As a Fitness Coordinator at a school for children with autism, Coach Dave experienced first-hand the challenges of teaching exercise. By understanding that students with autism learn differently, he developed a system that has become a breakthrough in effectively teaching exercise. Nine universities have incorporated his program into their Adapted Physical Education and Special Education Programs. As a pioneer in the field, Dave gives his insightful and inspiring presentations around the world, including, Egypt, Dubai, Barbados, Russia and Canada. Coach Dave is also a published author, writes Autism & Exercise research articles, and has a TV Show “Coach Dave” on the Autism Channel.
Coach Dave graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in Health Promotion. He is a Certified Exercise Physiologist from the American College of Sports Medicine and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is a former assistant strength and conditioning coach for the University of Iowa Football Program and co-founder/President of Right Fit. He is also a member of the State of Illinois Autism Taskforce.
Ashley has been working with individuals with autism and special needs since 2009. As a paraprofessional for high school students at Lyons Township, she assisted with behavior management, data collection, IEP goals and inspired students to reach their physical, social and learning goals.
When working with one of her high school students who had autism and was overweight, Ashley was able to create a personal exercise program. Her program helped him lose weight and improved his behaviors and transitions. Since, she has made it a priority to have exercise a part of all her students lesson plans.
Ashley has a Masters Degree in Special Education and is a former Chicago Public School Teacher. For the EC, Ashley is advancing the School Program through curriculum design and pioneering the EC's Job Blending Program. Ashley also leads group and individual workouts for both children and adults.
Amy was a Special Education teacher for six years for 6th-8th grade students. Amy left teaching to stay home with her family but her passion to improve the lives of those with autism, quickly, brought her back.
Instead of going back to the classroom Amy worked as a contractor for AutonomyWorks, a company dedicated to employing adults on the autism spectrum. She was temporarily hired to help create their new hire training program and it made a difference. She was eager to find more work in this setting and reached out to the EC about their Autism Workforce Program (AWP).
With the EC, Amy is creating new programs for the AWP at Hart Schaffner Marx (HSM). She works directly with the new hires and is creating new job opportunities within HSM to change the lives of more individuals.
Amy has a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Iowa, a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia and she is also a Learning Behavior Specialist.
Amber began her internship with EC in the summer of 2015 after completing her Bachelors Degree in Special Education from the University of Illinois (Champaign). Before starting her career as a Special Education Teacher Amber wanted to learn about how exercise can impact her classroom and improve the lives of her students.
Amber made an immediate impact on the clients and groups she was involved with and even developed lesson plans for the ExerciseBuddy App. Amber, now a elementary school Special Education Teacher in Cicero, Illinois uses exercise in her classroom with individuals with various abilities and multiple languages.
Amber continues to assist in EC group programs for Community Support Services where she creates goal based training programs for all the individuals involved.
Tom has been working with those with autism and other special needs for over 10 years. In addition to leading the Exercise Connection classes at the North Suburban YMCA (NSYMCA). Also at the NSYMCA Tom is the Special Services lead instructor and Head Coach for their Special Olympics Swim Team. Tom has transformed the lives of many of his students.
Tom has a Bachelors Degree in Psychology/Child Development from Western Illinois and is currently completing a Masters Degree in School Psychology at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Tom is also preparing for the ACSM Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer Certification.
Erica Cupuro, a Specialist in School Psychology, has over 20 years experience working with children with autism spectrum disorders and their families. She has led parenting classes and consults with teachers on behavior management and the importance nutrition, fitness, and wellness in the classroom setting. Erica is also the head of her school district's wellness committee. She is certified in assessment of autism through the Autism Diagnostic Observation System (ADOS).
Erica is a certified group fitness instructor and is currently working on her ACSM Certified Personal Trainer Certification. With the EC, Erica assists in the training and development of EC's North Suburban YMCA classes and works with individuals in their homes.
Quinna is currently a student studying neuroscience with a focus on neurodevelopmental disabilities. She has always been passionate about helping the world realize how much individuals with disabilities have to offer. Quinna works within Autism Workforce instructing and coaching the many new employees at Hart Schaffner Marx. She also helps to create new job tasks and collect data for each job.
Prior to working at EC, Quinna worked alongside a pediatric speech language pathologist and has volunteered at mulitple organizations working with special needs children and adults.
Jessica began her career as a paraprofessional in the high school program at Giant Steps, a school for children with autism. This is also where she first met Coach Dave. Using what she had learned from her Bachelors Degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences, she was able to assist with speech therapy sessions.
After three years at Giant Steps she was ready to further her career and was accepted in the Masters Program for Speech and Language at St. Xavier University. She graduated in 2013 and now serves as a Licensed Speech-Language Pathologist at an elementary school in Lombard, IL.
With the EC, Jessica assists in the development of ExerciseBuddy and she has helped develop the EC presentation; Language Development through Exercise. But her toughest job, by far, is managing her now husband, Coach Dave.
When Coach Dave was teaching Max exercise and how to lead a healthier lifestyle, he found out that Max had a passion for film and videos. At that time Max was still in high school but Dave encouraged him to pursue film in College.
Max, a high school graduate, is currently studying Film/Video Production at the College of DuPage is now creating the videos for ExerciseBuddy. The Assessment Videos he created are now being used within research at Texas Womens University for ExerciseBuddy.
Max also works part-time at Hart Schaffner Marx creating video-models for their autism employment program. And while still balancing college and work, Max kept with a healthy lifestyle and lost over 30 pounds in 2016.
Jay is a well-known Chicago entrepreneur who owns five businesses. He has a nephew with autism, and after reading about Dave he reached out to see if he could help him build the infrastructure to reach more people. Turns out Coach Dave needed his own Coach. Since 2011 Jay has been invaluable as both a mentor and advisor to Coach Dave and the Exercise Connection Team.
Mary is a physical therapist for the Hinsdale Township High School District 86. She is also the mother of a son with Aspergers. She reached out to Coach Dave to work with her son in 2010. Her son has made tremendous gains in exercise, graduated high school, and is now employed. Along the way Mary began advising Dave on how ExerciseBuddy can benefit physical and occupational therapists. Mary's insights have been invaluable.
Dan has a son with autism and is a successful entrepreneur. Dan saw how his son, who was practically non-verbal, responded to animated storybooks. He had a vision to use the animated story format to teach language and communication skills, and he did this with TeachTown. Since 2014, he has advised Coach Dave in the world of technology and how to make a greater impact with it in the autism community.
Mike first met Dave in 1991. Dave was in his fifth grade Social Studies class. Mike was a mentor for Dave in middle school which has continued through adulthood. Mike, now the La Grange Highlands Middle School Principal, advises Coach Dave on how to navigate the school system and bring the Exercise Connection Mission to students across the US.