Lydia Dolch, Founder and Empowerment Coach

 Lydia is an empowerment coach and certified educator for neurotypical, disabled and neurodivergent students of any age, label or location. She founded Open the Lid in 2019 as an accessible community for personal and social empowerment in a supportive community. 

Lydia's work in Open the Lid’s Group Empowerment Classes focuses on teens through adults. She supports students in developing personal, organizational and social strategies, through neurotypical and neurodivergent peer support including Autistic people, people with Down's syndrome, and Cerebral Palsy, Developmental disabilities, Social anxiety as well as Sensory Processing Challenges. 

Lydia also hosts Individual Empowerment Classes for students and caregivers to help them prioritize and navigate school and community services and access public funding sources. She shares strategies for successful communication in the home, school, and public that, without the right tools, can  show up as anger, overwhelm and aggression.  Lydia is a mother of four, an artist, and an educator specializing in meeting people where they are and helping them get where they want to be.

Qualifications and Experience

Lydia holds New York State professional certifications in Students with Disabilities and Art Education. In addition, Lydia developed a course on autism at the university graduate level, and is regularly invited as a dynamic speaker on a wide range of topics. These topics often touch on her experiences working in school, community and residential settings.

During an internship in Argentina, an 11 year old who had never uttered a word in his life, said Lydia’s name. From then on, she knew working with people would be her life's work.

When the opportunity to start a self-contained program for students with special needs arose, she jumped at the chance. Lydia quickly found opportunities for her students with intensive needs to access education with their neurotypical peers, transforming a self-contained model to a co-taught model. This continued to be a trend as she opened a new program for autistic students in the Ithaca City School District, worked in early intervention and taught in inclusive elementary and middle school settings.

Her most recent experience came in the form of a Traumatic Brain Injury giving her the real-life opportunity to experience what her students with sensory processing disorder go through on a daily basis.


Reba Pardieu, Facilitator

Reba is one of our amazing group empowerment teachers. She comes to Open the Lid with more than 20 years of experience supporting diverse populations of learners. She is trained in person-centered planning and goal setting, transition to post-secondary education, and college success mentoring. Her love for people shows in her work. 

Qualifications and Experience

Reba received her advanced degrees from the University of Texas in Education and Education Philosophy.

Her experience includes teaching in New York City and Texas. She has also been a part of Special Education Case Management and served as a Transition Specialist. 

Molly L. Hajjar, Facilitator

 Molly comes to Open the Lid with a plethora of work in her bag. Molly is like the "Jack of all trades", having worked under different capacities in a variety of industries and arenas.

Qualifications and Experience

Molly completed her Graduate work in Leisure Education & Recreational Therapy and Public Administration from Ohio University.

Nicole Boyle, Facilitator

Nicole comes to Open the Lid with 12 years of experience of working with neurodivergent individuals across many different platforms ranging from being a community support professional to teaching in both inclusive and self-contained classrooms. She focuses on advocating for the needs of the individuals she works with, along with their families, as well as teaching them to self-advocate and communicate effectively in both verbal and non-verbal avenues, so that they feel empowered and independent in their journey to find their needs met.

Qualifications and Experience

Nicole has a Bachelor's degree in Inclusive Special Education from SUNY Cortland and an Associate's degree in Early Childhood Education. For the past 3 years she has been the teacher and case manager for a classroom serving students with autism. Prior to this she was a co-teacher in an inclusive Kindergarten classroom. She has designed curriculums, communication tools, visuals, trainings, and more to meet the vast needs of each of her students and their families.

Anna Sannes, Facilitator

Anna believes in the power of building community for individuals and for our world. She has worked in middle school math and special education, school-aged child care, peace education, faith-based programming for children and youth, test prep, and curriculum development. She loves to make connections with others and learn from their experiences and perspectives.

Qualifications and Experience

Anna studied government and math at Georgetown University and received a Master's in Educational Studies from Johns Hopkins University, with certificates in Urban Education and Advanced Practices for Inclusion and Differentiated Instruction. She is trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid and Our Whole Lives comprehensive sexuality education.

Margaret Henry, Facilitator

Margaret comes to Open the Lid with 20 years of experience working with individuals in the community, schools and their homes, including neurodivergent individuals. She started working with children with autism at the age of 16, and discovered her desire to nurture and educate the future and those whose voices are uneasily heard. She focuses on understanding individuals to help them reach their full potential in their desired environment. She then is able to share this perspective with caregivers to help facilitate communication, so all feel heard, validated, and valued.

Qualifications and Experience

Margaret has a Bachelor's degree in History from Canisius College and a Master’s degree in Early Childhood and Childhood Education from Buffalo State College. She then combined her extra courses and assessments to obtain additional New York State Teacher’s Certifications for Students with Disabilities for Early Childhood and Childhood Education.

For the past 3 years she has been a Special Education teacher working within the inclusive model for Kindergarten to Grade 4. Prior to this she worked in self-contained classrooms for students with emotional behaviors, autism, and learning disabilities. She has planned curriculum and professional development, designed and implemented school-based sensory spaces, created unique and individualized material to engage students, managed CSE teams, and is an ear to listen and help mentor and guide when appropriate to meet the facilitators, and children and their families where they are at and then move forward toward success.

Erin Wright, Facilitator

Erin joins the Open the Lid team with 10 years of experience supporting neurodivergent youth and adults in a number of capacities. Erin's experiential learning began as an undergraduate student at Ithaca College and has blossomed through various opportunities as a Special Education Teacher, Teacher's Aide, Direct Support Professional, and Behavioral Technician. Erin continues to build connections in her local community, and her passion for creating space for and uplifting the voices of vulnerable individuals continues to grow.

Qualifications and Experience

Erin obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Developmental Psychology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and has her Master's Degree in Elementary Education and Special Education from Grand Canyon University. Erin helped run early intervention groups for the state, she is a special education teacher in an inclusive Elementary school. She has also spent many years  as a community habilitation specialist, helping individuals access independence in the home and the community. 


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