Cristen Carson Reat is the co-founder and program coordinator of BridgingApps, a program of Easter Seals Greater Houston. BridgingApps helps parents, therapists, doctors, and teachers share information on how to use mobile devices like the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and Android devices with people who have special needs. Cristen holds a M.A. degree from the University of Texas at Austin, graduated from the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and is certified through the Assistive Technology Applications Program at California State University. She has worked in education for the last sixteen years, most of that time at an educational non-profit. She has written articles on apps for special needs populations that have appeared in National Down Syndrome Communicator, TechEdge Magazine, Parenting Special Needs Magazine, and Toca Magazine. She is the mother of two sons, one of whom has Down syndrome.
Betsy is a speech-language pathologist and autism consultant with 22 years of experience in a variety of settings. She graduated from Austin College with a BA in Psychology and Sociology and from the University of Texas at Dallas with a MS in Communication Disorders. She also holds a Texas teaching certificate and is a certified PLAY Project consultant. In 2010, she began using the iPod Touch and iPad in therapy sessions. Her use of these mobile devices has expanded to include training educators to use them in the classroom, and she is also a certified Proloquo2Go and Proloquo4Text Trainer. She is a member of ASHA and AAPPSPA.
Amy Barry is the Content Manager and Editor at BridgingApps. She has a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education and Masters in Education with a concentration in Educational Technology Leadership from the University of North Florida. Amy held a Florida Teaching Certificate from 1998 – 2008 and taught inclusion classes in a Florida public elementary school. Friends and family with special needs have inspired Amy to become a researcher in the field of mobile technology, and she is dedicated to advocacy and improving the physical, social, and educational outcomes of children with special needs. Amy’s passion for life, mobile technology in education and previous work experience are an asset to BridgingApps. Amy has worked for BridgingApps since 2014
Tara is a graduate of Brigham Young University with a B.S. in Elementary Education. She has been in Education for 16 years with 5 of those years in Educational Technology. Recently she was named a SMART Exemplary Educator. Tara taught elementary school in Provo, Utah and Fort Bend ISD. She is bilingual in Spanish and has lived in Spain. While in Spain she had the opportunity to teach for several years in a Dual Language classroom. Just recently she has worked as an instructional technology coach in Fort Bend ISD, the seventh largest school district in Texas, where she worked with teachers at all grade levels. Her passion is Education and learning new things to pass on to her colleagues.
Andi joined the BridgingApps team in 2013. She holds a BA in Radio/TV/PR from Sam Houston State and worked in Advertising, Business, and Real Estate. The World of “Assistive Technology” entered her life in 1998, when her daughter, Megan was born with severe cerebral palsy. She knew early on that Megan was extremely intelligent, but even with the best therapies, her body would not allow her to express herself. With Megan as a lead, they both focused on the one thing that she “could” control…. Her mind! Even though she lacked the muscle control to speak or use sign language, Andi introduced many low and high tech accommodations and devices to ensure that Megan would be able to express herself independent of others. Today, Megan is a straight A student using a highly sophisticated communication device that is accessed via eye gazing technology. She uses many different apps throughout her day. As a mother/daughter team they are constantly scouring the technology industry for new applications that will help her reach her goal of living as an independent adult with a career that will help change the lives of others.
Andi knows firsthand how to connect a person with a disability …. Into the world they so desperately want to be a part of.
Cristy Gamez-Galka joined Easter Seals to promote their mission of recovery by providing skills and supports to assist people of various abilities to enjoy their lives in the communities of their choice. Cristy graduated from the University of Houston with a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. After completing her internship at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital, she took a wonderful position in Denver, Colorado offering mental health services in a residential setting to Native Americans before re-locating back to Houston to work with Veterans at the VA hospital. She has provided mental health care to nursing home residents, has a private practice, and is excited to be part of Easter Seals Houston’s BridgingApps program assisting older adults with accessing technology to meet various needs. She lives with her son and daughter in Houston.
Marjorie has many careers over her life time – accountant, programmer, system designer, IT project manager and scuba shop owner. Her favorite job is being the mom to very special little girls, Olivia and Maddy. She adopted Maddy in 2012 from China and Olivia came two years later. She only works part-time because they keep her very busy. Her passion for assistive technology came when her youngest came along. Born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, Olivia started utilizing an iPad and Proloquo2Go when she was frustrated with communication.
Marjorie’s favorite apps are Prologuo2Go, PBS for kids, United Airlines, Chase, and Find My iPhone.
Jana’s interest in technology began to flourish in high school when she produced school media. This lead her to Apple, where she delivered training as a “Creative” for nearly 10 beautiful years. Jana studied communication, technology, and emergency medicine through various programs. She also studied the Czech language at Charles University in Prague. Jana believe’s there is an incredible power within communicating and connecting to one another through modern technology. She has a passion to share skills and knowledge with others. Jana’s experience with assisting seniors with technology with Apple, often helping adults with their first Apple product, will be an asset to BridgingApps. Jana’s greatest passion is to guide those who may need more time and patience to learn. Jana is a proud veteran of the United States Army where she served as a combat medic in the Florida Army National Guard. While in service, it was her privilege to provide aid to fellow soldiers. Now as a veteran, it is an honor for Jana to reach out to veterans and their families with the services and programs that can improve their lives.
Jana’s current top 5 apps are Pinterest, Waze, Apple Music, Chik-fil-A, and the Camera app.
Cathy is a Registered Dietitian with a variety of both clinical and community-based professional experiences. She received her BS degree in Dietetics from Georgia Southern University and her MS degree in Nutrition with a Public Health emphasis from the University of Tennessee where she was a Maternal and Child Nutrition Traineeship recipient from the US Department of Health and Human Services. She has developed or implemented various nutrition and health related projects including a diet intervention project with breast cancer survivors, a weight loss and general nutrition curriculum for incarcerated adults, a literacy-based life skills training program for sheltered homeless adults, and lipid-lowering clinical drug trials for adults with high cholesterol. She brings her knowledge of food, nutrition, and health into her personal life with her joy for delicious food and her love for physical fitness. She has years of experience coaching children in a variety of team sports and with Odyssey of the Mind. Her work with medically involved children and their families in an Early Childhood Intervention Program and as a full-time caregiver for a cognitively and physically challenged family member sparked her interest in using mobile devices and apps as therapeutic and empowerment tools by increasing self-sufficiency, supporting independence, and helping with caregiver support.
Julie Melton Smith is a Volunteer. Previously, she served as the Outreach Coordinator for BridgingApps. Julie has been with the team for 4 years and has enjoyed watching the program grow and serve more and more people with disabilities. Julie has a background in Special Education and taught Early Childhood prior to her career with BridgingApps. She has a M.Ed. with an emphasis on Low Incidence Disabilities. Julie is the mom of 3 young boys and knows first hand about how important it is to protect your mobile device with a good case.
Brett is the newest volunteer for BridgingApps. He is a senior at Oakleaf High School in Orange Park, Florida where he studies digital design at their Academy of Digital and Commercial Media. Using skills learned at OHS, Brett often completes graphic design tasks for the BridgingApps website. Brett also participates in Android app review trials.