Our Mission

The Adonis Autism Assistance Foundation (AAAF) will strive to enhance the quality of life for people living with autism by providing resources, activities, information, advocacy and support to those who love someone living with autism. As funding becomes available, AAAF will also provide financial assistance grants to fund autism related expenses for children and adults meeting criteria.

Our Supporters

AAAF is a volunteer run foundation and we thank all who have dedicated their time, finances and efforts to help fulfill our mission.  Please click HERE to view our amazing supporters.  Our deepest gratitude also goes to those who wish to remain anonymous.


The Adonis Autism Assistance Foundation is the result of the merger of two former autism organizations, Adonis Autism Center of SWFL and the Autism Assistance Foundation. The board members determined the merger and combined efforts would enable both organizations to best service the needs of the autism community in Southwest Florida. The merger became official as of 1/1/11.

The vision of the Adonis Autism Center of SWFL started in 1985, when a group of parents who had children with autism formed a support group in SWFL. Their goal was to create a home for those with autism. The home became a reality when it opened in the summer of 2004. Due to unfortunate events, the home subsequently closed. Adonis stayed intact with a new mission to to enhance the quality of life for people with autism in Southwest Florida by providing programs that encourage progressive lifestyles, participation in the life of the community and decision-making skills through training and education. In order to do so, Adonis offered the annual “Richard Bashaw Grant”, a grant for our ever growing older population.

The Autism Assistance Foundation, Inc. (AAFI) was founded by Heidi Falanga in the Spring of 2009. Her son, Mac, was diagnosed with autism in 2001. She has been a board member for Family Network on Disabilities in Sarasota, Florida and a member of the Collier County Autism Support Group. The Autism Assistance Foundation was created to provide resources and awareness as well as assist families in obtaining therapy and respite.

Our Board

Sheba P. Katz, PhD, President

Sheba Katz is licensed as both a school psychologist and psychologist practicing at Katz Counseling & Educational Psychology.  She volunteered as a behavioral interventionist with children with autism when she was in college.  She developed a heart for the autism community with this experience.  Dr. Katz also gained internship and residency experience in both team and independent diagnostic assessment and intervention planning in Fort Worth and Dallas Independent School Districts.  She currently conducts comprehensive diagnostic evaluations for autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and general pervasive developmental disorders.  She also provides organizational skills training, social skills coaching and career counseling for individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

Beth Cameron, Vice President & Treasurer

Beth has served in various positions with Adonis over the years. Her involvement increased after 2001 with the passing of her beloved father, Richard Bashaw. Beth hopes to carry on in her father’s footsteps…fulfilling dreams hopes and desires, made possible by this organization’s Richard Bashaw Grant. Beth is the older sister to an adult brother, who is autistic.

Tuesday Williams, Secretary ~ bio coming soon

Nolan Katz, PhD 

Dr. Katz is a nationally certified school psychologist. He received his PhD in School Psychology and Counseling Psychology from Florida State University.  His interest is pervasive developmental disorders began at a young age, as he has several family members with autism spectrum disorder.  Dr. Katz has worked in a variety of settings including public and private schools focused on assessment and interventions for the developmentally delayed. He is currently employed at the Canterbury School in Fort Myers and in private practice. Dr. Katz serves as a board member on the Adonis Autism Assistance Foundation.

Laura Reed 

Laura is a professional educator with over 25 years of experience working with individuals with multiple disabilities. Throughout the duration of her career, she has focused on working with children with Autism and researched appropriate methods that are critical to the individual needs of every child. She believes that every child should be viewed as a member of our general school population first, and their individual needs second.

Laura has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, Masters in Special Education, and an Autism and ESOL Endorsed.  Currently, she has completed her third year of pursuing a doctorate degree (ABD) with a concentration in Special Education and a minor in ABA.

Laura enjoys working with students and their families to help them reach their highest potential. It is essential to research and implement innovative teaching methods that build a foundation for each child’s future. She believes that all children can learn and be successful.  She is a strong community supporter in the world of Autism.

In 2004, Laura relocated from New York to Florida. While in New York, she held a position as a Department Chair of Young Learners with multiple disabilities and maintained complete oversight of 40 pre-kindergarten students with special needs and 45 children ages 8 weeks to 5 years of age in a center-based employee daycare. Laura also supervised 5 pre-kindergarten classrooms to ensure that the program was run effectively, students had appropriate equipment, and highly qualified teachers were instructing them. She conducted training for the staff to ensure all students with disabilities received all the appropriate educational services.

A core value in her heart is the notion that we should “never stop learning.” To fulfill this expectation, she has attended many workshops, in-services, and conferences to learn new research as it pertains to children and autism. In 2012, she presented at a National Conference in Orlando, Florida to speak on inclusion as a natural occurrence. Laura also received several awards, grants, and recognition for her work. One of the most impacting honors she received this past year was being a 2012 Golden Apple Teacher.  This recognition opened a door for opportunities in multiple ways. For example, she was invited to co-author an early childhood text book with George Morrison which, will be published in April of 2013.  It will be a tool for college students (future teachers) learning to implement essential techniques and strategies for children with Autism.

Debbie Umphries

Debbie has been a volunteer in the Southwest Florida Autism Community since 2002. Her responsibilities include conference organization, informational e-mail blasts, support group meetings, autism treatment/therapy advice and connecting families with appropriate resources. Through AAAF, she will be able to continue these activities and provide even more assistance to struggling families. Her husband, Luke, will be running in several races, including marathons, to support AAAF through the Train4Autism.org website. Debbie and Luke have 2 sons. Their oldest was diagnosed on the autism spectrum in 2002.

Debbie graduated from Florida State University in 1991 with a Masters of Accountancy and subsequently became a CPA. Former employers include Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC), Harris Corporation and Wells Fargo Bank. Given her accounting background, Debbie thoroughly enjoys being the Treasurer for AAAF.

Reno Williams ~ bio coming soon

Dr. LeighAnn Wong, PhD

Dr. LeighAnn Wong is a licensed psychologist who received her PhD from Nova Southeastern University in Clinical Psychology.  She received her clinical experience with Child Provider Specialists at Miami Children’s Hospital Dan Marino Outpatient Center and the Mailman Segal Center for Human Development’s Unicorn Children’s Foundation Clinic & Starting Right Early Intervention Program. These experiences bolstered her skills in the diagnostic assessment of autism spectrum disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders, learning disorders and other developmental disorders. She also excels at assisting parents and families who are coping with individuals with psychological and developmental disorders.

Emeritus Member

Heidi Falanga

Originally from Westchester County, New York, Heidi also lived in Scottsdale, Arizona where she obtained her business management degree at Arizona State University.  She worked as a Product Manager in the telecommunications industry for 10 years and founded Falanga Associates where she provided product management consulting services.  She eventually moved to Florida in 2001.  Heidi is currently a full-time employee at Physicians Regional, a HMA Hospital.

Heidi is the mother of two children, a daughter and a son.  Her son, Mac, was diagnosed with autism in 2001.  Heidi has been a board member for Family Network on Disabilities of Manatee/Sarasota, Inc., and a member of the Collier County Autism Support Group in Naples.  She met many families affected by autism, struggling to finance their child’s therapies, medical bills, and respite care.  As a result, Heidi founded the Autism Assistance Foundation in 2009 to meet the needs of these families.

L.D. Bochette

L.D. is the past director of East First National Bank in Fort Myers, as well as Landmark First National Bank and C&S National Bank of Lee County. He now manages personal investments. He is actively involved with the Southwest Florida Boy Scouts Council, Fort Myers Community Concert Association, Edison-Ford Winter Estates Advisory Board, Southwest Florida Beautification Advisory Board, Southwest Florida Historical Society and Fort Myers City of Palms Day Committee.

Maureen Bashaw

Maureen Bashaw, the mother of a son with autism, was a staff writer at The News-Press for over 30 years. She and her late husband, Richard, formed a support group for parents of children with autism when their son, Ian, was six years old. That was 28 years ago when there were no classes for children with autism in Southwest Florida schools, when most people here had never heard of autism. Eventually this support group evolved into The Adonis Autism Center of Southwest Florida.

Pumfey Edythe Steffens

Holds a BS in Marketing; her career in high tech included executive marketing positions in computer/software companies including SEI Corporation and was Director of Marketing for Commodore Computers, she was also a partner in Marketing Formats, a marketing consulting/advertising firm, and Crossroads Publishing which developed educational magazines at the college marketing, and owner of ELS Communications which published the Graduate Studies Directory magazine. She was included in the 1980′s Who’s Who of American Women.  In the last 15 years she has actively worked in the field of learning disorders and autism, introduced programs into schools, started the BR Scholarship Program at the Autism Research Institute for doctors and medical professionals to attend their biomedical training programs, and introduced the Low Oxalate Diet Therapies Study into the autism community, which promotes a diet and other protocols for healing and behavioral changes in autistic children. She privately consults with parents, and has most recently funded the development of Edison College’s new on-line program in autism for healthcare workers, the SW Florida Autism Initiative, and the local Sail to Prevail program for persons with spinal cord disabilities and autism to commence in 2011.