Our Team- Staff, Program Directors, & Clinical Advisory Board

Alexa Zaino

Alexa Zaino

Program Assistant

Alexa Zaino, a native of Belmont, California, earned her B.A. in Pscyhology from the University of San Diego. Alexa joined the ATPF team in June 2019 as an intern and later became the Program Assistant. As Program Assistant, Alexa works directly with ATPF Operations Manager Rebecca Barron, managing social media stats, sending the weekly Volunteer Newsletter, assisting with fundraisers, overseeing event registration and reminders, and helping to manage over 200 interns and volunteers. 

Dayna Kay Hoff, M.B.A.

Dayna Kay Hoff, M.B.A.

Volunteer Executive Director & ATPF Co-Founder

Since 2003, Dayna Hoff has transformed the autism community in San Diego and the Bay Area through her role as Founder and Volunteer Executive Director of the Autism Tree Project Foundation (ATPF). ATPF, which Dayna founded with her husband, Todd, when their son, Garret, was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 ½, is the only autism foundation in the region that focuses on combining the three areas of Research, Early Intervention, and Programming. ATPF provides more than 20 free programs and services to the community and has invested $3.2 million back into the community under Dayna’s leadership.

Joel Anderson

Joel Anderson

Joel’s art at the age of five was well beyond his years.

He always has a pencil in hand. When Joel turned eleven, he started painting, soon to follow, was putting his art on note cards and starting his business “Joel’s Vision Arts.”

Sandi Anderson

Sandi Anderson

Sandi Anderson had been an active Autism Tree Project Foundation volunteer since its inception nine years ago. She and her husband, Jeff, have two adult sons on the autism spectrum. Her many years of experience advocating, homeschooling, and special needs training in academics, health, and life skills enable her to encourage others in their journey with a vast resource of connections and creative solutions. Sandi is a founding member/chairman of Jeremiah's Ranch, a group home community established in Fallbrook, CA.

Rebecca Barron

Rebecca Barron

Operations Manager

Rebecca Barron, a native of Los Angeles, California, earned her B.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management from San Diego State University, with an emphasis in Meetings and Events. Rebecca has over four years of experience in the hospitality industry. Rebecca joined the ATPF team in September 2017 and is the organization’s Operations Manager. Barron assists Lisa Kaufmann in overseeing each of our 20 programs along with running the daily operations of the ATPF office, producing all fundraisers and program events, maintaining ATPF daily social media and managing all ATPF website updates and manages over 200 interns and volunteers. She works directly with Lisa Kaufmann, ATPF Director of Development, and Caitlyn Hunter, ATPF Director of Financial Operations. 

Marilee Burgeson, MA, CCC-SLP

Marilee Burgeson, MA, CCC-SLP

Marilee Burgeson, MA, CCC-SLP, has been a Speech-Language and Hearing Consultant for the San Diego County Office of Education since 1987 in a 0-3 early intervention program. She has been instrumental in developing an Autism Services team model that is transdisciplinary and recognized by the State of California as an exemplary program. She also has a small private practice. She has continued to be a lifelong learner and is trained in ABA and is a Hanen trained speech pathologist.

Serenitie Buyse

Serenitie Buyse

Serenitie Buyse is applying to medical school and has spent the past year working as a Clinical Research Coordinator in the Epilepsy Division at UCSD Hospital. Serenitie and Michael L. Levy, MD, Ph.D., Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery Children’s Hospital-San Diego (CHSD) and Clinical Professor of Neurological Surgery at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, have initiated ATPF’s Early Intervention Preschool Screening Longevity Study to review early intervention screening data from 2006 onward. This study aims to analyze, review, and publish the effects these early intervention screenings have had on the developmental tracks of children who have not tested within normal limits. Additional goals of ATPF through this study are to receive grants which will help establish the creation of a role to further educate our families on the next steps they need to take to ensure their children are getting the tools they need to meet all of their developmental milestones. 

Michelle S. Connelly, M.A., CCC-SLP

Michelle S. Connelly, M.A., CCC-SLP

Michelle S. Connelly, M.A., CCC-SLP, is a licensed speech-language pathologist and member of ASHA and CSHA with over 25 years’ experience. She is the founder of Connelly Speech & Language Clinic in the San Francisco Bay Area. Michelle is the Director of the ATPF Early Intervention Screening Program in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Michelle has guest-lectured and presented at the county and state-wide conferences on a variety of topics related to communicative disorders. She has extensive training in the treatment of articulation and language disorders.

Michelle has received multiple awards from County (SCCSHA) and State (CSHA) professional associations for her commitment to consumer advocacy, professional development, and leadership. She has held Executive Board positions with the Santa Clara County Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the California Speech & Hearing Association throughout her career.

Kara Dodds, M.S., CCC-SLP

Kara Dodds, M.S., CCC-SLP

Kara Dodds, M.S., CCC-SLP is a licensed speech-language pathologist and a a member of ASHA and CSHA. She is a director of Kara Dodds and Associates, Inc. a private practice in San Diego and specializes in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of children with Autism, Apraxia, sensory feeding disorders and in developmental delay. Dodds is the Director of the ATPF Early Intervention Preschool Screening Program. 

Helen Ghio

Helen Ghio

A 2001 graduate of the University of San Diego School of Law, Helen began her law career in real estate and has worked at Luce Forward Hamilton & Scripps, Chicago Title Company, and Hovey & Kirby. She has been advocating for her son since he was born with cerebral palsy and other disabilities in 2002. Helen and her husband, Chris Ghio, have been involved with ATPF since its inception in 2003. She previously served on several nonprofit boards of directors and is currently involved with various other nonprofit organizations. Helen has also been a mentor in ATPF’s Parent Mentor Program for several years. She joined forces with Cara Lucier’s firm in 2015.

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