AASC strives to help children with autism acquire the skills necessary to become fully capable members of their communities, ultimately able to prosper without the need for intensive intervention. Our vision is to be a model organization for individualized programs that can be replicated to serve a growing need.
Our team of highly qualified professionals is dedicated to improving the lives of children and families struggling with Autism and related disorders. We provide one-on-one and small group ABA therapy for children and adolescents age 2-21 in a center-based setting. In addition, AASC offers parent training, school consultation, social skills groups, and summer camps.
The Autism Academy of South Carolina was founded in 2010 by a group of concerned parents of children with autism and youth development professionals as a response to the rapidly growing need for resources and support to families of children diagnosed with ASD.
AASC was born out of a vision to enhance the therapy options and resources for families of children diagnosed with ASD. After searching the country in 2009 for “best practice” models, the founders, Lorri and Dan Unumb, decided to make it their mission to create a behavioral therapy center that utilized the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis to provide exceptional services for children and serve as a community resource for those impacted by autism.
Our Founders, Dan and Lorri Unumb, are parents of a son with autism. Lorri’s passion to help South Carolina families who didn’t have the means to give their children autism treatment led her to author an insurance bill in 2005. The bill would require insurers to cover evidence-based treatment of autism, including ABA.
The South Carolina General Assembly passed the bill known as “Ryan’s Law” in June 2007. Ryan’s Law served as the catalyst for a national movement toward autism insurance reform. In 2010, Lorri & Dan joined forces with a group of concerned parents of children with autism and youth development professionals to found the Autism Academy of South Carolina.
Following the passage of Ryan’s Law, Lorri Unumb joined Autism Speaks and now serves as the Vice President for State Government Affairs. In this role, she travels extensively and tirelessly with the continued drive to pass autism mandates in other states. Her passion and dedication have helped more than 35 states pass similar laws in the years since Ryan’s Law. Dan Unumb serves as the Executive Director of the Autism Legal Resource Center, which helps develop and protect the legal rights of people with autism.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Mrs. Patrick moved to Columbia from Savannah, Georgia. Passionate about changing lives, Mrs. Patrick began volunteering with children with special needs in 2002 and later, with encouragement from friends and family, working as a behavior technician. She studied both Psychology and Sociology from the University of Georgia and Applied Behavior Analysis at Florida Institute of Technology. She joined the Autism Academy in February 2018 as the executive director. Prior to working for AASC, she was a clinic director where she provided program coordination services, assessments, program development, training, and supervision services for children 2-21 years old, families, clinicians, and school districts. In her free time, Mrs. Patrick enjoys traveling, cooking, and staying active with her husband and four children, including two twelve-year-old boys with special needs.
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Kristen was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, MA. After graduating with a degree in Sociology from Salem State University in 2010, Kristen began her work in Applied Behavior Analysis as a behavior therapist in early intervention at Beacon ABA Services. While pursuing her Master’s degree in Special Education at Cambridge College in Cambridge, MA, Kristen taught in a substantially separate ABA pre-k/Kindergarten classroom from 2011-2013. Kristen received her CAGS (Certificate of Advance Graduate Studies) in Applied Behavior Analysis from the University of Massachusetts – Boston/Melmark. Kristen worked as a behavior specialist at the Northeast Arc in Danvers, MA from 2013-2015, overseeing in-home ABA therapy cases for clients 3-9 years old. Following a nationwide search, Kristen was hired by the Autism Academy of South Carolina as the Director of Professional Development and moved to Columbia in 2015. She was promoted to Director of ABA Services in 2016. Kristen loves helping kids with autism progress to their highest potential.
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Dr. Brazendale received her doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University with a focus on working with children with autism and ADHD. Her first year practicum was in an ADHD assessment and treatment clinic where she became proficient in parent training, ADHD assessment, and behavioral therapy. Her subsequent practicum experiences were in an outpatient autism treatment and assessment clinic as well as in an ABA severe behavior disorders clinic. Dr. Brazendale was the clinical coordinator of the ABA severe behaviors disorders clinic before her internship in the Multidisciplinary Center at FSU. While at FSU she worked in both an ADHD and autism assessment clinic as well as in several schools doing therapy and assessment. She completed her postdoctoral work at the University of South Carolina, doing research in physical activity and social skills for kids with autism, and at a private practice in the area. She became the Autism Academy’s Director of Psychology Services in January 2016, overseeing four programs: Social Skills Groups; Individual and Family Therapy; ADHD and Autism Assessment and Testing; and Camp MATES, a sports, social skills, and nutrition camp for kids with social skills deficits. Dr. Brazendale is also an adjunct faculty member in School of Psychology at USC and supervises doctoral students for their clinical hours. Dr. Brazendale is very passionate about her role at the Autism Academy and is excited about the services that we are bringing to the Midlands!
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Shanna is a graduate of the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. Motivated by her passion for serving people, Shanna she served three years with AmeriCorps, the domestic version of the Peace Corps. Through this experience, she realized her passion for working with non-profit organizations and decided to use her business experience to help nonprofits achieve their mission. After serving with AmeriCorps, she joined the staff at City Year Columbia, an AmeriCorps program with a mission to lower the high school dropout rates across the nation. Shanna served on staff as the Deputy Director of City Year for 7 years. She joined the Autism Academy of South Carolina in May 2013 as Director of Finance where she oversees finance, medical billing, and human resources.
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Courtney was born and raised here in Columbia, SC, a graduate of Newberry College with a B.S. in Physical Education. Within the first year in the physical education world, and ample volunteer work in the field, Courtney developed a more intense passion for children with special needs. She spent the next three years as an assistant in Lexington/Richland District 5 special education classes. In 2011, opportunity came knocking and the Autism Academy opened their doors. Courtney began as one of the initial three RBT’s at the academy and is here today as the only remaining employee since the academy began services. Courtney has served in numerous roles through her six years at the academy; as an RBT, a lead therapist, and serves currently as the Director of Operations for the Autism Academy. Courtney oversees the day-to-day operations for the Autism Academy. Courtney also works closely with the ABA clinical team, families and RBT’s to ensure the best services are provided for our amazing clients. Courtney’s passion for these children is heartfelt and immeasurable, evident in her services and dedication to the Autism Academy of SC.
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Columbia, South Carolina native Christopher “Chris” deGraffenried Keenan began working at the Autism Academy of South Carolina in the spring of 2016. Keenan graduated with a B.S. in psychology at Wofford College and earned his M.S. in Applied Behavior Analysis from Spalding University. During his time at Spalding, Keenan fulfilled his practicum experience working in a variety of behavioral settings including: the Bluegrass Center for Autism (lower campus for children under the age of 13 and the upper campus for children ages 13-21), Applied Behavioral Advancements, and Our Lady of Peace Hospital (psychiatric hospital with behavioral focus). These experiences, combined with his eternal quest for knowledge, provided Keenan with the passion for helping children with autism thrive in their surroundings.
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Sarah Nell joins the Autism Academy ABA clinical team in June of 2018. An Aiken, South Carolina native, Sarah Nell moved to Columbia in 2008 to pursue her bachelor’s degree in psychology and German at the University of South Carolina. During her first year at USC, she obtained her first job as a line therapist. Since then, she has gained experience working with children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities in applied and research settings. She graduated from the University of South Carolina College of Education in 2016 with a Master of Arts in Teaching for special education, with a focus on severe and profound disabilities. Sarah Nell became credentialed as a BCBA in 2017. She strives to teach individuals with autism the skills they need to advocate for themselves to influence the course of their own lives.
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Katie Franke is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Postdoctoral Fellow at the Autism Academy of South Carolina, where she conducts psychological evaluations for developmental disabilities and provides individual, family, and group interventions for children and adolescents with developmental disabilities. She also serves as the Clinical Coordinator for the AASC Department of Psychology. Katie obtained her Ph.D. in school psychology at the University of South Carolina in 2018, and she completed her doctoral internship at the Kennedy Krieger Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. At Kennedy Krieger, she completed rotations in the Pediatric Developmental Disorders and Pediatric Feeding Disorders program. She is excited to join the AASC team!
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Sabrina grew up here in Columbia and then decided for a change of pace to attend Syracuse University for her undergraduate degrees, Political Science and Religion. She is currently pursuing a master’s in public administration and is set to finish this spring. While attending Syracuse she spent her summers working at a summer camp specifically designed for children with special needs. She fell in love with serving this population and hoped to find a way after graduation to continue. Sabrina has been a member of the Academy family for the last two years, she served first as an RBT, then as a lead therapist, and now in her current role of Communications and Event Manager. Sabrina oversees volunteers, gym rentals, grant writing, fundraising, and donor communication.
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As the clinical coordinator at the Autism Academy, Kelsey assists with the preparation of clinical assessments, works with families and insurance companies to schedule testing and therapy appointments, and helps maintain medical documentation for the psychology department. She works to ensure visits run smoothly for the patients, their families, and the clinicians.
Kelsey graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2016 with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Public Policy. During her time at USC, she served as an undergraduate research assistant in the psychology department where she studied child and adolescent personality assessment, student engagement and performance in school, as well as school climate. Following graduation, Kelsey began working as a Clinical Trials Specialist at the Duke University Hospital. At Duke, her research team examined the social development of children with autism spectrum disorder as well as children with typical development.
In the future, Kelsey hopes to earn her PhD in School Psychology and work within school, hospitals, and private practice as a licensed psychologist.
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