Meet our Team

The staff at Children’s Autism Center is a huge reason why our clients are so successful. Below you will find our team of directors, behavior analysts, and behavior therapists who help us provide the absolute best care for our clients and their families.

Phyllis Sample, M.Ed., BCBA – Executive Director, Founder

Phyllis Sample has 19 years experience working with children with developmental disabilities and autism.  She received her Bachelor’s degree in Speech Pathology from Texas Christian University and her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education with a concentration in Autism and Developmental Disabilities from the University of Texas at Austin.  She has worked in both the public and private sector of education as a Speech Pathologist and PPCD teacher.  After leaving the school system to raise her children, Phyllis returned to the field of early childhood to embrace Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis.

In 2005, Phyllis moved to Round Rock, where as co-director of the Autism program at Bluebonnet Trails MHMR she helped to create their autism program.  Recognizing the need and having the desire to further serve the early childhood autism population in Williamson County, she independently developed Children’s Autism  Center in the Fall of 2008.

Courtney Wright, M.Ed., JD, BCBACEO, General Counsel, Behavior Analyst

Courtney serves as CEO and General Counsel at CAC, as well as a behavior analyst. Courtney came to CAC in December 2012 after leaving her position as partner in a Dallas law firm. After doing a great deal of volunteer work for autism awareness in Dallas and being inspired by her mother, Phyllis, Courtney decided to make a career change to work with children with autism. She went back to school to obtain a Master of Education and became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in 2014.  Courtney has experience with children of all ages diagnosed with ASD. Prior to working at CAC, Courtney had extensive legal experience in the insurance industry which she now uses to help families navigate the insurance process. Courtney received a Bachelor of Arts from Texas Tech University, Juris Doctorate from Baylor School of Law, and a Masters of Education from University of Missouri. Courtney enjoys spending time with her husband, David, and their two boys, Charlie and Jamie.

Amanda St. Romain, M.A., BCBA – Behavior Analyst, Assistant Director 

Mandi St. Romain has worked with children with developmental disabilities for over 7 years, 6 of which have been spent working with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) ages 2-12.  Mandi grew up in a small Cajun town in Louisiana, and went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Louisiana State University (LSU) in 2009.  During her final year at LSU, she began working at a clinic that provided Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy to children with autism.  Her experience working 1:1 with children on the autism spectrum inspired her to pursue her master’s degree in ABA.  She knew then that she wanted to make a positive impact in the lives of children and families affected by ASD. Over the years her experience extended from the clinical setting to homes, schools, camps, and the community. She has worked as a Respite Provider, Behavior Therapist, Lead Therapist, Supervising BCBA, and recently opened her own consulting practice to offer training to clinics and families. She relocated to Austin, Texas from New Orleans, LA in the fall of 2014 to gain exposure to the Verbal Behavior approach, which she still remains very passionate about today. She specializes in training others on the principles of ABA with an emphasis on competency-based training and building confidence in those that she trains.  She enjoys extending her passion of language development to others, especially mand training and the importance of expressive language.

Dr. Bruce Weinheimer, PhD, BCBA-DPsychologist

Bruce Weinheimer is a Licensed Psychologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst with over 30 years of experience in clinical and administrative positions. His primary areas of expertise include the fields of developmental disabilities, applied behavior analysis, and psychopharmacology. His experience has included provision of clinical treatment, assessment, and program evaluation and consultation within long-term care settings, psychiatric facilities, and community-based services.

Dr. Weinheimer is the Chief Psychologist at Austin State School for over 16 years and is the Coordinator of Psychological and Behavioral Services for State Supported Living Centers within the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services. He served on Institutional Review Board as part of this responsibility. He has experience applying a range of standards and regulations and has served as an expert witness within his areas of expertise. Dr. Weinheimer has post-doctoral training in clinical psychopharmacology and is a Diplomate-Fellow in Psychopharmacology with the Prescribing Psychologists Register.

Johnna Palacios, M.A., BCBA – Behavior Analyst

Johnna is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in psychological counseling, both from Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ. Johnna joined the CAC team after working with adults with intellectual disabilities and dual diagnoses at the Austin State Supported Living Center where she worked as the lead for two units. Johnna is passionate about expanding her knowledge and experience in the filed of ABA and looks forward to her new path at Children’s Autism Center.

Cherilynn Blumenthal, M.S., BCBA – Behavior Analyst

Cherilynn, originally from the Boston, MA area, holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Clark University, a master’s in non-profit management from Worcester State University, and most recently obtained a second master’s in ABA from Regis College.

Cherilynn has worked as a behavior technician in home based settings, as a special education teaching assistant and as a BCBA in a public day school setting prior to joining the Children’s Autism Center team. Cherilynn loves working with parents to help them understand their child’s abilities and how to advocate for their children using the principles of ABA and the data. She likes to problem solve and find solutions that are amenable to all involved. She has found success with the use of out-of-the-box ideas and methods, for which she is excited to call upon while advancing her skill set.

When not working, Cherilynn is an avid runner having completed several half marathons, and spends a ton of time running around after her toddler. She resides in Austin, with her husband Josh and son, Ethan.

Ruby D. Mannankara-Cabrera, M.S., BCBA  Behavior Analyst 

Ruby is  a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst who recently relocated to Austin, TX from Boston, MA, although she was born and raised in Chattanooga, TN. Ruby has a Masters of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis through Northeastern University and a BA in Psychology and Religion from Wake Forest University. Ruby has worked with children and adults from 1 to 22 years of age with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Developmental Disabilities, and ADHD for the past 10 years, having experience working and volunteering in a variety of ABA settings including in-home, schools, and clinics. Ruby’s current role at Children’s Autism Center has her working closely with early learners from 12 months to 10 years of age utilizing Verbal Behavior principles, Joint Attention, Natural Environment Training (NET), and Incidental Teaching to increase language acquisition, social, play, and community skills.

In her free time, Ruby enjoys reading historical fiction, practicing brush calligraphy, exploring new restaurants with her husband, Josh, and spending time with their two dogs, Canelo and Eevee.

Laura Saldana, M.Ed., BCBA – Behavior Analyst

Laura L. Saldana is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst who began working with children with autism in 2004 while receiving her BA in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. She went on to receive her Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Special Education with a concentration in Autism and Developmental Disabilities from the University of Texas at Austin. Laura has been leading intensive interventions for children with autism since 2007 when she became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Utilizing the principles of applied behavior analysis and Skinner’s verbal behavior, Laura has successfully designed and developed many programs for the home, school, community, and clinical settings. Laura discovered her passion for teaching and training others when she worked as an Academic Associate teaching graduate level coursework in behavior analysis.

Laura has much experience working with children of all ages, but specifically has extensive training in working with children 18 months to 10 years of age. She specializes in intensive early childhood programs with an emphasis in language development through extensive work with non-verbal children. In addition to designing programs, Laura has been certified in a range of specializations including the acclaimed Handwriting Without Tears. When she is not working. Laura enjoys traveling and spending quality time with her husband Oscar and their three children.

Natalija Milutinovic, M.Ed., BCBA – Behavior Analyst 

Izzy Riofrio, M.Ed., BCBA – Behavior Analyst 

Izzy, originally from Quito, Ecuador,  is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst who has been working in the field for over 7 years. She began working with children with autism shortly after graduating with her bachelor’s in psychology from Tulane University in New Orleans. Her experience working 1:1 in the home as well as in the school and clinic settings inspired her to pursue a masters degree in Behavior Analysis from Florida State University. Upon graduating Izzy began working at CAC, continuing to pursue her passion in language and functional skill development.

In her free time Izzy enjoys being outdoors as much as possible, crossword puzzles, and traveling abroad.

Meghan Acuna, B.S., BCaBA – Clinical Assistant

Meghan is our Clinical Assistant and a board certified assistant behavior analyst at CAC where she has been providing ABA therapy services for the past 2 years. Meghan has worked with children on the Autism spectrum for over 7 years. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders. When Meghan’s not working at the clinic, she enjoys running and playing with her Cocker Spaniel, Lilly.

Katie Castro, M.A., CCC-SLP, RBT – Speech Language Pathologist

Katie is a speech language pathologist who has been working in the field for over 10 years and recently received her certificate as Registered Behavior Technician. She grew up in Indiana and double-majored in Spanish and Audiology & Speech Sciences at Purdue University. She then moved to Texas and received a master’s degree from University of Texas at Austin in Communication Sciences and Disorders. Katie was employed for the last 8 years as a bilingual SLP, providing assessment and early intervention in the areas of speech, language, play skills, and swallowing/feeding skills. She has provided speech and language therapy to children with a variety of developmental delays and disorders. Katie completed extensive family/caregiver training and education to aid in incorporating communication and feeding strategies into their child’s home routines. She spends her free time with her family and raising two young boys.

Antronette Little, M.Ed. – Elementary Classroom Teacher

I have a master’s degree in education (Lamar University) and my undergraduate degree is in social work (Southwest Texas / Texas State). Last summer, I worked at CAC part-time and fell in love with everything they do.  This summer, I decided to join CAC full-time and leave public education with over 6 years of experience as special education teacher. Prior to teaching,for nearly 5 years, I worked for a non-profit serving adults with intellectual disabilities.

I live in Pflugerville not to too far from my parents, younger brother and my adorable niece. Each week I look forward to Sunday dinners with my family.  I enjoy random weekend road trips, eating out (love talking about new restaurants) and small DIY projects.

Kiko Klahorst, M.Ed. – Preschool Teacher

I have a Bachelors degree in child development from Texas State University and a Masters degree in special education from Texas State University.  I hold a Texas Teaching Certificate in early childhood education and special education.  My professional background includes 4 years of working in Early Childhood Intervention as well as 5 years of teaching special education in the public school setting. I am very excited to be part of the new Pre-K classroom at CAC!  My role as the new Pre-K teacher will be to facilitate many opportunities for learning in a classroom or group setting with peers.   This type of environment will help students to foster social skills, teach group instructions, and follow a structured schedule.

Amanda Hirl, B.A., RBT – Registered Behavior Technician/Pre-k/Kinder Classroom Teacher

Amanda Hirl serves as our Pre-k/Kinder classroom teacher where she enjoys combining her experience working in private school settings and as an ABA therapist. Amanda received her bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Texas Tech, Lubbock. Most recently, Amanda became a certified registered behavior technician and has been designing programs, curriculum and schedules for the pre-k/kinder classroom while also serving as the classroom teacher.

Amanda enjoys spending her free time hiking, being outside and spending time with her husband, young daughter, Adelyn, and their Never Ending Story Falkor-look-a-like dog, Toby.

Apprentices (learn more about CAC’s Apprentice Program here)

Sumaiya Moledina, B.S.

Undergrad: University of Houston, 2015. B.S. in Psychology

Graduate: University of Texas at Austin, expected 2017. M.Ed. in Special Education

Vanessa Freeman, B.A.

Undergrad: Louisiana State University, 2007. B.A. in Psychology

BCaBA Coursework: Florida Institute of Technology, 2015

Virginia Hernandez, B.A.

Undergrad: Texas A&M, Kingsville, 2o11. B.A in Psychology

BCaBA Coursework: Ball State, expected completion: 2018

Tricia Espiritu, B.S.

Undergrad: University of Texas at Austin, 2014. B.S. in Human Biology

BCaBA Coursework: Florida Institute of Technology, 2017