occupational therapy treatment room for a school district. Liz also has experience working with adult orthopedic and neurological rehabilitation populations at the Kessler Institute of Rehabilitation and JDT Medical Rehabilitation Center. Prior to becoming an occupational therapist, Liz worked with children on the autism spectrum as a special education teacher’s assistant in the DIR/Floortime based inclusion preschool at the Ben Samuels Children’s Center at Montclair State University.
She is a graduate of Kean University where she earned a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy and graduated with honors. Liz obtained her Bachelor of Music from The Hartt School at the University of Hartford where she majored in vocal performance and has a strong background in theater and opera. Her time spent as a performer contributes to the creativity in her practice and therapeutic use of self.
Liz met Michele when her research group from Kean University helped conduct the pilot study for Connect Experience Write® (CEW), which Michele co-developed. The Kean research group sought to discover the efficacy of CEW, a handwriting program involving music and movement, with children who are non-writers. The research suggested that the CEW program improved the participants’ handwriting ability. Liz’s research group presented their data via poster presentation at the state and national levels for the New Jersey Occupational Therapy Association (NJOTA) and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).
AnnMarie Murphy, Occupational Therapist
AnnMarie Murphy is an Occupational Therapist with advanced training and certification from the Sensory Treatment and Research (STAR) Institute, specializing in the evaluation and treatment of Sensory Processing Disorder. AnnMarie holds a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from American International College as well as a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy from Temple University.
Her primary research area focuses on the underlying neurological basis of Sensory Processing Disorder, and its relation to anxiety, internal and external stress, pain, and gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. In 2018, AnnMarie co-investigated Exploring Relationships between GI Dysfunction, Sensory Processing, Parental Stress and Participation in Daily Occupations at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. To further her understanding of the body mind connection, AnnMarie is currently obtaining training in The Interoception Curriculum connecting body signals to emotion, and actions to regulate.
AnnMarie has also spent extensive time researching hyperacusis and misophonia, and the impact auditory hypersensitivities have on relationships and engagement in daily occupations. In 2019, AnnMarie co-authored Effectiveness of Noise-Attenuating Headphones on Physiological Responses for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, published in the Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience journal. AnnMarie is trained in Dr. Steven Porges’ Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) – focused on reducing stress and auditory sensitivity while enhancing social engagement and resilience.
With a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, AnnMarie is interested not only in the understanding the neurobiology of sensory processing, but in the impacts SPD can have on engagement in occupations, social emotional development, parent stress, and family dynamics. To aid in her understanding, AnnMarie has received training in the Nurtured Heart Approach and anticipates completing DIR® Floortime™ certification in social-emotional development through the Profectum Foundation in 2021.
Outside of Great Kids Place, AnnMarie is an Adjunct Professor, Level II OT Fieldwork Supervisor, and Doctoral Capstone Research Advisor at Temple University. Her role at Temple is to assist Occupational Therapy doctoral students on their journey towards specializing in various aspects of the field. AnnMarie volunteers at a peer-socialization group, Peers at Play, promoting safe and effective play strategies for children with and without developmental delays.
Amanda Newchok, Occupational Therapist
Amanda Newchok is a passionate occupational therapist with about twenty years of experience working with the pediatric population. She is a specialist in Sensory Processing and Integration Disorder, certified in the evaluation and treatment of Sensory Processing Disorder by the Sensory Therapies and Research Institute. Amanda also serves as faculty for the Sensory Therapies and Research Institute where she educates therapists from around the country on the relationship between regulation, relationship and sensation in the treatment of Sensory Processing Disorder, particularly in the school setting.
Amanda received her Bachelor of Science degree in occupational therapy and her advanced Master of Science degree in Healthcare Management. She specializes in the treatment of children with Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorders; developing sensory-based supports for individuals with varied sensory, behavioral, and social emotional needs. She also has vast experience treating individuals with many other physical and cognitive disabilities.
She has practiced in a wide-range of settings including public school, private school, private practice, and Early Intervention. Within these therapeutic settings, Amanda has placed an emphasis on treating the whole child and highlighting the importance of collaboration as part of a team with the family at the fore front. Amanda has advanced training in a variety of sensory-based treatment interventions including Listening with the Whole Body, the Alert Program, myofascial release, and oral motor/respiratory stimulation. She is also co-creator of a sensory regulation framework for individuals with self-regulation challenges, on which a research study is currently being conducted at a private school for children with autism.
Carrie Davis, Occupational Therapist
Carrie Davis has been practicing occupational therapy with children since 2000. She received her undergraduate degree from Rutgers University in psychology and her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from Columbia University. She is a specialist in Sensory Processing and Integration Disorder and social emotional development, certified in the Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT) and has earned the STAR ProCert Level 2 credential for the evaluation and treatment of Sensory Processing Disorder by the Sensory Treatment and Research Institute.
Carrie has worked in both school settings and in private practice. She uses an approach that is informed by her knowledge in sensory processing, the importance of relationships and play (founded in her certification in social emotional development in the DIR model), mindfulness and yoga.
Carrie is certified in Interactive Metronome (IM), Integrated Listening Systems (iLs) and the DIR model to social emotional development. She has completed a 200-hour certification in yoga instruction, as well. She co-developed a unique handwriting program – Connect Experience Write® – with Michele that highlights the importance of affective engagement in learning as well as sensory integration using music and movement to teach letter formation and pre-writing skills.
Carrie lives with her husband, two sons and a dog. Both sons have sensory processing difficulties. Her knowledge on this personal level also informs her work as an occupational therapist.
Denise Maraziti, Occupational Therapist
Denise Maraziti is a specialist in Sensory Processing and Integration Disorder, certified in the evaluation and treatment of Sensory Processing Disorder by the Sensory Therapies and Research Institute. She has a long history of training in sensory integration as she received her Master of Arts degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Southern California in 1997, home of Sensory Integration Therapy. During her time at USC, Denise developed a passion for sensory integration through her exposure to the Ayres Clinic. Jean Ayres was the founder of the sensory integration approach and ‘discovered’ Sensory Processing Disorder and its impact on learning, daily life skills and social emotional development. Denise has over 23 years of experience working with children with sensory processing disorders in a variety of settings including private practice, public/private schools, early intervention, aquatic, summer camp, and outpatient/inpatient rehabilitation.
Denise has completed specialized training in sensory processing disorders through the STAR Institute, and anticipates completing the STAR Proficiency Level I course in August 2021. She is certified in the Sequential Oral Sensory (SOS) Approach to feeding and The Listening Program (TLP). Denise has received training in DIR through the Profectum Foundation, and is eager to complete additional DIR courses. She also has advanced training in various sensory based treatment interventions including: Therapeutic Listening (Level I and II), Zones of Regulation, MNRI, Brain Gym, NDT, yoga and mindfulness, Handwriting Without Tears, oral motor, respiration, and the vestibular-visual-auditory triad.
Denise is especially passionate about “The Triad” and has done additional training and education in this area. The successful integration of vestibular, auditory and visual forms of sensory input, referred to as “The Triad”, is necessary to create a strong sensory base of support in order to foster the development of sensory motor, perceptual motor and cognitive skills. The vestibular system activates postural muscles, which assist with the development of stability and motor coordination. When the vestibular system activates postural muscles, it provides a stable foundation for the eyes to focus on a target while the body is moving through space. The vestibular and auditory systems work together to process sounds used in the development of speech, language, and communication. The vestibular and auditory systems also impact the development of rhythm and timing required for the development of balance, bilateral coordination, ocular motor and visual perceptual skills. A strong sensory foundation impacts emotional development and self regulation – it enables us to be emotionally engaged and responsive to people and the world around us. Denise uses the “The Triad” during therapy to create a strong sensory foundation in order to support the social and emotional aspects of play and learning. This, in turn, and assists children with developing meaningful relationships.
Denise also collaborates with developmental optometrists and utilizes vision-vestibular techniques to assist children with ocular and movement limitations. Denise utilizes her personal and professional experience to assist children who have visual and vestibular challenges that interfere with the development of physical, emotional, and academic skills.
Catherine Gilio, Occupational Therapist
Catherine Gilio is an Occupational Therapist at Great Kids Place and a specialist in Sensory Processing and Integration Disorder with advanced training from the Sensory Therapies and Research Institute on the evaluation and treatment of Sensory Processing Disorder. She is also in the process of becoming a Certified ADHD Professional (ADHD-CCSP).
Catherine received her Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy from Kean University. While in school she knew pediatrics was her passion. During school, Catherine assisted in the creation of an occupational therapy program for the daycare on campus. The group consisted of enhancing sensory experiences through games to both improve motor control and allow the just right amount of input to help increase focus and performance during the fine motor components. She supported this “bottom up” foundational process to enhance the development of all of the children in the program.
Catherine trained with our Founder & Director, Michele, for a period of three months as part of her academic fieldwork. The families and staff alike knew she was a perfect addition to Great Kids and she was offered a position before she even completed her academic coursework! While in her fieldwork at GKP, Catherine developed a core piece of our home carry over program – play-based home activity curriculums focused on each sensory system.
Catherine also enjoys working with the special needs community outside of Great Kids. She has been a volunteer with Special Olympics for several years. Catherine is passionate about the use of play and movement to foster the development of social emotional and sensory motor development in children. She loves how play allows children to explore and test both their emotional and physical capabilities while engaging in something that brings joy and amusement.
Leslie Salmon, Occupational Therapist
Leslie has been practicing Occupational Therapy in pediatrics for 8 years. She received her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from Seton Hall University. Leslie is a specialist in Sensory Processing Disorder, certified in the evaluation and treatment of Sensory Processing Disorder by the Sensory Treatment and Research Institute. Leslie has also continued her training in a variety of sensory-based treatment interventions through courses including The Zones of Regulation and Listening with the Whole Body. Since receiving her degree, she has worked with children of varying ages and ability levels throughout different settings, including public schools, Early Intervention and private clinics.
Laura Baldwin, Social Emotional Development Coach
Laura holds a master’s degree in Clinical and School Counseling. She is a Licensed Associate Counselor currently working towards full licensure for her LPC. Laura is a certified trainer in The Nurtured Heart Approach ® and has completed training and certifications in DIR® Floortime (CL2),Mental Health First Aid, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Integrated Listening Systems’ Safe and Sound Protocol, and ILS’ Focus System Intervention. Additionally, Laura is a certified Life Coach and provider of Autplay Therapy, a play therapy and behavioral therapy-based approach for treating developmental disabilities, neurodevelopmental disorders, and autism. Laura is currently working towards her certification in Cosmic Kids Yoga and continuously trains to broaden her understanding of more commonly known mental health and behavioral interventions in an effort to bridge the gap between behavioral and developmental methodologies.
For over 20 years, Laura has been providing support and services to individuals with social-emotional, and developmental weaknesses in both school and private settings. She demonstrates advanced knowledge in the areas of child development, developmental and behavioral assessments, social skills, DIR® Floortime™, Crisis Prevention and Safety Care Interventions, visual-spatial capacities, and MNRI®. Her experience has provided her with many opportunities to work alongside leading professionals, to train and coach educators, families, first-responders, and medical personnel in developmental methodologies, positive behavioral support systems, and individual differences.
One of Laura’s most notable achievements was working alongside Profectum’s Faculty, including leaders in the fields of medicine, mental health, education, related services, technology, and creative arts, to publish the DIR-FCD IEP Goal Bank and assist in the creation of the Profectum Parent Toolbox – a free resource that encourages and supports parents in building their own toolbox of strategies, ideas, and hands-on techniques to help foster interactions with their child.
Janis J. Leinfuss, Occupational Therapist
Dr. Janis Leinfuss, OTD, OTR/L is a passionate occupational therapist with over 20 years of experience working with the pediatric population. She is a specialist in Sensory Processing and Integration Disorder, certified in the evaluation and treatment of Sensory Processing Disorder by the Sensory Therapies and Research Institute. She received her BS degree in occupational therapy in 1999 and went on to achieve a MS in Exceptionalities in Special Education. A believer in lifelong learning, Janis then graduated with an Occupational Therapy Doctorate degree (OTD). She specializes in the treatment of children with Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Her clinical experiences include public and private schools, private practice, and early intervention.
Janis was named a “Top Docs” in 2019 New Jersey Family Magazine. She is a contributing author for NJOTA newsletters on topics related to sensory processing and ASD and has been interviewed for professional collaboration groups including “The Sensory Motor Classroom” on her approaches. She has co-authored and published “Demystifying sensory processing to promote effective interprofessional and caregiver collaboration” in a peer-reviewed journal. She is also co-creator of a regulation framework which was the basis for her doctoral research project. The article detailing this research has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed
academic journal: Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools and Early Intervention. Additionally, Janis serves as both a capstone advisor for the ppOTD program and a thesis advisor for the entry-level OT program at Gannon University.
Janis’ therapeutic approach is to treat the whole child and believes strongly in the importance of collaboration with other team members which includes other professionals and most importantly, the family. Janis believes strongly in the importance of evidence-based practice and prides herself with advanced training in a variety of modalities including Listening with the Whole Body, the Zones of Regulation, craniosacral therapy, myofascial release, neurodevelopmental treatment (NDT), oral motor and respiration techniques. In addition to her advanced training from the Sensory Treatment and Research (STAR) Institute she will earn her DIR Floortime Basic Certification in May of 2021. Janis prides herself on infusing her knowledge and clinical expertise into fun and playful experiences to facilitate the continued growth and development of her clients.
Stephanie Peters, Occupational Therapist
Stephanie Peters MS, OTR/L is an occupational therapist who hopes to cultivate a joyful experience that helps empower families to realize their greatest potential. After graduating from Sacred Heart University in 2012 with her Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy, she has achieved her certification as a DIR/Floortime Expert Training Leader with ICDL and is certified in the evaluation and treatment of Sensory Processing Disorder by the Sensory Treatment and Research Institute. Stephanie has experience in a variety of pediatric settings and populations including parent coaching, Early Intervention, brain injury and cognitive rehabilitation, schools, aquatic therapy and out patient practices.