Lydia Dolch, Founder and Empowerment Coach

Lydia is an empowerment coach and certified educator for neurotypical 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 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 supporting them in moving toward the life they want to live.

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 with neurodivergent identities 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.

Jacquie Kaden, Guest Facilitator

Jacquie, comes to Open the Lid with an incredible background and training in education and activism in the United States and Canada.

Qualifications and Experience

Along with a  broad teaching history, Jacquie is a business owner, mother, and active volunteer with teens in the community. 

Kathryn Arnold, Facilitator (individual classes)

Kathryn is an expert facilitator of individual empowerment classes with Open the Lid. For the last 28 years, she has worked with students and families in the Ithaca City School District. It has always been a passion of Kathryn's to help people, especially when they are facing difficult times or situations.

Qualifications and Experience

Kathryn has worked with people of all ages and countless neurodivergent identities. She currently supports learners as a middle school special education teacher in Ithaca, New York. Prior to this assignment, she worked to facilitate Committee on
Special Education meetings for hundreds of students. 

Her favorite part of this work was getting to know students and  families so she could help them develop meaningful educational plans. Kathryn truly believes empowerment happens with the combination of the correct tools and support. 

Elisabeth Harrod, Guest Facilitator

Elisabeth is one of our guest facilitators for live empowerment classes. She has more than 40 years of experience in formal and informal teaching settings. She focuses on effective ways to work with diverse people of all ages in different environments. Her passion is helping students develop into empowered, productive, confident, and self-reliant individuals.

Qualifications and Experience

Elisabeth earned a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education/Religion from Wake Forest University and taught in inclusive classrooms for five years. She's designed curriculums for classroom programming, teacher workshops, summer camps, and museum exhibits.  Her career focus highlights her work around meaningful, inquiry-based learning experiences for all ages.

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.

Want to Know More?

Sign up for a free webinar where Lydia shares how you can be empowered to create organized, meaningful, and balanced lives.


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