Founder and Executive Director
Autism Improvised, Inc., is inspired by her Aspergian grandson who struggles with social communication and friendships, yet his happy and imaginative personality needed a creative outlet. Though she was not familiar with theatre, she suspected this art would benefit her grandson. She discovered improvisational acting and was excited to discover how improv seemed to fit perfectly as a mode to address social challenges and inflexible, rigid thought patterns of autism. There were no programs available at the time that matched Sandy's vision, so this determined grandmother developed the concept, found a talented instructor, and launched Shenanigans in 2009. As her grandson grew into young adulthood, Sandy recognized his changing needs and additionally developed Code Breakers and Bright Paths, transition programs that address real-life challenges for young adults as they begin their lives as potentially productive and fulfilled members of the greater community.
Jason performed his first play when he was in 1st grade & understands how theatre can positively affect a child’s life. He trained in improvisational skills at Whole World Theatre in the '90s,and sees the medium as a perfect way to introduce kids of all backgrounds to the stage. Jason, an autism daddy himself, is certified in DIR/Floortime therapy and UCLA's PEERS social skills intervention, which strongly influence his approach to teaching. Jason, as Lead Programs Director, is instrumental in developing our Code Breakers program for young folks in transition to the adult world, including a partnership with Georgia Tech's Excel post-secondary program. Jason's classes are filled with energy and his personal sensitivity to the needs of autism.
Taylor is currently studying to complete her Master's of Psychology at Kennesaw State University. Taylor is also currently a Cobb CSD parapro with certification as a Registered Behavioral Technician (RBT) in Applied Behavior Analysis. She has a breadth of knowledge of children and adults on the spectrum and understands their unique needs and obstacles. Working with individuals on the spectrum has been her greatest joy and she has had a blast incorporating improvisational acting into her everyday life!
"Acting is not about being someone different. It’s finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there."
Becky has been teaching with Autism Improvised since 2016. She received her BA in Theatre and Communications from Kennesaw State University and had the great pleasure of performing and teaching with a variety of companies throughout the US before settling in Washington DC. While in DC she founded Wandering Souls, a company dedicated to touring free professional theatre to communities with little or no access to the arts. One particular show with Wandering Souls sparked her interest in exploring new ways theatre could be used "outside the box" particularly with children on the spectrum. Becky ended up moving back south and pursuing a degree as an ABA therapist. Along the way she met Sandy and the work of Autism Improvised and was hooked!
Outside of Autism Improvised, Becky is a Nonprofit Marketing Consultant. She and her husband can often be found planning their next adventure, trying new recipes or just doting on their furbabies - Tony Stark and Douglas.
Jessica is an awarded and popular special education teacher in the Fulton County School System for over 20 years. Specializing in transition and inclusion, she has chaired the school system's CBI department and is currently a Transition Services Specialist supporting eight off-campus corporate classrooms and Project Search programs. In 2001 she was named Teacher of The Year after opening up a unique and innovative coffee shop, providing real-life job skills for her students with intellectual disabilities. This concept has been re-created throughout the state and continues to grow around the country. Jessica also is a certified yoga instructor for kids with special needs.
Jessica loves kids and has a special devotion for kids with disabilities. We welcome her enthusiasm and dedication to our Bright Paths program.
JJ is passionate about improv and the connections he sees in the "rules" of improv and everyday life, particularly improv's emphasis on listening and collaborating. He trained in improv and sketch comedy at the Village Theater where he is currently a company member. He has a BA in sociology and international studies from Bridgewater College, and traveled abroad to teach theatre in southern India. From childhood, JJ's life has been greatly enriched by the performing arts, and he is fulfilled by helping others find joy in performing.
Tim is a theatre professional whose work has spanned the last 10 years across four continents. He has been married for four years and counting, and loves a good cup of coffee. After graduating from North Greenville University in South Carolina, he began an apprenticeship with Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville, which launched his theatre career in the Atlanta area. Once he was finished with his apprenticeship, he worked for 6 months in the area and was then offered the opportunity to co-create and direct a production of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" on the Logos Hope, a ship sailing around the world. Following 15 months of traveling with the Logos Hope, he returned with his wife to Atlanta, where he still resides. His work has been seen at The Center for Puppetry Arts, Stone Mountain, the Aurora Theatre, across the world on the Logos Hope, and currently he can be found at Georgia Ensemble Theatre as their Business Manager, here at Autism Improvised as an instructor and occasionally around town as an actor and storyteller.
Val has years of experience with autism through her young ad son, who is the inspiration for Shenanigans. Val is Shenanigans' administrative assistant, director's assistant, and occasional video editor and photographer. With her background in piano, violin, and visual arts, she has more recently lent her talents to the art of machinima (videos created using the graphics engine of electronic games), and has earned industry recognition of her works. She also has significant social media experience in creating and moderating a popular machinima forum.