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1845 Oak Street Suite 15 Northfield, IL 60093 | 14044 Petronella #1 libertville, iL 60048  |  Tel. 847-386-6560

© 2017 by Kick Start PTN, P.C. Proudly created with

Our Team

Mindy Aharoni, M.S., OTR/L, Clinical Director

Mindy is a certified and licensed occupational therapist with over 25 years of experience. She received her post professional Master’s degree in occupational therapy at the University of Illinois, Chicago. She is a certified early intervention provider and evaluator for the state of Illinois. Mindy has worked with infants through young adults in a variety of settings including hospital based outpatient programs, schools, the Illinois Early Intervention System and private clinical settings.  Mindy’s commitment to providing the most effective treatment for children inspired her to form Kick Start. She currently lives in the northern suburbs of Chicago with her husband, three teenage children, and two dogs.

Mindy is SIPT® certified, has a certificate in DIR®/Floortime®,is a Certified Educator of Infant Massage through IMUSA, and has received extensive training in supplemental treatment approaches including NDT®, TAMO®, SOS®, Sensory Integration, Beckman Oral Motor Assessment and Intervention, Therapeutic Taping and a variety of listening programs including Therapeutic Listening®, Samonas®, AIT®, and Integrated Listening Systems®. She has extensive experience treating children with a variety of diagnoses and working as part of a multi-disciplinary team developing comprehensive treatment programs integrating the family’s priorities with the identified developmental needs of the child.

Esther Weisz, M.S., OTR/L, Clinical Director

Esther is a certified and licensed occupational therapist with over 10 years of experience. She received her Master’s degree in occupational therapy at the University of Illinois, Chicago. She is a certified early intervention evaluator and provider for the state of Illinois. Esther has worked with infants through school aged children in a variety of settings including hospital inpatient and outpatient, the Illinois Early Intervention System, schools and private clinics.  The formation of Kick Start is the realization of a dream to provide the highest quality, innovative treatment to children, and continued education and training for therapists. She currently lives in Chicago with her husband and three children.

Esther is SIPT® certified and has received extensive training in many treatment approaches including DIR®/Floortime®, NDT®, Therapeutic Listening®, Kinesio-taping, and Sensory Integration. She has experience working with children with a variety of diagnoses as well as working closely with parents to assess and develop treatment strategies to help regulate their children and increase functional performance. Esther has worked intensely over the years collaborating with outside team members and as part of in house multi-disciplinary teams to ensure comprehensive treatment planning for her clients and families.

Erika Larson, M.Ed., DT, Clinical Director

Erika Larson, holds a Master’s degree in Special Education, a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and Theatre Studies and is a credentialed Developmental Therapist in the state of Illinois. She has an advanced certificate in DIR/Floortime, is a Certified PLAY Project Consultant In Training. Erika is also the owner of Sensational Supports, a nanny placement agency that specialized in working with families that have children with special needs. She has been working with families for the past 15 years and is often asked to consult with parents around the topics of development, education and best parenting practices. She specializes in helping children on the autism spectrum, those with ADHD, developmental delays and general anxiety and depression. Also a mom of two precocious boys, Erika is a true “problem solver” and adores helping parents find solutions so that “every day can be a good day.”  Originally trained as an actor, Erika has taken her passion for performing and transformed it into a passion for play.  In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, meeting new people, eating at well-reviewed restaurants and killing it at karaoke.

Amanda DeAngeles, M.S., DT

Amanda holds a Master’s of science degree in early childhood education from the Erikson Institute in Chicago and has an Illinois Professional Educator License for teaching endorsed in early childhood education with special education approval. She is also a credentialed Developmental Therapist in the state of Illinois.
Amanda has over seven years of clinical experience including that of leading therapeutic preschool and transitional kindergarten programs as well as in home and community schools. Amanda has completed trainings in the the DIR/Floortime methodology through ICDL and the Profectum Academy which is reflected in her philosophy of teaching and practice. Amanda believes in a developmentally appropriate approach to learning including differentiation of instruction, accounting for individual profiles, and collaborating with therapists for a team approach. Amanda also believes it’s the “process not that product” to promote meaningful and engaging experiences for each kiddo.
Amanda is excited to be a part of such a knowledgeable, dedicated team at Kickstart! In addition to offering 1:1 Developmental Therapy, she also leads our Therapeutic Preschool programming and many of our Social Groups. In her free time, Amanda enjoys traveling and spending time at home with her five chickens!

Alison Kleiman, M.S., CCC-SLP

Alison is a certified and licensed speech and language pathologist. She received her Master's degree in Speech, Language and Learning from Northwestern University and her Bachelor's degree from Washington University in St. Louis in Psychology, Spanish, and Children's Studies. 


Alison has experience working with children from preschool age to high school, in both clinical and school settings. She has worked with children with complex challenges in sensory and emotional regulation. Her areas of interest include Autism Spectrum Disorders, receptive and expressive language, articulation and phonology, Augmentative and Alternative Communication, and social-pragmatic communication. Alison is passionate about partnering with families, educators, and other therapists to best support a child's strengths and challenges. She believes in learning through play and in building relationships by joining children in their interests. She loves to have fun and be creative in therapy.


In her free time, Alison enjoys doing yoga, reading, and spending time with her family in Deerfield.

Clare Griner, M.S., OTR/L

Clare is a certified licensed occupational therapist in the state of Illinois. She received her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from Rush University, and her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Loyola University Chicago. 


She has extensive experience working with the pediatric population in a clinic and therapeutic school environment as well as early intervention and school-based settings. She has worked with children aged 2 to 10 in addition to young adults with a variety of developmental differences including Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down’s Syndrome, dyspraxia, feeding disorders, genetic disorders, and social emotional challenges. Her interests include Sensory Integration, reflex integration, Handwriting Without Tears, DIR/Floortime, and feeding therapy. Clare is passionate about helping children reach their full potential and supporting their confidence in their natural contexts. She enjoys discovering what motivates each child and finding innovative ways to support their participation in meaningful play, peer relationships, and functional activities. She believes that a fun, inter professional, and family-centered environment can best promote volition and growth in each child’s development.


Clare is excited to be a part of the Kick Start team and support children in both 1:1 and group environments. In her free time, Clare enjoys riding her bike, spending time with family and friends, and outdoor adventures.

Deandra Mugnolo, M.S., OTR/L

Deandra received her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from Chicago State University and her Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Physiology and Psychology from Marquette University.

She has experience working with children of all ages in clinical and home settings . Deandra is passionate about supporting children’s academic, social, and functional skills in order to maximize potential for successful daily living. Deandra believes team and family collaboration are important in the therapeutic process to foster growth. She believes in the power of learning through play by building off of the inner motivations of the child.

In her free time, Deandra enjoys going to fitness classes, trying new restaurants, and spending time with her family and friends.

Leora Goldman, MS/C, OTR/L

Leora graduated with her Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She joined the Kickstart team in November 2017, bringing with her over 10 years of pediatric experience. She has worked in outpatient, school, and home settings, and is a certified Early Intervention provider. She enjoys working with children of all ages and their caregivers. She has taken continuing education courses in sensory integration, handwriting, and motor coordination techniques and strategies. She then uses this information to help guide her treatment sessions and help facilitate carry-over in the home.

Kara Tamayao M.S., CCC-SLP

Kara is a Licensed Speech-Language Pathologist and is a certified member in the American Speech-Hearing Association. She also holds credentialing as an IL Early Intervention Specialist. She has background in the areas of receptive-expressive language disorder, motor speech disorder, Autism,  social-pragmatic disorder, genetic disorders, Cerebral Palsy, and training in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy and PROMPT therapy. Kara has over 5 years of professional experience working with children with various communication disorders.

Mari Pagone M.A. CCC-SLP

Mari Pagone M.A. CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist, and Mom of three children living in the northern suburbs of Chicago. She has worked with children and families impacted by Autism, ADHD and learning challenges for over 20 years. As a DIR certified play therapist, she has shared her passion for learning through guided play as a guest lecturer at Northwestern University, editor of the Affect Based Language Curriculum, President of the Alliance for Early Childhood, consultant to local school districts and as an advocate for her clients.

​Nehama Morton, MSW, LCSW

Nehama Morton is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) with over 20 years of experience as a therapist working with children and adolescents. She was born and raised in Israel and has been living in Evanston for the past 25 years with her husband and three grown children. She earned a BSW from the Jane Addams School of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a MSW from Loyola University. She received additional training in the Developmental, Individual-differences, & Relationship-based model (DIR®) and earned a coaching certification in CTI Coaching.  


Her career focus has been on children, young adults, and their parents who were struggling with variety of issues. In her practice, she has helped children and families deal with emotional difficulties, ADD/ADHD, executive function management, and other cognitive disabilities and behavioral issues. She has practiced in a pediatric occupational clinic and has used the DIR® model with at-risk youth and adolescents. Her specialty is working closely with the parents and teachers of children on the autism spectrum. Nehama's extensive experience with high risk adolescents in school settings, clinics, and private practice led her to co-found Our House, a group home for homeless youth in Evanston. She is currently an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Social Work at Northeastern Illinois University.


Nehama's work is grounded in her belief that the therapist's job is to support parents and children with effective tools so that together they can live healthy and productive lives.

Pamela Baylor, M.S., OTR/L

Pamela is a certified and licensed occupational therapist with experience in a variety of settings including hospital inpatient/outpatient, orthopedic rehabilitation, and pediatrics.  

She received her Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology with a focus in Sports Medicine at the University of Virginia.  She then returned to school to receive her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy at Chicago State University.  

Pamela has worked with children of all ages and diagnoses, and enjoys using play as a way to both implement treatment and connect with the child.  

In her free time, Pamela enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, staying active, and discovering new restaurants.

Tomi Geller, M.S., CF-SLP

Tomi is a clinical fellow Speech Language Pathologist who received her Master’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorder from Chapman University and her Bachelor’s degree in Hearing and Speech Sciences from the University of Maryland.



She has experience working with the pediatric population in clinics, schools and in the home. Tomi has worked with children of all ages with a variety of disorders.  She is interested in working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, receptive and expressive language delays, childhood apraxia of speech, and articulation and phonological disorders. She is passionate about working with families and their children to help them overcome challenges and find delight in progress. 


In her free time, she enjoys baking desserts, playing with her puppy and spending time with her family.

Sarah Brody, B.A.

Sarah Brody has worked in Early Childhood Education for the past 5 years and works as an assistant in our preschool social groups.  She comes with a passion for teaching, caring for children and to meet each child’s specific needs developmentally and socially. She completed a two year fellowship, The Chicago Teacher's Project, a Progressive education training by the JUF and the Community Foundation for Jewish Education. She has recently taken Graduate courses with Gratz College focusing on Integrated learning and Early Childhood Education.  She holds a BA in Liberal Arts with a major in Human Services and Photocommunications.  She comes from Austin, Texas with over 10 years of working in the field of social work, Assistive technology and assisting those with disabilities in vocational, rehabilitation and non profit settings. She enjoys kickboxing, photography and having quality family time.

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