Meet the SOYAN Steering Board
Ann Dorman lives in Woodbury with her husband Ken Adler. Ann and Ken are parents to 2 adult daughters - Sarah, who teaches children with severe and multiple disabilities in the NYC public schools, and Leah, who lives at home with them. Leah has intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as epilepsy and other health related impairments. Leah is self directed and has flourished through her individualized budget, including the opportunities provided through Supported Employment (SEMP), Community Habilitation, Community Classes and Camp.
Ann practiced Labor and Employment Law and worked in local government. She has served on the boards of numerous not-for-profits, including the Mid-Island Y JCC, where she has served as president and currently as vice president, and the Suffolk Y JCC. Ann and Ken were founders 20 years ago of the Mid-Island Y's special needs programming, now called The Adler Center. Ann, who has served as SOYAN's vice president, has been an active member of SOYAN and has devoted herself to educating families, community members and elected officials about the benefits of self direction and the need to expand and secure this vital option.
Leslie Feinberg together with her husband of 37 years are life-long Long Islanders. The parents to 3 adult children, their youngest son, now 32 years old, has been self-directing OPWDD services and supports since 2011. To ensure that their adult son’s health, safety and access to supports and services were in place, Leslie ended her 20+ year career as a private sector paralegal and immersed herself in the developmental disability community.
New to the world of adult services, Leslie knew no one and nothing! It took years to connect with OPWDD and start the process. In 2016 Leslie launched Supporting Our Youth & Adults Network (SOYAN) partially to serve her own need for community and seeing the void for parents traveling similar path. SOYAN began as a social and resource network for families on the Self-Direction journey. With an all-volunteer leadership with lived experience, SOYAN is now a not-for-profit committed to education, advocacy, empowerment and support of families and self-advocates living a self-determined life using the supports of OPWDD. It takes a village! Leslie looks forward to continuing the community outreach and connection and advocating with policymakers to ensure that all people with developmental disabilities have full access to their communities: to live, to work, to learn and to enjoy friendships!
Leslie completed Parent Leadership Training (2017), Partners in Policymaking (2018). Leslie graduated from the NYS Families Together training as a Family Peer Advocate (2017). Leslie’s community contributions are recognized by Self-Advocates of NYS (SANYS) as Self-Advocate Advisor of the Year (2017), by Assemblywoman Missy Miller’s (District#20) introduction to the House of the People (2019), as Literacy Nassau’s Next Chapter Book Club co-facilitator of the year (2017), and Senator John E. Brooks’ (District#8) nomination as a Woman of Distinction (2020).
Lisa Fleisher is a founding steering board member of SOYAN and a parent of a 43-year-old son with intense support needs. Lisa is also a retired Professor of Special Education, with almost 50 years of experience supporting children with disabilities and their families through her teaching, research, grant activities and advocacy. After Lisa’s son experienced an unsuccessful and challenging foray through traditional residential services, she discovered and pursued the pilot program called CSS, the precursor to Self Direction with Full Budget Authority. In 2004, her son became one of the earliest participants, with Lisa as broker, and for the past 17 years, utilizing Self-Direction with Full Budget Authority, he has received 24/6 individually designed, intense supports, enabling him to live successfully in his own apartment, in the community and at work.
Lisa is a NYS certified Self-Direction broker. From its inception, Lisa worked with state leadership at OPWDD, SANYS and the DDPC and on state-wide and local committees to develop and promote accessibility and sustainability of Self-Direction with Full Budget Authority… and she is determined to continue in that advocacy role.
Larry Greenstein is the parent of a self-directing adult with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Larry and his wife of 38 years, Star Anthony, are the proud parents of 2 adult children. Their son Kevin (now 30 years old) has been self-directing since 2012. Larry is a staunch advocate for people with disabilities and is a Partners In Policymaking Graduate (2004) and has served for 16 years on his local school board and is currently a member of the Nassau BOCES Board of Education and is a Vice President of the Nassau-Suffolk Schools Boards Association, although any opinions expressed by him, are his alone and should not be ascribed to any organization.
Larry is a proud founding member of the Steering Board of Directors of SOYAN and also serves as Treasurer.
Karen Kaiser has been educating, supporting and advocating for children/adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities since 1996 upon her graduating Queens College with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology. She continues to broaden her education by pursing her Masters Degree. She has worked as an ABA Early Intervention Teacher, Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT), After School Program Coordinator, Behavior Intervention Specialist, Director of Day Services and Family Services Clinical Coordinator. In 2018, Karen resigned from working through a traditional service provider, enrolled in SD Broker classes and is now a OPWDD Independent Self Direction Broker.
Karen is actively involved with advocating and supporting Self Direction Advocates. She has supported Advocates on trips to Albany to address and discuss their challenges with policymakers. She is a Board member/supporter for Special Advocacy Coalition, (SPEAC). She co-facilitated SOYAN'S Virtual Lunch Break Meet-Ups which provided the opportunity for SOYAN self-advocate members to continue to have contact with their peers during COVID’s necessary social distancing. She is actively involved as a co-facilitator for SOYAN’s Family Education Advocacy & Support monthly meetings and workshops. Karen recently joined the Steering Board of SOYAN.
Lisa is a resident of Plainview for 31 years having raised 3 children as a single mom (all now adults)-Michael, Brittany and Jessica. While her eldest attended Plainview schools, Lisa was active in organizing events within the Plainview Community to build a sensitivity and awareness of people with disabilities. Lisa played a major role on the Plainview PTA Boards and developed curriculum for the students and teachers focused on better understanding those with disabilities (Disability Course and Teacher’s class- “A mom’s life with a child with disabilities”). Lisa organized a yearly fundraiser (Brittany Bowl-a-thon) where the community would get together and raise over $20,000 a year for local charities.
Her beautiful daughters, Brittany and Jessica, were both born with disabilities--Brittany with cerebral palsy, seizures, non-ambulatory and Jessica with Autism. Lisa’s commitment turned to assisting those families with children with disabilities throughout the years, which include the development of the CLC PTA (Children’s Learning Center, CP Nassau), a member of the Board of Directors at CP Nassau and numerous other committees/organizations dedicated to those with disabilities.
In 2015, Lisa made a career change after a 25+ career as a Medical Marketing Consultant to become an OPWDD Support Broker for the Self-direction program. As a Self-Direction Support Broker, Lisa and her staff support over 125 individuals in Nassau County. Lisa gives of her time and energy volunteering with numerous committees including co-facilitator of family support groups, advocacy groups and advisory boards (including SOYAN) to support those with disabilities. Lisa advocates for those with special needs by testifying at numerous congressional hearings and meeting regularly with local politicians. In 2019, Lisa was recognized by Senator Gaughran as a Woman of Distinction.
“I have dedicated my life to learning as much as I can regarding those with special needs so I can advocate for all individuals. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing my self-direction participants begin their self-direction plan and begin successfully achieving their goals and working hard to be the best they could be”.
Susanne Marcus and her husband of 40 years are the proud parents of 2 adult children. Susanne’s daughter developed seizures at the age of 13 . This was a life changing event for the whole family and mostly for her daughter who had been typically developing and excelling socially and academically. Susanne quickly became involved with EPIC-Long Island and discovered OPWDD’s Self-Direction. Her daughter has been self-directing since 2011. Susanne’s connection with SOYAN provides her with community and an opportunity to share her advocacy skills to empower others. She is a Spring 2019 graduate of the NYS Partners in Policymaking Program.
Susanne brings over 30 years’ experience in the field of TESOL to share with the disability community. A two-term past president of NYS TESOL, she recently retired as an English as a New Language (ENL) teacher for the Great Neck Public Schools, where she continues to offer Professional Development. As a facilitator for New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), Susanne writes and conducts ENL seminars for NYSUT’s Education Learning Trust (ELT). Susanne has facilitated storytelling workshops for secondary students using strategies from The Moth Storytelling Workshop and Herstory Writers Workshops. She is a literacy coach for Fordham University’s Center for Educational Partnerships. Susanne holds degrees from CUNY Queens College and Fordham University, is NYS-certified in ESL K-12, French and Spanish 7-12, and is a frequent presenter at national, state and local TESOL/Bilingual Education conferences.
Allison Starkman is the Legal Guardian for her sister Lauren, since their mom passed away 9 years ago. Allison wanted her sister to have the ability to choose her supports and services. Allison’s sister Lauren has been Self Directing her Services since 2017.
Allison walked away from a 20-year successful career as a Financial Director in the Automotive Industry to learn the OPWDD system and to be able to support her sister to the best of her ability. What she thought would be a 1-year process to learn and help her turned into many years. During this time, she was asked by many in the community for assistance given that she had learned the system well.
Allison became a Self-Direction Broker and developed an Enhanced Brokering concept with the hope of helping many people, specifically people with I/DD with aging caregivers and others who need additional assistance to sustain and be successful in utilizing Self Direction. This concept can be a significant piece to sustainability: What happens when a caregiver ages, is not able to keep up with the burdensome paperwork or is no longer here. She hopes this concept can be an option for anyone that would need additional support.
Allison is also a Housing Navigator through the NY Alliance.
Allison serves on the Family Advisory Board of Advanced Care Alliance, (ACA) one of the Care Coordination Agencies servicing people with Disabilities. Allison advocated for a task force within ACA to be developed to address the issues that arise when a caregiver can no longer support their loved one. ACA has adopted the task force and it is in the beginning planning stages.
Allison volunteers and support many families through the Town of Oyster Bay, including the GAP program for Children and Adults with a Disability. Allison has assisted hundreds of families trying to navigate the OPWDD system.
Allison is very proud to serve on the Steering Board of SOYAN and work with an amazing group of volunteer professionals who understand what families struggle with as many are caregivers themselves who want to make this journey just a little easier for all. Allison and her co-facilitator team of volunteer professionals provide monthly meetings and workshops focusing on all aspects of Self Direction through SOYAN’s Family Education Advocacy & Support Group. SOYAN connects with hundreds of families. I am honored to be a part of the SOYAN team.
Allison meets with Senators, local legislators and public officials to advocate for all with a disability and to educate them on the current challenges, being transparent, focusing on brainstorming and working together on ways to improve the system and quality of life for people with a disability.
Allison deeply believes and is often heard saying “You can only control the effort not the outcome in life.”
Allison does her very best each day to listen, educate families, advocate and support those that need it the most. Allison believes in helping one another whenever possible and paying it forward.