ASK Staff

Karen Thompson  is the Executive Director at ASK. She works across all projects, and serves on a number of statewide committees representing persons with disabilities and their families in the areas of healthcare and education. Karen is thrilled to be part of such a passionate, expert staff team! She credits the board members and staff with making the organization what it is today, and considers herself lucky to be a part of it. Karen has worked in disability advocacy, rehabilitative training/counseling, and public program administration serving people with disabilities professionally for nineteen years. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Her family experience with disabilities spans three generations. She is the daughter of stroke survivor, the wife of an adult with ADHD, the mother of two children with ADHD and a person with dyslexia. She sees her disability as an attribute and challenges others to do the same.

Ashley Gill  is the Operations Coordinator at ASK. She works under all projects, coordinating a wide range of training, data, marketing and administrative support duties. Prior to joining ASK, Ashley spent six years working as an activity program coordinator at a nonprofit long-term care facility in Des Moines, and has worked with individuals with disabilities for over 15 years as a Supported Community Living staff person with various agencies. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Grand View College in Health Promotion with an emphasis in Wellness Management. Ashley is a sibling of a younger sister with an intellectual disability, and also an individual with ADD. She has a passion for helping others discover and develop their strengths, and believes the only disability in life is a bad attitude.

Mari Reynolds is a Family Support Coordinator, working primarily for the Parent Training and Family to Family Iowa projects at ASK. She has worked at ASK Resource Center for ten years. Mari recently finished serving on the Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Council for six years during which she served one term as vice-chairperson, and two years as chairperson. She is currently serving on the Iowa Safe Schools Coalition, and bullying prevention is a passion of hers. Mari has a Bachelor’s degree from Grand View College in Psychology and Human Services. Mari’s passion for disability advocacy work is a family affair. She has a brother with Cerebral Palsy who lives independently with supports. Mari is passionate about the advocacy work that ASK provides to families and believes knowledge can be powerful!

Susan Gill is a Family Support Coordinator, working primarily for the Parent Training and Family to Family Iowa projects at ASK. She was an active board member of ASK in its early days as an organization. She has also served as an ASK volunteer and has worked with the FIND and Transition Projects in the past. She has over twenty years of experience as an advocate for individuals with special needs and their families. Prior to returning to ASK, Susan served for numerous years as a coordinator for the Parent Educator Connection with Des Moines schools. Her personal experience raising a child with multiple disabilities brings an understanding and empathy for parents – from anger to advocacy. She has served on statewide committees that have influenced the Iowa legislature and continues involvement with numerous councils and committees. Susan is a trainer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and has organized a support group for families of children with serious emotional disorders, and established several on-going youth leisure activities in the Des Moines area. Susan is passionate about connecting other families with resources.

Anahi Abarca  is a Family Support and Cultural Outreach Coordinator. She is originally from Acapulco, Mexico. She has worked with children and families for ten years. For five years, she worked with Latino families as a Parent Educator in health care. And prior to working at ASK, for three years Anahi worked one-on-one with children with special needs in a school setting. She has a teenage daughter with a learning disability. Anahi considers herself very lucky to be working at ASK helping Latino people. Her passion is helping kids.

Paula Connolly is the Family to Family Iowa Project Coordinator. Along with project coordination, her responsibilities include outreach and support on several other projects at ASK. Paula is the parent of four children. Her youngest child has significant, multiple disabilities due to a rare genetic condition called Neuhauser Syndrome. She has been an advocate for families of kids with disabilities for over twenty years and co-founded ASK Resource Center with a few other parents with similar interests. Helping other families to find the support and resources that their children and youth require is her passion.  Paula truly enjoys hearing family stories and helping families work through needs.

Lori Moore  is the Postsecondary Transition Project Coordinator. She discovered her passion for assisting people with disabilities develop their disabilities while she was earning her Bachelor degree at the University of Wisconsin. She started as a volunteer for Muscular Dystrophy Association and a counselor at a camp for children who are deaf. After teaching Special Education for seven years in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she was offered a position as a grant assistant for the Wisconsin School Inclusion Project while earning her Master of Science degree in Special Education from UW-Madison. When Lori moved to Iowa, she worked for Des Moines Public Schools as a Special Education Consultant. She is happy to rejoin the ASK team after a taking a few years off to raise her young children. She enjoys the unique professional environment ASK provides where she is able to combine her passions, education, and experiences to work with individuals with disabilities and their families.

Deb Chiodo is the Family Partnership and Professional Development Project Coordinator. Bio coming soon!

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