CO-FOUNDER & PROGRAM DIRECTOR
Cristen Carson Reat is the Co-Founder and Program Director of BridgingApps.org, a program of Easter Seals Greater Houston. BridgingApps provides resources, education, and information on apps and mobile devices to help people with disabilities target and improve skills to reach their highest levels of physical and cognitive development. 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 is a proud veteran of the United States Army, where she served as a linguist and has worked in education for fifteen 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 and Parenting Special Needs Magazine. She is the mother of two sons, one of whom has Down syndrome.
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 to 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.
Amy is a graduate of Auburn University, with a B.A. in Psychology and a M.Ed. in Early Childhood Special Education. She worked as a special education teacher for 13 years in public schools in a variety of settings from preschool through 6th grade. During her tenure, she had the privilege of working with students of varying abilities, including autism, behavior disorders, learning and developmental disabilities, as well as physical differences. Amy has also worked as an advocate for families of children with special needs, assisting them with getting the appropriate educational services. Through her work with BridgingApps, she is able to continue her passion for teaching by educating people with disabilities, their families, and caregivers in ways that technology can improve their lives.
Amy’s top 5 apps are: Hoopla, Goodreads, Apple Notes, Etsy, and Amazon.
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.
BRIDGINGAPPS COORDINATOR – MONTGOMERY COUNTY OUTREACH
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.
DIGITAL TRAINER & VETERANS
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.
Daryn Ofczarzak, M.A., CCC-SLP
SPEECH LANGUAGE PATHOLOGIST
Daryn is a speech language pathologist with a passion for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). She has a B.A. in English from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.A. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Houston. She worked with children birth to three and their families through Early Childhood Intervention for four-and-a-half years. She currently works in a pediatric clinic and school for children with complex medical needs. She has been a BridgingApps team member since 2013, conducting AAC evaluations and AT or AAC consultations.
DIGITAL LEARNING SPECIALIST
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.