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Meet the Team

Tisha Shah (she/her)

Chief Executive Officer

Tisha Shah was raised in Durham/Raleigh NC and she graduated from NC State University with a B.A. in Communications with a Concentration in Communication Science and Disorders and a minor in Psychology. She then received her post-graduate degree in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of South Carolina, where she also completed a specialized certification in the rehabilitation of neurogenic disorders. This specialization fueled her desire to help empower each individual to utilize their strengths to overcome challenges through client-centered therapy.  Building relationships with clients and families is her greatest joy and she believes is the foundation of successful therapy. Throughout her career, Tisha has enjoyed a variety of pediatric settings that have shaped her professional practice, has gained valuable experience in Montessori education, and is a Natural Language Acquisition trained clinician. She has most recently served as adjunct faculty for North Carolina Central University's Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders as a Clinical Educator. Tisha is a licensed SLP in North Carolina and Georgia and is also licensed as a professional educator by the North Carolina State Board of  Education/Department of Public Instruction. She is often found engaging in continued educational opportunities and supporting social justice initiatives. Tisha also enjoys traveling, exploring our wonderful community, and spending time with her husband, three children, and three dogs.

Stephanie Hall (she/her)
Executive Director

Stephanie Hall holds a B.A. in Psychology from The State University of New York at Stony Brook and an M.S. in Occupational Therapy from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has practiced occupational therapy in Pennsylvania, New York, and North Carolina. She has specialized in pediatrics her entire career and has worked in the home, clinic, daycare, preschool, and school environments. She is a Certified Yoga for the Special Child© Practitioner, a Certified ChildLight Yoga© Instructor, and a Licensed Yoga 4 Classrooms© Trainer. She has taken extensive coursework (100+ hours) on Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) through Perkins School for the Blind and received the Perkins-Roman CVI Range Endorsement in 2018. She is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association, North Carolina Occupational Therapy Association, and Pediatric Cortical Visual Impairment Society. Stephanie lives in Cary with her husband, son, daughter, and dog. She enjoys traveling, hand-balancing, spending time with her family, and is passionate about equal access to healthcare and social justice. 

Board of Directors

Hayley Bayne (she/her)
Board Member

Hayley is a lifelong advocate for children, families, and policy change to address systemic barriers for equitable services. Hayley got her Bachelors in Child Development from Appalachian State and a Masters in Youth, Family and Community Science from NC State. She most recently graduated with a Masters of Social Work from UNC Chapel Hill! She has worked for a school system leading an after school program, and at nonprofits doing a variety of work to support early education, teachers, and creating resilient communities. In her free time, you will find her on hikes in the mountains with her dog, Sparrow, traveling to new places, and spending time with her friends and family. She's extremely excited to serve on the Board of Directors for TheraFriends and support such a wonderful organization for the children of the Triangle area!

Sam Brandsen, PhD (he/him)
Board President

Sam is an autistic parent of an autistic child. He completed his Ph.D. in physics at Duke University, and afterwards switched his focus to autism research. He currently works for the Duke Autism Center and absolutely loves anything related to neurodiversity and autism advocacy. He is especially interested in developing more accessible healthcare systems and educational practices, as well as learning about how research and the neurodiversity movement can better address the needs and perspectives of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Corey Briskey, MPH (she/her)
Board Member

Corey is a mom of two wonderful children. One was born premature and has had high support needs ever since.  Corey has had moments of great success and great failure in navigating therapies and medical care, ultimately giving her a perspective unique to those who have not had to raise a child with high support needs that has multiple diagnoses.

She holds a Master of Public Health in Community Health and Health Behavior from the University of Buffalo, State University of New York and a Bachelor of Science from SUNY Brockport with a major in Psychology and Business Administration minor. She has nearly 10 years of experience leading projects focused on professional development and leadership and is skilled at program planning, implementation, evaluation and building strong relationships with diverse individuals and institutions.

As a board member she is excited to marry both her personal and professional experience to help children access quality therapies in a neurodiversity affirming environment.

Shreyas Hallur (he/him)
Board Treasurer
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Born and raised in Phoenix, Shreyas is a proud Arizonan majoring in public policy and statistics. He seeks to develop innovative policies to help neurodiverse people lead an independent life. At the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, Shreyas initiated a program to create inclusive science learning opportunities for autistic children that has won a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation. He also advocates for greater accessibility on campus through Duke Disability Alliance, Duke Student Government, and Neurodiversity Connections. In the future, Shreyas will continue this work by reforming healthcare delivery for populations with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He has pursued this career with internships at state and federal governments. During the pandemic, Shreyas interned with Arizona Medicaid where he informed the rollout of telehealth and helped protect members with developmental disabilities from exposure to COVID-19. After graduation, he plans to enroll in a joint MD/MPH degree so he can work at the intersection of long-term care, patient advocacy, and data-informed policymaking.  Shreyas was recently named a Rhodes Scholar and will continue learning ways to support increased accessibility for autistic individuals while attending Oxford University in the United Kingdom. In his spare time, Shreyas enjoys hiking, listening to podcasts, and skateboarding.

Jalessa Johnson (she/her)
Board Member
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Jaleesa Johnson is a research regulatory associate in clinical trials with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and is a single mom to a young daughter with cerebral palsy and developmental delay. Her daughter, Karlyn currently receives PT, OT and Speech Therapies. Jaleesa has traveled to Ghana, West Africa, to perform mission work and research at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra in the labor and delivery unit, where she also mentored young children. She has volunteered for various different organizations with a focus on women's and children’s health. She attended the University of North Carolina in Greensboro majoring in public health and minoring in American Sign Language and received her Master of Science degree in public health from Meharry Medical College. In her spare time she's still an active member in her sorority, she has a hobby of creating nail art and she enjoys spending quality time with her daughter and family.

Luz Mejia (she/hers/her/ella/suya)
Board Member
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I am a Spanish-bilingual community advocate with nearly a decade of experience serving selected groups in fast-paced environments. Being a people person, I'm a listener, an ambassador, and someone who helps others get things done. Traveling is one of my favorite things to do, especially visiting different cultures and learning more about them. While traveling in under-developed areas, I have seen and heard community struggles and searched for resources, allowing them to be heard and understood. I'm excited to join TheraFriends because I know TheraFriends is committed to supporting underprivileged and underserved populations! Being able to communicate with people throughout the community is incredibly fulfilling to me. Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of supporting birthing people, English as a Second Language families, low-income, Medicaid/Medicare, and uninsured recipients as a Birth Doula, Patient Financial Advocate, and Care Advisor. As a community-facing professional with over 8 years of experience, I look forward to continuing in that role for many years to come!

 Cristina Mena, LMHC (she/her)
Board Member

I recently moved to the Research Triangle area and I am glad to have found an organization whose mission is so near and dear to my heart. After a family member received an Autism diagnosis in 2019, several new conversations about Neurodivergence opened up for us. After much research and reflection, we learned more about how Neurodivergence has always been a core piece of our family identity. Previously, we never had an official "label" to describe the quirkiness and differences that we had all come to accept in ourselves. Now we have a much more solid understanding and appreciation of who we are as a family. As a parent who is always striving for advocacy and as a therapist who is well aware of the difficulties in receiving accommodations and proper healthcare, I hope to contribute to a much bigger movement for change. 


When I am not directly advocating for parental wellness and Neurodiversity-affirming care, I am working as a Florida licensed therapist. I am passionate about providing bilingual treatment for clients who are experiencing pregnancy and postpartum issues as well as trauma and related disorders. In order to take care of my own mental health, I try to "not sweat the small stuff", while focusing on dancing, learning new things, and having fun outdoors with my kids.

Kerri Pastor, LCSW (she/her)
Board Vice-President
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My name is Kerri I’m an adult who has lived experience with PT and OT growing up. I was born with a congenital heart defect and cerebral palsy. My experience as a child and teen led to my career and passion of being a mental health specialist for children and teens with chronic illness and disability. When I’m not working I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, relaxing, being outdoors and traveling.


Board Alumni

We are very grateful to our Board Alumni for their support of Therafriends. Our alumni include:

  • Katie Sorensen

  • Mimi Chan

  • Valerie Goldstein

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