A safe space
FERN founder, Dr. Laura Cesaroni, has spent 20 years working with parents, grandparents and teachers, who required specialized resources for teaching, managing and parenting children who were experiencing challenges. Through her work, Laura noticed a serious gap in available resources. Some families were on wait lists for early intervention services, others had just received a diagnosis while many had been in the system for years – but, all were in search of a helpful and empathetic ear. Laura was inspired to create a safe and supportive space for these families and the plan for FERN was conceived.
Dr. Laura Cesaroni
Laura received her Ph.D from OISE/University of Toronto. Her area of interest was within developmental psychology, psychological and educational assessment and counseling. Currently she is a Registered Psychotherapist (CRPO #002669) with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. Laura's early training began at The Clarke Institute of Psychiatry and The Hospital for Sick Children as a Psychometrist and research assistant. She has worked in a number of organizations and had a private practice. Her experience with families and children with learning, attention and developmental challenges spans over 20 years in the field. Family Education Resource Network (FERN) was inspired by Laura as a way to support more families and children in meaningful ways. She began fund raising for FERN through annual rummage sales from her home. Today FERN has developed into a not-for-profit community of caring families, children and staff. Laura works as a clinician at FERN. She is compassionate and believes that the supports and services at FERN must come from the ground up- families play a critical role in the development of programs. More recently, Laura has been training with The Mehrit Centre, bringing the science of Self-Reg to the families, students and staff at FERN. She believes that Shanker Self-Reg is a critical journey with the potential to move us all towards wellbeing and resiliency. She is currently a Certified Self-Reg Clinician and Facilitator of TMC e-learning school and a member of the Association of Educational Therapists.
Tina is involved in the operation and administration of programs and services at FERN. Having run a successful retail business in the 90s she comes equipped to ensure FERN members and families are well looked after and needs are understood and met. Tina believes in fostering kindness and community at FERN. She actively encourages families to use FERN as a safe place where respect and empathy can be found for all. Her passion lies in the outdoors and all things green. When not working at FERN you will find her in her garden or helping others find environmentally sound solutions for their garden spaces. Tina is an active member of the Toronto Master Gardeners and consults privately through her company Garden Sensibilities.
Jasmine is a Special Education Teacher at FERN since 2018. She graduated with a B.Sc in Psychology in University of Toronto and a Graduate Diploma in Behavioural Science Technology from George Brown College. She has extensive experience as a Behavioural Therapist for children with autism at learning clinics, in-home, and at school. In addition, Jasmine has many years of teaching and tutoring experience for children in a variety of subjects including taekwondo, violin, math and English. She is passionate in educating children to become greater than they were yesterday through using evidence-based teaching methods (e.g. Applied Behavioural Analysis). During times that Jasmine is not at work, you may see her in Taekwondo classes becoming a better her, or practicing on the violin.
Miriam Obljubek is a retired teacher who was employed by the Toronto Catholic District School Board for twenty-nine years. She began as an itinerant vocal music teacher for nine years where she was responsible for music education from Kindergarten through to grade eight, choirs and musicals. She spent another twenty years as a classroom teacher in the primary division.
Miriam graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in music (piano performance) and then went on to complete an Honours Bachelor of Education (Intermediate/Senior Division) at Lakehead University where she earned the Dean's Medal.
Miriam has also been a qualified piano instructor since 1978 preparing students for practical examinations for the Royal and Western Conservatory of Music. Most recently, Miriam has become a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique, a subtle, gentle, but powerful method that restores freedom of movement, natural balance, poise, and calmness of mind. She is a current member of the Canadian Society of Teachers of the F.M. Alexander Technique (CANSTAT).
Miriam's interests include camping, knitting, photography and travelling. She hopes to bring her educational experience, knowledge, and love of education to the FERN community.
Karen is delighted to join the FERN team as a Special Education Teacher. In addition to being a certified teacher, Expressive Arts therapist and performer, she has been supporting children who have complex cognitive and physical challenges for approximately twenty years. Karen received her BA and BFA from York University, as well as a BEd from Niagara University, earning an Honors with Distinction. She has spent extensive time as a Behavioural Therapist at learning centres as well as engaging in private work with a range of clients. Her time as an educator and art therapist in classrooms has given her the opportunity to learn from a variety of communities, age groups and needs. Karen is especially inspired by the work she has done with students with ASD. Her empathetic and genuine approach have become the core of her practice, providing students with the hope to see the endless possibilities in their paths. When not working, some of her passions include baking, singing and improv comedy. Karen is excited to bring her creativity and dedication to the students at FERN.
Dr Mary Konstantareas
Dr. M. Mary Konstantareas, Ph.D. C.Psych was a Professor of Psychology and Professor of Psychiatry from 1988. At the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, she served as Deputy Head for Research in the Department of Psychology, followed by a term as Head of the Autism Clinic and Director of Research of the Child and Family Studies Centre. In 1991 she joined the Department of Psychology at the University of Guelph where she taught courses related to the Psychopathology of Childhood and Adolescence, Intervention Strategies, and Assessment and Intervention in the Autism Spectrum Disorders. She retired as University Professor Emeritus.
Mary has devoted most of her professional life to children with developmental disabilities and their families. She has conducted research in the use of augmentative communication approaches, particularly the use of signs and speech with the nonverbal children, factors affecting parental stress and coping in families of children with ADS, and etiological factors for the genesis of ASD.
She performs editorial functions for a number of journals, including the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders and Autism: An International Journal of Research and Practice. She has also served on the Board of Directors of Kerry's Place, the Surrey Place Centre and the Asperger's Society of Ontario, of which she is a founding member.
Mary has published over 80 papers, most on ASD, has co-edited four books, and has presented at national and international conferences.
Michael is a former teacher, principal , school psychologist and entrepreneur who left public education to create effective private schools and learning centres. Michael was a pioneer in blending direct instruction with precision teaching and supported FERN in using these techniques. Founder of the Quinte Learning Centre, North America's first private behaviourally-based learning centre in Belleville, Ontario. Mentored by Zig Engelmann & Ogden R. Lindsley, Michael is a Direct Instruction, Precision Teacher practioner, researcher, trainer and supervisor. Author of the best-selling book Teach Your Children Well and recipient of Canada's National Literacy Educator Award (2001). For more information please CLICK HERE: FILL THE GAP .
Kay Goodnough, Parent Liasion
Kay is the Parent Liaison for FERN. She has been part of the FERN community for over two years and has experienced first hand the results of a number of the programs FERN has to offer. Kay is excited to begin this new growth initiative with FERN and looks forward to collaborating with FERN families. Kay has 2 children Ella and Jordan and 2 Labrador retrievers Whiskey and Molly.
Laura D'Avino -FERN Parent Advocate
Laura comes very prepared to join the FERN TEAM. She has obtained a number of courses and attended numerous workshops in her pursuit of learning, including: the Autism interventionist training, multiple workshops on autism through the Geneva Center, Handwriting without Tears, Basic Sign Language and mentoring on floor-time approach with an SLP.
She started a fast fingers plays the piano and social group for the City of Vaughan. As a qualified piano teacher, Laura offers adapted piano lessons for adults and children on the autism spectrum. She is pleased to be sharing her expertise, experience and understanding of Special Education practices with others while attending IEPs and IPRCs meetings. She is very pleased to be supporting FERN families.
It's no surprise that Laura was nominated the YES I CAN PARENT AWARD in York Region.
Jyoti (E-RYT, RCYT) is the founder and program director of TheYogaKids (theyogakids.com), which has provided yoga and mindfulness education to children as well as training programs for educators, parents, other yoga instructors, therapists, and other professionals worldwide since 2010. She has custom designed programs for audiences of all abilities ranging from toddlers to seniors. Children are the most impressionable at an early age, so exposing them to mindfulness training and yoga programs as soon as possible creates an enormous boost to their development - that keeps compounding over time. Each class is carefully designed to massively improve the lives of individual students - Turning them into happy, successful, and holistically healthy adults. It’s been a tremendous honour and pleasure to work with children in a manner that enriches them and helps them grow in such a positive and balanced way.
Blue is our resident jack of all trades. He provides cuddles, laughs and support of all kinds. He is thrilled to get to meet so many wonderful new friends every day at FERN.
CAROLINE DOYLE KEANE
Caroline received her degree in Fine Arts at York University and has continued studies at The Ontario College of Art. She works at The Fred Varley Art Gallery and with the school boards in York Region. Caroline fully appreciates the power of art and the positive impact it has on our lives. As a registered Art therapist she often joins the FERN community for a variety of themed workshops working with acrylics, inks, watercolors and non traditional media.
Annissa is an Early Childhood Educator since 1997 and a Fitness Instructor Specialist since 2011. She began teaching Zumba Kids, a program that builds dance and fitness routines with fun games and high energy music. UGI is another program that Annissa is passionate about. It combines strength, cardio and core training. Annissa joins the FERN after school program happy with Music, Movement & Breathing this Fall 2016.
Christina is in her final year of studies at the CREATE Institute for Expressive Arts Therapy education (2017). The EXAT approach is client-focused, and engages in art that focuses on low-skill and high sensitivity. This allows the client to go at a pace that feels comfortable for them, giving space for a meaningful therapeutic relationship. Christina also holds a degree in Theatre and Performance from York University (2013). She is also a drama instructor at Blue Heron Books Studio in Uxbridge, Ontario. Christina has experience facilitating a wide variety of therapeutic programs that engage with the arts (i.e. movement, visual arts, clay, poetry, and music). She feels honoured to be granted the opportunity to cofacilitate the “Building Relationships” after-school community group, and is ready to create, share, and explore.
Angela is a self-starter who is detailed oriented and conscientious, with over 20 years’ experience in her field. She graduated from the Toronto School of Business in 1984, and went on to work with a large multi-national corporation in the opening of their first Canadian office. After becoming a wife and mother, she needed to find a healthy work-life balance, so she decided to open her private bookkeeping practice in 1996, Hay & Associates Business Services Inc. She has been carrying out all of the bookkeeping responsibilities for FERN since 2012.
When not behind her desk, you can find Angela attempting the daunting task of trying to whip her old/new home and yard into shape. In her spare time, she enjoys canoeing, cooking, singing, home renovating and spending time with her family around the bonfire. She recently moved to King City with her husband, James, and sons AJ and David.
Tony Maio - C.A.
Tony graduated from the Ryerson University Bachelor of Commerce program, with major in accounting and minor in finance. He went on to article at a medium sized accounting firm in Toronto, where most of his time was spent on servicing the needs of clients, ranging from small owner managed companies to large corporate entities. He gained extensive accounting, auditing, taxation and business advisory experience over the 8 years of public practice. In his own private practice located in Vaughan, he now services a variety of industries including; construction, manufacturing, not for profit, retail, and numerous small family run businesses. He has been the accountant for FERN since 2015.
Dr. Richard Kercz, Ed.D
Richard is an organizational psychology and leadership advisor to executives and entrepreneurial business leaders. He provides counsel and strategic support on the identification, selection, development and coaching of individual, team, management, executive and organizational potential. He has consulted and facilitated on every facet of executive talent assessment and management and has created customized programs to improve individual, team and organizational performance. His latest venture is www.projectrelaxation.com a web-based, self-coaching portal that is dedicated to helping people learn to enjoy less stress in every aspect of their lives through the art and science of learning relaxation skills. When not working, he can be found somewhere on his property enjoying being outside and most likely re-building, re-designing or renovating something.
Stafani graduated from Western University with a degree in Health Sciences and from George Brown College with a postgraduate honours diploma in Autism and Behavioural Sciences. She is an Instructor Therapist at FERN, as well as providing in-home tutoring for many FERN families. As a FILL THE GAP instructor, Stafani is instrumental in helping the children reach their full academic potential. She recognizes the challenges her students face in their school curriculum and is an advocate for the Direct Instruction (DI) programs offered at FERN. Stafani has witnessed the success of her students. Stafani is an enthusiastic, self driven individual who continues to strive to gain more knowledge and experience within the field. In her spare time, Stafani enjoys travelling and going to concerts.
Dr Carla Cesaroni received her PhD from the Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto. For the past 18 years she has studied the experiences and adjustment of 500 incarcerated adolescents. Dr Cesaroni is currently conducting a cross national study of incarcerated young adults (18 - 24) in Scotland and Canada. She is an Associate Professor and Assistant Dean at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT). Carla joined the FERN board of directors in 2012.
When Carla is not working she is deep in the forest running miles of trails. She has 2 dogs, Ripley and Newt.
Linda Barbetta was the Executive Director of the Ottawa Chapter of the Learning Disabilities Association Ontario Carleton since 2009- 2015. She currently stepped aside from the Executive Director position to have some work –life balance. She is currently the Community outreach and Program coordinator for the Learning Disabilities Association of Ottawa. Linda’s involvement with the LDA began as a parent, as she accessed the agency’s services to assist her in better supporting her two children with LD’s. She is a regular guest speaker about learning disabilities at the University of Ottawa College Of Teachers, the Ontario Principals Councils -Professional Qualifications Program. She has provided professional development workshops to OCDSB, OCSB, UCDSB as well as a number of private schools.
Linda joined the FERN Board of Directors in 2012.
Jean-Paul’s work centres around the exploration of the intersecting issues pertaining to LGBT and racialized communities, youth, gender equality, mental health and alternative dispute resolution.
He graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 2015 and subsequently completed his time as a student-at-law with the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario. He was called to the Ontario bar in June of 2016. Upon graduation from Osgoode, he was awarded the Dean’s Gold Key, as well as the Legal & Literary Society Student Honour Award, both for outstanding and significant contribution and leadership in the law school community.
He works primarily within the realms of advocacy, public service and alternative dispute resolution. Please see jpbevi.com for more about Jean-Paul.
Elena has worked in her family's business for the past 10 years. In this role, Elena has responsibility in the management of Cesaroni & Son Ltd. and Cesaroni Holdings Limited - companies focused on commercial construction, real estate development and property management. Elena is a LEED accredited professional and holds a BA and MBA from the University of Toronto. Elena joined the FERN Board of Directors in 2012.
Elena has 2 children, Jean-Paul and Victoria. They live in Thornhill with their dog, Jake. When not working, you'll find Elena enjoying the outdoors with family and friends.