Special Kids is honored to partner with and be guided by a stellar board of directors, each of whom brings experience, expertise and excellence to our mission. Meet our passionate and dedicate team, working together to improve the lives of neurodiverse audiences — including your daughter or son.
Yahya Lutfi, Author, Autistic, Special Kids Alumnus
Yahya Lutfi was diagnosed with autism 26 years ago. In 1996, his mother Sue discovered Special Kids video modeling programs. Although she had low expectations for their success for her son (because there wasn’t any music or dancing), Yahya was “fascinated” immediately.
She recalls that she had “been trying to teach him colors and shapes for several weeks, but when he watched the Special Kids program of the same subject, he learned his colors and shapes in one day!” Subsequently, Yahya was introduced to the entire Special Kids library and in his words, “learned from them and loved them.” Most recently, Yahya has authored and published a book, Diaries of an Autistic Superfan, available on Amazon.com. He has attended school for video editing.
Claudette Madriona, M.A. Ed., Special Education, Singapore
Claudette is a Special Education teacher with more than 10 years experience working special needs children in Singapore. Inspired by an introduction to Special Kids, she earned a Master of Arts degree majoring in Special Education from the University of the Philippines, where she authored a thesis and produced an instructional video of self-help skills for children with special needs.
Claudette is trained in TEACCH, DIR Floortime and PECS. She participates in workshops related to ABA, Visual Strategies, Think Social and sensory integration. She is currently training to obtain a Post Graduate Certificate in Education from the University of Sunderland as a teaching qualification in an international school setting.
Melissa Chaires Schaerf, M.S.N., A.P.R.N., Neuropsychiatric Research
Melissa is today an independent consultant in clinical research operations and clinical trial management. As a founder and legacy owner of Neuropsychiatric Research Center, Melissa knows the ins and outs of running and growing a clinical research site, based on experience with more than 100 clinical trials. Her education and clinical experience as a nurse practitioner have included care and administrative oversight in psychiatry, neurology, general medical, and most recently, a focus in neurocognitive disorders.
She has worked as a sexual assault counselor, a child protection team coordinator, a registered nurse and a neuropsychiatric nurse practitioner. With more than 20 years of neuropsychiatric clinical patient care and CNS clinical trial experience, she is routinely called upon as an educational lecturer to the community and healthcare professions. She also has considerable real-world experience in mental health care advocacy and has served on the board of directors or in a leadership role for several advocacy organizations. She holds professional membership in the Association of Clinical Research Professionals and the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, and is active in numerous causes within her community. She has two children with her late husband, Frederick W. Schaerf, M.D., Ph.D.
Mark Schimmel, B.F.A, M.F.A, Cinema Director, Producer
Mark Schimmel is a highly decorated commercial film director and episodic producer of many award-winning short films and commercials, and has twice been nominated for Emmy awards. Early in his career, he worked with Walt Disney Productions and later New York Lintas Worldwide in New York — launching pads for his career as an agency owner and film director.
Across his career, he’s directed and produced hundreds of hours of content and award-winning commercial work with notables including George Strait, Russell Wilson and Woody Harrelson. Mark taught film at Columbia College Chicago, as well as Branded Entertainment at Ringling College of Art and Design. Today, he continues to teach film while producing and directing a wide range of projects.
James Shulkin, M.A., Health Services Administration
James Shulkin has more than 40 years of experience in healthcare administration, marketing and communications. He holds both a Master’s Degree in Health Services Administration and a Bachelor’s Degree in Rehabilitation Education from the University of Wisconsin. His early career included administrative positions at medical rehabilitation hospitals serving diverse populations of physically- and cognitively-disabled patients.
He currently serves on the board of directors at the Madison Public Market Foundation, and at Work Opportunities in Rural Communities (WORC), a non-profit employment agency that has been placing individuals with developmental disabilities into jobs in communities of Dane County, Wisconsin since 1983. He is an advisor to WORC’s ArtWorking, a non-profit program that provides career development and support for artists and entrepreneurs with disabilities. Shulkin is a Fellow at the Wisconsin Healthcare Public Relations & Marketing Society and was recently recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award by that organization.
Eric Sprecher, Writer, Autism Advocate
Eric Sprecher is a writer and autistic advocate with a particular passion — as he’s the brother of Jeff Sprecher, the young man upon whom the work of Special Kids was inspired. In fact, as a child, Eric served as the “modeling example” (actor) for many early academics, self-help, social and interpersonal skills video lessons that benefited his brother, and children around the world.
In his role as member of the Special Kids Board of Directors, Eric will contribute a highly personal and passionate point-of-view to the evolution of the corporation’s mission, while helping to identify opportunities to improve on efforts to reach, teach and prosper neurodiverse persons everywhere.
Britt Stroud, M.D., Pediatric Neurologist
Britt Stroud is a pediatric neurologist at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Southwest Florida, where his focus is to facilitate the growth and success of children with a variety of neurologic challenges including autism, epilepsy, cerebral palsy and paroxysmal disorders.
He graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas Christian University, where he volunteered regularly to bond with patients in the traumatic brain and spinal cord unit at Cook Children’s Hospital. He subsequently graduated from the University of Texas San Antonio medical school, followed by the University of Colorado, Denver Children’s Pediatric Neurology program.