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Meet the Parent Support Team!

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Anja Wilson

Autism Parent Navigator

Anja is Founder of M.A.D. Mom’s Advocating Daily for Autism, Cortland’s Corner, Anja’s Advocacy Avenue, and author of “Unapologetically Embracing Autism”, and “Cortland's World”. 


Born in Columbia, SC she is a single parent to son, Cortland who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of three. An alumna of the University of Tennessee, her passion for advocating for Autism was born because of Cortland’s journey. A passion that is built on a foundation of advocacy, where she aims to be a powerful and strong voice for those that cannot advocate for themselves by promoting the embodiment of advocacy, empowerment, education, commitment, and community.

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Carissa Stevens, MA

Autism Parent Navigator

Carissa is the mother of three. Her desire to advocate for families and children with autism began after her son was diagnosed with autism in 2017. 

Carissa graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations from the University of South Carolina and a Master of Arts from Webster University in Management and Leadership.  



Weezy Knott

Autism Parent Navigator

Weezy Knott is married and has two boys, one of which was diagnosed with Autism back in 2013. She has a heart to serve others, especially those in need.


Weezy has made it her mission to help her son improve his quality of life through research, advocating, and finding him the therapies that would help him have a successful future.

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Laura Sigman

Autism Parent Mentor

Laura is a busy mother to two daughters. Her daughter Creelynn was diagnosed at age 3 with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

During the last eight years she has dedicated her time to learn and advocate for her daughter's needs.  She is looking forward to sharing everything she has learned to help other parents. 

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Cortney Heuer

Autism Parent Mentor

Cortney is the mother to two active teenagers.  When not driving them and watching their various activities such as dance and robotics, she is involved in advocacy on many levels. 

Cortney and her daughter Grace, who is Autistic, are empowered when educating the public about the disabled experience and being a caregiver.   

Cortney is passionate about helping fellow parents and especially interested in celebrating neurodiversity and inclusion.

Cortney earned a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Missouri Kansas City and prior to becoming a full-time caregiver has worked in a variety of social service settings including as a birth doula.


Takia Barnett

Autism Parent Mentor

I am a mother of three beautiful children, a daughter and twin boys, two of which have autism. I have an associate in arts and will soon be receiving my bachelor’s degree in business administration. 


I am a chef and own my own food business where I provide catering, private chef services, meal preparation, and cooking classes. I am also a media service specialist and technical support specialist for one of the world’s largest tech companies.


I have been helping families navigate life with their children with special needs since first discovering my daughter’s developmental delays almost 7 years ago. I am passionate about helping cultivate a world where people with disabilities are fully accepted and supported.

Meet the Research Team!

A headshot of Associate Professor, Dr. Robert Hock.

Robert Hock, PhD, LiSW-CP

Principal Investigator

Dr. Hock is an Associate Professor at The University of South Carolina in the College of Social Work's Children, Youth, and Families specialized practice area. He has previously served as the social work discipline director for the South Carolina Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities. His publications focus on the treatment of autism spectrum disorder, and children and families in mental health settings. 


Dr. Hock received his Master of Social Work, with a certificate in Clinical Social Work with Families, from Michigan State University, where he also earned his Ph.D. in social work.

A headshot of Research Assistant, Brenis Aaron.

Brenis Aaron, LMSW

Research Assistant

Brenis has experience as a Registered Behavior Technician working with children diagnosed with ASD; and, she is passionate about working with children and families.


Brenis graduated with a Bachelor of Science from North Greenville University and with a Master of Social Work from the University of South Carolina. Brenis enjoys spending time outside with her family, friends, and dog.


Abigail Mojica, M.A.T.

Research Coordinator

Abigail graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from the University of South Carolina-Aiken and an M.A.T. in Special Education from the University of South Carolina. She is currently working on her PhD in Special Education at USC. Abigail has been working with individuals with disabilities and their families for over 8 years in K-12 and higher education settings.


As a parent of two children with autism, Abigail is dedicated to helping families access services and resources that will improve their quality of life. She enjoys traveling with her husband and children, reading, and spending time with family.  

A headshot of Research Assistant, Tamara Grimm.

Tamara Grimm, LISW-CP

Graduate Research Assistant

Tamara is a PhD student at the University of South Carolina, College of Social Work. She also completed a graduate certificate in Women & Gender Studies at USC in conjunction with her PhD coursework. Her research areas include gender related health disparities, gender bias in medicine, and the use of holistic health practices as adjunctive treatment for mental health disorders. Prior to beginning her PhD, she served as Lead Women Veterans Program Manager for the VA Healthcare System serving Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan for over 8 years. She has also worked in community mental health, holding various roles such as: clinical supervisor for a criminal justice ACT team, clinical supervisor for a case management team, and case manager. Tamara is currently a therapist in private practice and teaches MSW level courses at the USC.


Tamara received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and comparative religion, with a minor in Women’s Studies, from Miami University in Oxford, OH (2003). She completed her MSW at the University of Cincinnati in 2006.

In her free time, Tamara enjoys teaching yoga and spending time with her two rescue pups, Harry and Eddie


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Megan Streetman, LMSW

Recruitment & Outreach Coordinator

Megan Streetman is a Licensed Master Social Worker. She received her degree from Winthrop University in 2017. Upon graduation, Megan worked for a hospice agency for 4 years where she provided social and emotional support to families as well as helped families access needed resources. After some time off to spend time with her children, she returned to the social work world.


Megan has a passion for research and working with families in the community. She worked as a research assistant for the Healthy Child Development Program with Dr Kristen Seay at the University of South Carolina. Megan coordinated with community partners to help in recruiting efforts and lead families through the program. Megan is excited to be involved with the Autism and Family Lab to help spread the word on the support that can be provided to families of kids with autism. 


In her free time, Megan enjoys spending time with her family which consists of her husband, two kiddos, and 3 dogs.


Recaida Amponsah, BA

Graduate Research Assistant

Recaida holds a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics with Sociology from the University of Ghana, Legon. Currently, she is pursuing a Master of Social Work with a specialization in health and mental health at the University of South Carolina, demonstrating her focused commitment to supporting those facing these challenges. 

Driven by a desire to create positive change, Recaida's dedication lies in supporting individuals and families struggling with health and mental health issues. Her passion extends to advocating for vulnerable communities within the social ecologies, fostering a holistic approach to well-being.

Dr. Robert Hock's writings sparked Recaida's interest in autism and its intersection with the field of social work. She aims to synergize her academic knowledge with practical experience to become an advocate for individuals on the autism spectrum, striving to improve their quality of life.

Recaida is enriching her academic journey through an internship at Prisma Health within the Palliative Care department during her advanced practicum year. 

Beyond her professional pursuits, her adventurous spirit explores new destinations, finds joy in the creative expression of content creation, and delights in discovering different cuisine experiences, showcasing her well-rounded personality and enthusiasm for life.

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Abigail Reza, MA, BA

Graduate Research Assistant

Abigail earned their bachelor’s degree in Criminology with minors in Psychology and Japanese from the University of South Carolina, their master’s degree in Law with an emphasis in Human Rights & Rule of Law from Regent University, and a certificate on human trafficking from Arizona State University. They are currently working on their PhD in Social Work at the University of South Carolina. Abigail has over six years of experience providing victim advocacy and social services to children and youth across the East Coast, specializing in serving minor victims of exploitation and trafficking. Their research interests focus on understanding trauma among children and youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 


As an autistic person, Abigail is familiar with the strengths and challenges of being neurodivergent. They proudly advocate for person-centered autism research in academia and increased access to support for children and families to improve their quality of life. In their free time, Abigail enjoys reading about history, connecting with nature, and spending time with loved ones.

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