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.



Allison Mages, Program Manager: Educational Program

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.



Gabrielle Haggett-Molina, Program Manager: Life Skills and Independent Living

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.


Trisha McElroy, MSW Intern / Mentor

Trisha has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from San Diego State University and is currently working on her Masters in Social Work from the University of Southern California. Trisha joined Autistry in August 2017 and is currently interning to complete her Social Work field hours. Prior to Autistry Trisha has worked with a variety of non-profits in Southern California that focused on child development and adolescent mentoring. When not interning at Autistry Trisha works full time for the U.S Army. Her goal is to become a LCSW and work with youth and young adults.


Alessandra Cao, Mentor/Workshop Assistant

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.


Blue Gardner: Dog

Woof woof woof woof woof.