Life-Changing Outcomes for Exceptional Kids

School Refusal Article Author Howard Savin, Phd

Chief Clinical Advisor

Dr. Howard Savin provides oversight of treatment models and clinical services along with organization-wide Quality Improvement systems for First Children Services. Dr. Savin has a profound understanding of the complex needs of children with behavioral health challenges. He has over 40 years of experience working in the behavioral health care field. Prior to joining First Children Services, Dr. Savin served as the Senior Vice President at Beacon Health Options where he led product development and quality oversight of corporate autism services. Before its acquisition by Beacon, Dr. Savin founded Autism Services Group, LLC, a managed behavioral health care organization specializing in the management of autism insurance benefits on behalf of large health plans and served as CEO as a division of Beacon Health Strategies for four years. Prior to ASG and Beacon, Dr. Savin served as Senior Vice President, Clinical Affairs and Director of Research and Training at Devereux for nearly ten years. His duties included quality management of clinical programs and services across Devereux’s national treatment network and leadership of Devereux’s American Psychological Association approved pre-doctoral Internship Program in Professional Psychology.

Dr. Savin is a Licensed Psychologist in Pennsylvania, and he was formerly a Pennsylvania Certified School Psychologist and a Licensed Psychologist in Colorado. Dr. Savin holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology from the University of Georgia and a Master of Science in General-Theoretical Psychology from the University of Bridgeport. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Vermont. Over his career, Dr. Savin has been active in a number of provider and professional organizations, has authored a variety of professional publications, and currently serves as an editor for Autism Spectrum News. Dr. Savin has also given numerous presentations on clinical outcomes and the quality and accountability of behavioral healthcare services.


Ashley Dubin, PhD, BCBA

Licensed Psychologist

Dr. Ashley Dubin is a licensed psychologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). She provides assessment, treatment, and consultation services for children and adolescents on the autism spectrum and other developmental, social emotional, and behavioral conditions and their families. Dr. Dubin specializes in diagnostic assessment of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for toddlers under age two through teenagers, individual and family therapy, and parent coaching/training. She also has expertise in telehealth-based assessment and treatment. Her clinical work centers on empowering children and families to build skills that are aligned with their values.

In addition to providing direct clinical services, Dr. Dubin’s work has focused on training, consultation, program development and research, and partnering with community organizations to increase access and build capacity to best serve individuals with various developmental and behavioral needs. She believes that learning from and partnering with autistic individuals is necessary to develop more compassionate and effective services, produce socially significant outcomes, increase autism acceptance, and decrease stigma. Thus, she strives to center the voices of autistic individuals and incorporate a strengths, acceptance, and inclusion-based focus in her clinical work with children and families, training and consultation with professionals, and program development.

Dr. Dubin received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Maryland, College Park. She attended graduate school at the University of Georgia, where she earned her Doctor of Philosophy in School Psychology and Board Certified Behavior Analyst credential. She received specialized training in diagnostic assessment, integrated care, school consultation, community engagement, leadership and program development, and research related to ASD and other developmental concerns during her postdoctoral fellowship with the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD) and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, which also included participation in the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program.


Linzi Ryan, LCSW

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Linzi is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in the state of New Jersey. She received her undergraduate as well as her master’s degree in social work from Rutgers University. Linzi’s interest and specialty includes children and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder as well as co-occurring diagnoses. She has background working with this population in different settings including the home, school, and in a residential treatment facility utilizing person-centered, strength-based, and cognitive behavioral approaches.



Georgia Efthimiou, BCBA

New Jersey State ABA Director

Georgia is the NJ state’s ABA director, overseeing more than 35 BCBAs and behavior technicians in the field.  She reviews programming, data, and scheduling to confirm that the organization is providing consistent and quality services across the board, ensuring First Children’s goal to not only provide quality services but also provide meaningful and lasting change.  She also makes monthly site visits to our school district clients to help support our staff and confirm that they are being provided with the support they need to deliver quality services to the districts.

Georgia joined First Children Services in October of 2011, starting as a BCBA in the field working in school districts and providing services in home/community environments.  Additionally, she has been a program supervisor of First Children’s Strive center, helping to run clinic-based programs for children with autism as young as 2 years old.  She received her master’s degree from Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ and has been a BCBA since August 2014.


Brandon Sierchio, BCBA, MA

Southern NJ Regional Director

Brandon provides consultation for school districts and also provides in-home ABA services in the Southern New Jersey region.  He believes in the benefit of ABA for the clients he works with and knows that the work he does every day is giving his clients the tools to achieve their greatest potential.  Brandon has worked with individuals with developmental disabilities for the past 12 years in a private school setting and in-home services.  Brandon holds a Master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from The Florida Institute of Technology.  He has a strong interest in fitness and believes in incorporating fitness, sports, and exercise into the repertoires of the clients he serves. 



Stephanie Sigler, M.S., BCBA, LBS-PA

Assistant Director, Montgomeryville STRIVE Autism Center

Steph is a state-licensed and Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) who holds a master’s degree in psychology and an undergraduate degree in social sciences. She has over nineteen years of experience in ABA, which includes working with individuals from 2- years- old through 22- years- old with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the home, school, and clinic settings. She has a background in working with children dual diagnosed with ASD and genetic disorders such as Fragile- X, Williams Syndrome, Downs Syndrome, and SATB-2/Nance- Horan Syndrome.

Steph prioritizes understanding and spreading awareness of cultural differences, family training, a whole-team approach to therapeutic services, and and building trusting relationships with families to increase the success of parent involvement.


Caitlin Summers, LPC

Director of Mental Health Services

Caitlin Summers is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and currently serves as the Director of Student Focused Services at First Children Services. Caitlin comes to the agency after serving as a clinician working with children, adolescents, and families in the NJ foster and adoptive care system. She has an extensive background working with youth suffering from various mental health diagnoses, behavioral difficulties, trauma, and crisis’. Caitlin currently holds a certification as a Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral therapist. Ms. Summers sees the high importance of acknowledging and addressing the unresolved trauma of the individuals she serves.

Caitlin has received numerous trainings on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Nurtured Heart approach, mindfulness, ASD and I/DD, and positive behavioral support interventions as well as behavioral modifications. Currently, she is working on obtaining her certification as a CBT clinician. She believes strongly in the continued need to grow programming with the goal of providing the most therapeutically and ethically appropriate services to families served always taking a mindful and individualized approach with the individuals she is working with.  Caitlin is a creative, passionate and out of the box clinician. Ms. Summers received her Bachelors of Art in Psychology from The Richard Stockton College of NJ and her master’s degree in community counseling: marriage, couple, and family counseling and therapy from The College of New Jersey.


Katherine Fearon, LCSW

Transitions Program Social Worker

Kathy is a school social worker in First Children’s Transitions Program.  Her role is to aid students in coping with their emotional challenges such as anxiety and school refusal.  Kathy began her career as a child welfare case manager before obtaining her MSW at Rutgers University.  Then, she pursued a career as a child/adolescent therapist working with youth in the foster care system.  Kathy has also worked as an outpatient therapist helping youth and families dealing with mental health issues, parenting, as well as adjustment issues.

Kathy uses eclectic therapies to individualize her treatment to meet her client’s needs including creative arts therapies.  She has extensive training in cognitive-behavioral therapy, which she uses to teach children/teens how their thoughts influence their feelings and behavior.  This empowers the youth to change their faulty thinking leading to a more positive outlook of their lives and themselves.  She also employs mindfulness and meditation practices, which reduces stress and anxiety leading to both a healthier mind and body.


Lauren Jacob, LSW

Transitions Program Social Worker

Lauren is a school social worker for First Children’s Transitions Program.  Lauren is passionate about helping adolescents cope with anxiety and assist in changing negative patterns of thought, to support students in reaching their full potential.  Prior to joining the Transitions Program in 2018, Lauren served as a child and family therapist for over ten years.  In this role, she provided in-home therapy to children and adolescents in the foster care system awaiting adoption or post-adoption, as well as their families.  Lauren continues to work within the field of adoption, working with children and teens who were adopted, as well as parents who are planning to build their family through adoption.

Lauren holds an MSW from Rutgers University and holds certificates in School Social Work and Adoption Therapy, in addition to being trained in the Nurtured Heart Approach, Mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Grief and Loss.