Board of Directors
Get to know the Sibling Leadership Network’s Board of Directors!
Linda lives in Las Vegas, NV but was born and raised in the Bronx, NY. She has a brother, Steve with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) who is five years younger. From an early age, Linda was involved in Steve’s care which introduced her to advocacy with AHRC and other nonprofit organizations, committed to finding ways for people with IDD to live full lives. Linda was introduced to the Sibling Leadership Network NY chapter during a conference hosted by ADAPT Community Network (formerly UCP of NY).
In 2018, Linda relocated to Memphis Tennessee where she was appointed by the governor as a member of the Tennessee Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. As a Council member, Linda was among a group of Tennesseans tasked with improving disability policies and practice, educating policymakers and the public through community collaboration. She was also a member of the Tennessee Adult Brothers and Sisters (TABS), a chapter of the Sibling Leadership Network.
Linda relocated to Las Vegas in 2020, where she saw a need to form a Nevada chapter of the Sibling Leadership Network. She partnered with the University of Nevada at Reno to create the Nevada SLN chapter and works with local organizations serving those with disabilities to build the chapter. Linda also serves as a Community Advocacy Committee member for the Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities.
When Linda is not advocating for those with disabilities, working as a clinical research director or working on her Doctorate in Health Sciences, you can find her exploring the desert with her husband, rescue dogs and hosting family and friends, especially Steve!
Kristin Lanari is from Appleton, Wisconsin, and lives close to her sister, Lauren, who has Down syndrome. Kristin is an active member of WisconSibs, and previously served on their board of directors. In 2009, she edited a book called Walk With Me, featuring essays by local siblings of people with Down syndrome. By day, Kristin is a wedding and food photographer. By night, she loves spending time with her husband and two children, cooking, biking, and reading.
For more than 10 years, Shawnnita Buckner has been a noteworthy leader in the community behavioral health services industry. Shawnnita has a bachelor’s in psychology from Texas Tech University, and she also hold credentials as a certified ScrumMaster and Six Sigma Black Belt.
As the sibling to an adult with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), since the age of 13, Shawnnita has been advocating, supporting, and helping to care for her older brother, Jay. At a young age, Shawnnita learned to navigate through the “system”, breaking through barriers and stereotypes, to ensure Jay’s life is meaningful.
Shawnnita also supports community agencies such as the IDD Council of Tarrant County where she strives to bring inclusion, awareness, and education to the community to ensure individuals with IDD (and, their families) can thrive.
Shawnnita and her husband, Jason, are the proud parents of Kaden and Kairo. She currently lives in Arlington, TX with her family. Professionally, Shawnnita serves as the Director of Compliance Special Projects for a leading mortgage company.
When she is not keeping busy, you can find Shawnnita reading, shopping, or spending time with family outdoors.
Originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Ted lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and is an Associate Professor of Psychology at The University of Alabama. Ted’s interests in siblings are both personal and professional, primarily inspired by his brother who has developmental disabilities. Ted’s research focuses on the experiences of family members of individuals with autism spectrum disorder and other intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), with a particular focus on siblings and caregivers. In addition to the SLN, Ted is involved with a variety of professional organizations focused on developmental disabilities, including Alabama’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. He is married with two young children and, in his spare time, enjoys watching terrible reality TV and working in his yard.
Eric McVay is a board member of the Sibling Leadership Network and a member of Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE), the national self-advocacy organization for people with developmental disabilities. He is also an active member of his state self-advocacy organization in Maine called Speaking Up For Us. Eric is also part of the Consumer Council System of Maine, a voice for consumers of mental health services. He is active in advocacy and knowledgeable about policies that impact people with disabilities. Eric lives in Maine. He has a close relationship with his younger sister.
Zach Rossetti is Co-President of the Massachusetts Sibling Support Network, the Massachusetts chapter of SLN. A former special education teacher and inclusion facilitator from New Hampshire, he is currently an Associate Professor of Special Education in the Wheelock College of Education & Human Development at Boston University. His research focuses on social interactions and friendships between students with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities, family engagement in special education, and sibling roles and relationships. Much of this work is inspired by his brother Todd who was a huge Red Sox fan and had cerebral palsy.
Co-Chair of Network Development
Emma Shouse Garton
Emma Shouse Garton lives in Nashville, TN and works for the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities as a Public Information Specialist. Emma has been with the Council since 2011 and helps lead the Council’s communications efforts, including their website, social media, weekly newsletters and community outreach efforts. Emma has been involved in the Tennessee Adult Brothers and Sisters (TABS) statewide sibling support network, launched by the Council and Vanderbilt Kennedy Center over a decade ago, since she began working at the Council – she feels lucky to have had the opportunity to attend a few Sibshops as a child and then begin attending the TABS conferences while in college, which inspired her to get involved in supporting fellow siblings. She served as the Council’s representative for Tennessee’s involvement in the national Supporting Families Community of Practice, which explores how families can be better supported throughout the lifespan by state systems and communities.
Emma’s family includes her husband T.J. and their 3 bunnies, her parents, and twin younger brothers (Evan and Brendan) in their early 20s. Her brother Evan has autism, significant communication challenges and lives in his own apartment nearby in Franklin, TN with the help of support staff. Emma graduated from Belmont University with degrees in social work and sociology. Emma is passionate about finding ways for people like her brother Evan who rarely communicate with speech or words to have their “voices heard” and their wishes respected, and is very interested in the emerging national best practice of supported decision making.
Chair of Policy and Advocacy
Tiffany Banks is originally from Baltimore, Maryland where she grew up with 3 brothers, one of whom identifies as an individual on the Autism Spectrum. She is a licensed clinical social worker in the state of Colorado and completed her LEND fellowship at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. Tiffany completed her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work at Niagara University and her Master’s degree in Social Work with a specialization in Maternal and Child Health from the University of Maryland at Baltimore. After 10 years of serving individuals with disabilities as a social worker, Tiffany has recently returned to school to work towards a PhD in Social Work at Colorado State University. Tiffany and her husband Scott live in the Colorado suburbs and spend their free time raising a variety animals and fostering for a canine rescue.
Co-Chair of Policy and Advocacy
Nina Bihani lives in Detroit, not too far from her parents and younger brother Nishant, who has autism and developmental disabilities. From the moment he was born, Nina formed an unbreakable bond with Nishant. As she grew older, she appreciated seeing the world through the lens of a sibling and felt a strong desire to improve life for others like her brother. Eventually, this led Nina to medical school where she chose to specialize in psychiatry. She hopes to build a career in which to provide psychiatric care for adults with developmental disabilities. She also strives to improve the wellbeing of sibs. Nina is currently involved in research that facilitates coordination of care in the diagnosis and treatment of autism and developmental disability, so that early intervention can be initiated as quickly as possible, and also to implement effective transition planning as these children grow to adults.
Nishant and Nina’s favorite hobbies are eating ice cream, going for long drives, and listening to Bollywood oldies together. When she isn’t working at the hospital or studying for board exams, you can find Nina trying out new recipes, watching comedy specials, or eating cheesecake and tacos.
Illinois Chapter Representative
Nora Fox Handler is a committed sister to her three brothers with developmental disabilities, Marty, Patrick, and Michael. Michael also has a serious mental illness. She is a passionate advocate for people with disabilities and their families. She shares the story of her family’s experience and the consequences of their lack of planning for the future. Her story is published in Thicker Than Water: Essays by Adult Siblings of People with Disabilities.
Nora is a founding member and treasurer of Supporting Illinois Brother and Sisters (SIBS) in Illinois and on the Board of Directors of the national Sibling Leadership Network. She also serves on the Advisory Committee of the Sibling Support Project. Nora is an advocate advisor of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging with Developmental Disabilities (RRTCADD) and the Institute on Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Nora received the Family Advocate award from The Arc of Illinois and is a Board member of The Arc of Illinois.
Washington D.C. Chapter Representative
Lisa Matthews is a native Washingtonian. She currently works as a Program Director for a national non-profit organization where her personal passion is aligned with its mission to strengthen communities. For over 15 years, she has served as a volunteer with dedication to empowering individuals with disabilities, capacity building and economic development. Lisa prides herself on working to help sustain programs and services for individuals with a disability and their families. She is inspired by her experiences as a sibling of a brother with a disability along with other family and close friends with various health needs to join several organizations and broaden her understanding of the health care system. She is passionate about her work with service-based entities to have a deeper understanding of how to navigate within their systems to help improve the lives of individuals with a disability and their families.
Lisa is a member of the DC Autism Society, co-founder of DC Sibs group, and the DC Chapter liaison for the Sibling Leadership Network. She is a 2014 graduate of the DC Advocacy Partners program, member of the DC Quality Trust Program and Policy Committee, Past-Chair to the DC State Plan Developmental Disabilities Council (DDC) and Chair of the DC State Plan Implementation Committee for the DDC. She also serves on boards that provide support for residential care and services for individuals with a disability, at-risk youth, outreach food services for the homeless, and partner with other organizations to provide necessities to benefit community residents in various transitional stages of life.
She is the coauthor of two books and an Honoree Listee in the 2018 and 2019 Who’s Who in America. She has written articles for online publications and enjoys writing poetry. She also enjoys spending time with her family and friends.
Oregon Chapter Representative
Nikki is one of three children, with the youngest sibling being an adult with autism and intellectual disability. Robby has guided her career path in special education and passion for advocacy for people with autism and special needs. She currently serves as an Autism Consultant in Southern Oregon and is pursuing her PhD in Special Education. She was previously a special education teacher and administrator in CA. Her career allows an outlet for her passion to facilitate the availability of quality, inclusive experiences. Watching her brother grow from a non-verbal, self-injurious child to a well-functioning, independent adult inspires her to help other families. Her brother currently lives with her and she manages his care while balancing a professional and personal life. Nikki enjoys snowboarding, hiking and backpacking.
Members At Large
Sibling Support Project Representative
Emily Holl’s experience with the Sibling Leadership Network began in 2006, when the network was a dream discussed by a handful of siblings sitting in a circle in an otherwise empty hotel conference room.
Over the next few years, as the dream of a national sibling organization grew into the Sibling Leadership Network, Emily served as the New York representative while working with siblings locally to establish sibsNY, the state’s chapter of the SLN. She also served as Communications Committee Chair of the SLN.
Emily, who has an older brother with intellectual and developmental disabilities, has worked in the disabilities field since 2003. She has experience as a communications professional and as a licensed Social Worker. Emily has conducted research and published on sibling issues, and she had the pleasure of working with Don Meyer and several SLN authors in co-editing “The Sibling Survival Guide.”
In 2015, Emily and her family moved from New York to Minnesota, where she currently supports students with disabilities at a community and technical college. She is thrilled to reconnect with the SLN and to offer her support as Secretary.
Sibling with a Mission
Nathan Grant is the twin brother of Nik Grant, who has a rare genetic condition called Mucopolysaccharidosis II, also known as Hunter syndrome. Nik has inspired Nathan to offer support and advocate for individuals, siblings, and families touched by complex health needs, including chronic illnesses and developmental disabilities. Nathan is from Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a student at Harvard College where he is studying Molecular and Cellular Biology. Inspired by his brother, Nathan created Siblings with a Mission to serve siblings and sibling supporters of all backgrounds. Siblings with a Mission offers support through story columns where siblings and families can share their stories with others, a resource database, and sibling and family conferences. Siblings with a Mission recently collaborated with the Sibling Leadership Network to create a LEND curriculum to inform health professionals about the experiences and needs of siblings. It is Nathan’s goal to increase support for siblings, spread awareness of the sibling experience, and inform others about the importance of recognizing and supporting siblings. Nathan is excited to bring his background from Siblings with a Mission to increase support and connect with more siblings through the Sibling Leadership Network.