Meet The Team
M.Ed, LCSW, BCBA, DT
Lorell Marin founded LEEP Forward in 2001 out of her desire to create innovative and inclusive learning environments for all children that focused on social emotional development. She expanded this vision in 2018 to include a school focusing on diverse learners. Lorell holds a master’s degree in both Social Work and Teaching (specializing in Special Education ). Lorell believes passionately in the potential of all children. This belief has driven her to continue to build up her toolbox and evolve with her clients. Just as no two children are alike, neither can the approach we take to support them along their path. She continues to learn as much as she could while prioritizing listening to her clients and honoring their journey. This has brought her to become certified or trained in a variety of areas. Most recently completing requirements to become an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analysts). Prior to this she completed training as a level 2 DIR practitioner. In addition, she completed training in RDI, Play Project, Mendability, SCERTS, TEACCH, Social Thinking programs and a host of other training. Lifelong learning is in her DNA. However, she continues to learn the most by observing and listening to children and their families. She knows with the right support the children she works with will take over the world (and what a beautiful world that will be)!
Leigh received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Therapeutic Studies and Occupational Therapy in a 5-year accelerated program at Boston University. After earning her Master’s degree, Leigh moved back to Chicago for her clinical fieldwork rotations. Though pediatrics was her original passion, Leigh wanted to gain experience working with a variety of populations and spent the first 5 years of her practice working with adult and geriatric populations in hospitals, inpatient rehabs and skilled nursing facilities.
Leigh joined the LEEP team in 2017 and has worked her way up from an occupational therapist to a senior occupational therapist and most recently has transitioned into the role of Clinical Director. During her time at LEEP, Leigh has learned and accomplished so many things! She loves working with and learning from a multidisciplinary team approach and has focused her continuing education on sensory based movement disorders. In addition, Leigh has a passion for sensory friendly and inclusive design within homes and businesses and has enjoyed helping families design sensory play rooms within their homes.
In her spare time, Leigh enjoys exercising, interior design, spending time with family and friends, and traveling the world!
Dana Hutchins, M.S., D.T.
Chief Clinical Executive Director
Dana is a credentialed Developmental Therapist and has been a Lead Therapist at LEEP Forward since 2013 and has also worked as the Transition Coordinator. Dana received her professional DIR-FCD Model certificate in Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Development through the Profectum Foundation. She implements the DIR® Floortime model in the therapeutic preschool groups. Dana received her undergraduate degree in ElementaryEducation from the University of Wisconsin and taught in the public schools in Aiken, South Carolina. Dana returned to Chicago and graduated from The Erikson Institute with a Master’s in Science with a focus in working with children with special needs.
Dana is a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and in her free time loves to explore the culinary world of Chicago with her husband, Harley.
Director of Insurance and Billing
Elena is the LEEP Forward Medical Insurance Advisor, Communications & Office Manager, helping families navigate through insurance benefits as swiftly and painlessly as possible. Born in Chicago, she is a graduate of DePaul University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce. Elena brings a strong sense of compassion through her own experiences with helping her own beautiful son get the coverage he needs. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family and making her son laugh. If you have any questions regarding medical insurance just ask for Elena or also commonly referred around the office to as “Diego’s Mom”.
Lindsey Dunn, M.S. OTR/L
Occupational Therapist, Department Head
Lindsey grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago and received her Master's degree in Occupational Therapy from Midwestern University in Downers Grove, IL. Lindsey also has a Bachelors of Social Work (BSW), which she received from Indiana University, Bloomington. Lindsey has enjoyed working at both LEEP Forward and Quantum LEEP Academy locations for the past 2 and a half years. Her demonstrated passion is to provide services to promote and support participation in everyday activities across multiple environments. She finds joy in seeing every child flourish and grow to their greatest potential. Lindsey has substantial experience with the DIR® Floortime approach, sensory processing, and feeding.
In her spare time, Lindsey loves traveling (to both warm and cold destinations!), exercising, and spending time with family and friends!
Alex Nowak, M.S. SLP-CCC
Speech Language Pathologist
Alex was born and raised in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. She received her Bachelor’s of Science in Speech-Language Pathology at The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She went on to earn her Master of Science in Speech, Language and Learning from Northwestern University.
Alex is passionate about fostering meaningful relationships with her clients and their families to create an environment that promotes development. Alex has experience working with a wide variety of pediatric clients, including those with language delays and disorders, phonological and articulation disorders, and autism spectrum disorder. She’s a firm believer in the undeniable value of an interdisciplinary approach to care and she’s excited to be a part of the teams at both LEEP Forward and Quantum LEEP Academy. After work, Alex enjoys trying new restaurants around the city, listening to live music, and traveling with family and friends.
Social Worker, LCSW
Gabby Drew, R.B.T.
Assistant Clinician - RBT
Gabrielle was born and raised in the south suburbs of Chicago and is a triplet. She is a 2019 graduate from the University of Missouri with a Bachelors of Science in Family and Lifespan Development with a Multicultural Certificate.
During her four undergraduate years, she participated in plenty of service and volunteer work. In 2017 and 2018 she volunteered as a Camp Counselor and Arts & Crafts Coordinator for a Children’s Bereavement Camp in St Louis. This camp supported children and teens through the grief process, coping, and provided social emotional tools and support groups for all ages.
She also spent time at the Women’s & Children’s Hospital in Columbia, Missouri in the Pediatric Playrooms. There she provided developmentally appropriate medical play and preparation for difficult or painful procedures in the Emergency Room, Radiology, and Pre-surgery during her Child Life Practicum. She also has experience working with children with Sickle Cell Anemia.
During her undergraduate years, she also spent time as a practicum student in the University of Missouri Child Development Lab. She spent a full year there, half of the year in a preschool classroom and the other half in the infant room. There she curated developmentally appropriate activities and facilitated play and High-Scope curriculum.
Now, Gabrielle is enrolled in her Masters of Arts Program for Applied Behavior Analysis with an Emphasis in Autism at Ball State University. She is on track to graduate cum laude July of 2022.
When she isn’t working you can find her spending time with her cat Luna Moon, cooking, online-shopping or binge-watching Netflix.
Emily Szaflarski, R.B.T.
Assistant Clinician - RBT
Emily grew up nearby in Oak Park, Illinois and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Speech and Hearing Science. While pursuing her Bachelor's degree, Emily spent her evenings teaching swim lessons to both children and adults, and her weekends working as a coordinator for a Saturday morning tutoring program for elementary aged students from immigrant and refugee families through the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center. She spent her senior year of college volunteering as an assistant in two local early childhood classrooms - a preschool class in Urbana, where most of the students spoke Mandarin as a first language, and a first grade class in Champaign where she offered students 1:1 support. After graduating, she spent four years working in early childhood education centers in the West Loop and Ravenswood neighborhoods before finding LEEP in 2019! Emily became a Registered Behavior Technician in 2020 and took a professional development course in DIR-Floortime in early 2021. She has loved having the opportunity to learn multiple disciplines at LEEP and hopes to pursue a Master’s Degree in Special Education in the near future so that she can continue to serve young children and families in Chicago.
When Emily is not at LEEP, she enjoys keeping up with reality television and obscure celebrity news, and practicing art of all kinds.
Ciara Putnam, R.B.T.
Ciara is a California native from warm and sunny Los Angeles with a bachelor's degree from San Francisco State University, and because of the various internships, classes, and experiences with kids she had during her time there, she knew specifically that she wanted to work with the special needs community and be a voice they needed. After graduation, she worked as a School Program Assistant for grades K-5, before making the switch to behavior technician for the past few years and working with all kinds of amazing kids. Down the road, she hopes to attain my Master's Degree in Special Education. LEEP is an incredibly special place in that the collaboration and support and free spirited play here is unlike anywhere she's seen, and she so excited to grow and learn with the company!
In her free time, she loves FaceTiming my dog back at home, eating her weight's worth in potatoes at brunch, and soaking in as much sunshine as she possibly can and wherever she can with a good book.
Annalissa grew up on the island of Kauai, hiking, surfing, and playing with two brothers and a rotating cast of pets. She received her undergraduate degree in Dance from Northwestern University in 2016, and has been dancing and teaching around the city ever since! Annalissa was introduced to some of the LEEP team while leading an Adaptive Dance residency through Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and immediately fell in love with the staff and kiddos. She is so excited to be learning and growing as part of the LEEP Forward family.
When she's not at LEEP, you can find Annalissa reading by the lake, making pizza, or having dance parties in her kitchen.
Olivia is originally from St. Louis, Missouri. She grew up in the western suburbs with one older brother. However, she is a major Chicago sports fan! She attended Columbia College where she obtained her degree in Psychology and a minor in Sociology. Before coming to LEEP Forward Olivia worked with youth for four years including extensive experience in outdoor education and leadership development. During this time she was a certified Wilderness First Responder and worked as an outdoor/backcountry trip leader. She plans to attend a graduate program in the future to pursue her dream occupation as a clinical counselor.
She enjoys any outdoor activity, exercising, playing video games, spending time with friends or family, and petting dogs.
Becca grew up in Deerfield, Illinois and spent most of her time in recreational programs mentoring peers with disabilities starting at the age of 7. This sparked her passion to work with this population. Becca earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Public Health Certificate from the University of Colorado Boulder. During her undergrad, she worked at a pediatric occupational therapy clinic in order to gain experience in the field as she wants to pursue a career as an Occupational Therapist in the near future. Becca is now back home in Chicago and loving it! Working at LEEP has taught her so much about teaching children through play.
When Becca is not at work she is either volunteering for Tutoring Chicago, going on runs, or walking dogs.
Andrea moved to Chicago with her family when she was about two. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a Bachelor’s in Kinesiology (exercise science). Andrea previously worked as a play and learning facilitator at a children’s museum where she first observed how following a child’s lead can lead to the growth of creativity. She also used to volunteered at Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in the pediatric floor and is currently working on her Masters of Behavior Analysis and Therapy at Southern Illinois University. Andrea started working at Leep Forward about a year ago and is grateful to have found a place where an incredible team works together to support the wellbeing of the children and where play leads to amazing development. Also, where the children first nicknamed her Drea.
When Drea is not at work, you can find her talking long walks with her loved ones and her corgi named Gorgi as well as constantly re organizing her bookshelf even though there is clearly no more space.
Katie Lane, OTD, OTR/L
Katie grew up in Columbus, Ohio and just recently moved to the windy city to start her career as an occupational therapist. She obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Exercise Physiology with a minor in Psychology from Ohio University and went on to get her Doctorate in Occupational Therapy from Nova Southeastern University. Katie spent time during her doctoral capstone researching evidenced-based interventions and strategies for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to engage in daily occupations and has experience working with children with ASD during graduate school. Katie is interested in feeding and reflex integration and has plans to take courses to specialize in these areas. She enjoys being silly with kids and helping them maximize their potential through meaningful activities. In addition to work, Katie enjoys concerts, walks/runs around the city, cooking, spending time with friends and family, and taking her pup, Lola, to the dog park.
Kate Sharp, MS
Kate is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has worked with children in various settings for 10+ years. She graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in anthropology. There she found a passion for child development and working with families from a variety of different backgrounds. This led to a desire to further education in this field. She obtained her master’s degree in child development from the Erikson Institute. She believes in a holistic, child-led approach to working with children and families, which is what drew her to LEEP Forward. While working as an assistant clinician at LEEP Forward – West Loop, Kate completed an internship working with a clinical supervisor. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to continue to be a part of the LEEP family as a clinical supervisor at QLA! In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, traveling, scrapbooking, and exploring the city!