Autistry Studios Staff


Janet Lawson, LMFT, CEO/Executive Director

Janet is a Marriage and Family Therapist and has worked with adolescents and young adults for many years. She has a Masters in Library and Information Science (Indiana University) and an MS in Counseling Psychology (Dominican University). She worked for several years in the film industry and was a Producing Fellow at the American Film Institute. She is a Phi Beta Kappa – Summa Cum Laude graduate of UC Berkeley, with a major in Film Studies. Blog Posts
Dan Smiles

Dan Swearingen, COO/Director of Studio Operations

Dan was educated as an astrophysicist but has mainly worked in software development for private industry and government projects. Outside of work Dan has always loved building things and Autistry Studios leverages and challenges all his skills. Dan’s job is to maintain technologies for the students to use in their projects and teach the students how to (safely) use them. Blog Posts

Sara Gardner, LMFT, Clinical Director

Sara is a graduate of Mills College and has a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from Dominican University. She has years of experience working with individuals on the autism spectrum. Sara is an accomplished role-playing gamer and has developed a therapy model for working with young adults using role-playing scenarios. She is also an avid equestrian and quite skilled with LARP weapons. Sara oversees the Autistry intake process, is a therapist/mentor in the workshops and also counsels clients in individual sessions.

Gabrielle Haggett-Molina, Program Manager: Educational Program

Gabrielle joined the Autistry staff as a mentor in December 2015. She has been passionate about the arts since childhood, and discovered her interest in graphic design while attending Marin School of the Arts. Since then she has pursued a variety of creative endeavors, including: culinary arts, dancing (aerial, ballet, and Latin), drawing, painting, singing, sewing, and writing. Gabrielle has also been interested in Autism Spectrum Disorders from an early age, since her twin brother was diagnosed when he was five years old. As a mentor at Autistry, she is able to bring all these skills together to help students realize their creations.

Matt Glenwright, Program Manager: Vocational Training Program

Matt graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from CalPoly, San Luis Obispo. His passion for the mind, behavior and how they intertwine and working with the special needs community comes from growing up with a sister who has been physically and mentally handicapped since birth. During and after studying at university, Matt has worked with Autistic children in both school and home settings. He has a great passion for playing and writing music on the guitar, bass, and ukulele. His other interests include anthropology, primatology, behavioral therapy, and the outdoors.

Allison Mages, Mentor and Team Manager

Allie has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Mills College and has been interested in and passionate about autism and Asperger’s ever since her wonderful twin brother, Ben, was diagnosed with Asperger’s when he was ten. Allie interned at Autistry’s 2012 summer program and enjoyed herself tremendously. She previously interned and co-led workshops at 826 Valencia, a writing and tutoring center co-founded by Dave Eggers for low-income students in the Mission district of San Francisco. Allie is interested in psychology, education, speech therapy, and also loves creative writing, dancing (ballet and modern), and RPG gaming.

Phil Lewis, Core Workshop/ACAP Mentor

Phil is an award-winning landscape and fine-art photographer. He has years of experience as a computer teacher in Austin, a co-teacher at an International Baccalaureate school in Durango, and working one-on-one with students at a full-inclusion school in Los Angeles. In these settings, he worked closely with students across a wide spectrum of ability. Phil has a passion for equity, social justice, and inclusion. It is this passion that led him to join Autistry Studios as a mentor.

Alessandra Cao, Core Workshop Mentor

Alessandra is a Sophomore at UC Berkeley studying Psychology and Art Practice. She wishes to pursue a career involving both these subjects, such as Art Therapy and believes that Autistry Studios is the perfect place to start. Alessandra was also born and raised in the city of Berkeley. She is a tour guide at UC Berkeley, a nanny for multiple families, and is a research assistant in UC Berkeley’s Social Psychology lab.

Elena Vaccaro, OT Intern / Mentor

Elena has a Bachelor’s degree in Human Development from UC Davis, and is currently attending Dominican University of California to gain a Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy. She has previously worked as a Behavioral Therapist for young children on the spectrum. Elena looks forward to applying the knowledge from her OT program in order to help out at Autistry Studios. When she is not studying, Elena enjoys cooking, drawing, stamp carving, and watching/critiquing various movies and television shows.

Emily Yang, Core Workshop Mentor

Emily graduated from Santa Clara University in 2018 where she majored in psychology and double minored in public health and women’s and gender studies. The belief that small strides towards healthy habits can have long lasting benefits sparked her interest in working with individuals who face many challenges. In the past she worked as a violin coach, volunteered as a teacher assistant in elementary and middle schools, and interned as a therapeutic child care provider. At Autistry Studios, she combines her past experiences and interest in arts and crafts to help students bring their creative ideas to life. When Emily is not working on her own art projects, she enjoys traveling the world, photography, video games, and playing badminton.

Claire Watry, ACAP Mentor

Claire graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Integrative Biology from UC Berkeley. While in school, she coached soccer for individuals on the autism spectrum and volunteered at the Down Syndrome Clinic at UCSF. She previously interned at the University of Washington Autism Center before joining the team at Autistry Studios. She is looking forward to helping the students at Autistry with their creative and academic pursuits and can’t wait to see all of the amazing projects that will come out of the studio. In her free time, Claire likes to spend time with her puppy, read mystery novels, bake, draw, and play soccer.

Michaela Callahan, Core Workshop/ACAP Mentor

Michaela is currently in the Liberal Studies program at Dominican University of California. She intends on doing the five plus one program to get her teaching credential to teach both k-8 and special education. Michaela currently volunteers at an elementary school teaching younger grades in the mornings. She has always known she wants to work teaching others, so Autistry is perfect for her. When Michaela has downtime, she loves to take pictures and go anywhere with water. She loves the rain and enjoys to be outside whenever she can.

Alex Nold, ACAP Mentor

Alex is currently attending Dominican University of California, he is in the 4+1 program and is on track to receiving his masters in Occupational Therapy. After college he plans to get a job as an OT and eventually open up his own clinic. When Alex isn’t at school or at Autistry he loves to dance and play sports.

Lysander Huynh, LCSW Intern, Simmons

Lysander Huynh is a US Navy veteran where he served as an electrician and attained petty officer 3rd class. After military service, Lysander attended City College of San Francisco studying Psychology and then UC Davis majoring in Religious Studies. Returning to psychology, he was accepted into Simmons Graduate University of Social Work to pursue his passion to become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). Under this program Lysander has worked with K-5 children in art, and art therapy at the Golden State Community-Based Adult Services (CBAS). Lysander has Asperger’s Syndrome, and this gives him insight into working with the students at Autistry Studios. He finds working with students to overcome their challenges helps him learn and grow as well. Lysander will complete his academic program in December 2018. His interests include Star Trek (TNG and DS9 series), technology, listening to music, and playing games (role-playing, real-time strategies, and first-person shooters).

Adjunct Staff


James Dinkelspiel, Mentor

James began volunteering at Autistry in late 2015 and returns to us in the summer months. James was first introduced to Autistry when his older brother Chris began attending. James is currently attending UC San Diego studying engineering. 

Reina Carmona, ACAP Mentor

Reina received her Bachelors degree in Communicative Disorders and a Minor in Special Education at San Francisco State University in May 2018. Previously she’s volunteered with numerous organizations that work with children on the spectrum. She became interested in Autism through her experiences working in the field and is now hoping to make it a concentration in her future practice as a speech-language pathologist.

Camille Schilling, OT Intern / Mentor

Camille graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a minor in Human Development from UC Davis. During her undergraduate studies, Camille worked with young children with autism. The meaningful relationships she developed with her clients along with her interests in psychology and anatomy strongly influenced her desire to pursue occupational therapy. Now that Camille is interning at Autistry Studios, she is excited to learn about the occupations and interests of young adults with autism.

Blue Gardner: Dog

Woof woof.