Arts 'n Autism
P.O. Box 20111
Tuscaloosa, AL 35402

(205) 247-4990

Meet Our Staff

Meet our Board of Directors

Arts ‘n Autism

The Arts 'n Autism after school and summer camp program was initiated in March 2004. It provides services to children from preschool to young adults with autism in the Tuscaloosa, Alabama area and surrounding counties. Arts 'n Autism was conceived by a veteran teacher of children with autism in the local public schools and a parent of a child with autism. Both founding members are still actively involved in the development and growth of Arts ‘n Autism.

The program was designed to meet four crucial needs:

• Supervised visual and performing arts activities for children who, because of their deficiencies in language and social skills, have difficulty utilizing existing after school or recreation programs offered by public schools, churches, or other institutions in Tuscaloosa County.

• Respite for family members and other caregivers who are responsible for round the clock care of these children.

• Outreach and assistance to low-income families who would otherwise be unable to secure similar after school and summer camp services for their children with autism.

• Like any other after-school program, Arts 'n Autism meets a practical need that working families have - a safe after school environment for their children until the parents can pick them up after work.

Serving preschoolers to young adults:

Preschool through First Grade
Connects children with ASD through music, art, fine motor activities, and sensory integration therapy in a language rich curriculum. Our young students practice socialization and communication skills in all activities. This year our preschoolers have joined the yoga classes.

First grade through Fifth Grade
Provides elementary children social opportunities while engaging in enriching after school arts activities which focus on individual talents, sensitivity to sensory issues, language and social skills development.

Arts ‘n Autism Ambassadors
Group composed of Junior and Senior High Students. These students focus on learning life skills and utilization of social skills in community settings. They also continue specialized classes in their areas of interest and talent.

Our LIFE (Learning Independence for Future Education and Employment) students have graduated from high school and are ready for either work or college. The program includes vocational preparation with supervised work experience in the community. The program was piloted in 2010 and currently serves six students. Our goal is to assist students in reaching their full potential and leading happy productive lives in their communities. We want to thank The Alabama Department of Vocational services, Shelton State Community College, Ability Alliance of West Alabama, and many local businesses for embracing the LIFE program.

Arts 'n Autism Staff

Jan Sikes
Co-Founder, Executive Program Director

• BS Degree in Special Education and Master’s Degree in Learning Disabilities from The University of Alabama.
• She has National Board Certification and is a Clinical Master Teacher for the University of Alabama with 30 years of experience in the classroom teaching special education.

Jan Sikes and Suzanne Dowling piloted Arts ‘n Autism in the spring of 2004 and are both members of Covenant Presbyterian Church. Jan is currently serving on the Worship Without Worry Commission.

Suzanne Dowling
Co-Founder, Director of Development

Suzanne Dowling, a 30-year public relations and marketing professional, is the co-founder or Arts 'n Autism and became the full-time Executive Director in the winter of 2011. She served seven years on the Arts 'n Autism Board, six as board president. In that time, she oversaw all fundraising and public relations for the organization. Dowling joined the staff of Arts 'n Autism from the University of Alabama where she was a communication specialist in the Office of University Relations for 25 years. She serves on the board of the Autism Society of Alabama, is a graduate of Leadership Tuscaloosa, and is a member of Covenant Presbyterian Church. A native of Tuscaloosa, Dowling graduated from Holt High School in 1977 and earned a bachelor's degree in public relations from UA in 1981. She and her husband, Rick, have one son, Sam, who has attended Arts 'n Autism.

Petra Burroughs
Assistant Program Director

• BS Degree in Early Childhood Education, BSW in Social Work, and Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Special Education from The University of Alabama.
• She has National Board Certification and is a Clinical Master Teacher for the University of Alabama.
• She has 10 years experience as a Licensed Social Worker and 12 years as a special education teacher.

Petra has recently opened a group home for individuals with mental retardation and hopes to expand soon to include individuals with ASD.


Katie Andoe
LIFEE & Job Coaching
Carol Avery
Music and Piano
Jennifer Baggett
Bibliotherapy, Social Skills
& Sign Language
Allison Hetzel
Kaye Houston
Harry Lawson
Martial Arts & Cardio
Justin Mixon
Drumming & Ukulele
Trivia & Journalism
Marsha Roberts
Cara Lynn Smith
Leader, Girl Scout Troop #417

Stephen White
Pat Wiggins
Drumming & Trivia
Meds & Snacks Supervisor
Journalism Assistant
Pam Woods
Babies Instructor

Assistants & Volunteers

Morgan Holmes
Eric Klopack
Small Group Facilitator

Sadie Moore
Tuition Coordinator
Drue Nelson
Greg Sanders
LIFEE and Ambassadors
Nikki Scott
Valerie Strode
Music & Drama
Wes Youngson
1-1 Assistant


Arts 'n Autism Board of Directors
Lauren Wilson, President
Attorney, The University of Alabama
Norm Hibbard, President-Elect
Retired Businessman, Lay Pastor
Charlie West, Treasurer
Debbie Glass, Secretary
Community Advocate; A&A Instructor
Donna Callahan
Community and Outreach Director, ARC
Tracy Camp
Parent of Son with ASD
ASA Board member
Nurse Anesthetist, DCH
Matt Clinton
Interior designer, Matt Clinton Designs
Laurie Beth Kesterson
Robin Lunceford
Doug McAdory
Captain, Tuscaloosa Fire & Rescue
Sarah Morrison
Owner, Tuscaloosa Flower Shoppe
Dr. Sandra Nichols
Department Head & Associate Professor
Special Education & Multiple Abilities
University of Alabama

Jamie Poole
Community Advocate
Hudson-Poole Jewelers
Lisa Riley
Parent of Sons with ASD
Small Business Loan Officer with ACCION
Lonnie Williams
Attorney, private practice
Parent of Sons with ASD


Content, Photos and Video © Arts 'n Autism, Inc. / Website designed and maintained by Cara Lynn Smith