Dr. Kathy Niager
Board President

Dr. Niager earned her B.A. and Ph.D. in Psychology from The University of Georgia. Between her undergraduate studies and her Masters degree from Georgia State University, Dr. Niager served in the United States Air Force as a Captain in the division of Emergency Mobility. She completed several fellowships and internships, including individual, group and family therapy at Odyssey Family Counseling Center, clinical comprehensive psychological screenings of school-aged children at The University of Georgia, and worked in several departments at the Kennedy Krieger Institute at Johns Hopkins University. Her work there was in the Child and Family Therapy Clinic, on the behavioral pediatrics consultation team, and with the neurobehavior and severe behavior disorders inpatient units. She also worked as therapist for autistic and intellectually disabled children at Kennedy Krieger Institute School at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Dr. Niager assessed and treated children and counseled the parents of at-risk children for the Center for Infant Study at the University of Maryland. She was appointed their Program Coordinator; assessing, consulting and providing therapeutic treatment for children at risk. Earlier in her career, she served as Outpatient Clinic Director at Charter Winds Hospital and a counselor at the Talbot Marsh Recovery Center and the Family Counseling Center of Athens, in Athens, Georgia. In 2002, Dr. Niager realized her vision to create a comprehensive center for innovative therapies for children with autism. She opened Trellis Services, Inc., and it soon became a standard bearer for behavior therapies and progressive treatments through interactive experiences. The organization continues to serve hundreds of autistic children each year. With the growing need for certified autism behavior therapists, Dr. Niager is now working with the Qualified Applied Behavior Analysis Credentialing Board to ensure clinicians at all levels receive proper credentials to help children and adults across the autism spectrum.

Dr. Jason Baker
Board Member
Dr. Baker is an Associate Professor of Child & Adolescent Studies at the California State University, Fullerton, and Co-Founder and Co-Director of the CSUF Center for Autism. He received his undergraduate degree in psychology from UCLA where he worked for several years under Dr. Ivar Lovaas at the UCLA Young Autism Project. He obtained his doctorate in clinical and developmental psychology from Penn State University, performed his clinical internship at the UCLA Semel Institute, and completed postdoctoral research training programs at the University of Miami and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Baker teaches courses in research methods, parenting, child assessment, and developmental and behavioral disorders, and is involved in student fieldwork placement programs in early intensive behavioral intervention. His federally-funded research focuses how child and social factors combine in the development of children with ASD, with a particular focus on parent-child interaction, emotion regulation, and co-occurring behavior problems. He has served on the executive committee of Division 33 (IDD/ASD) of the American Psychological Association and is on the editorial board of APA’s Journal of Family Psychology.
Eric Linder
Board Member
Eric Linder has a wealth of experience across both public and private enterprise. He has developed and implemented community outreach strategies for hundreds of organizations and worked with community leaders and elected officials regarding policies for children with special needs. From 2012-2016, Mr. Linder served as Assemblymember in the California State Assembly, where he represented the interests of approximately 500,000 residents of the 60th Assembly district (Riverside County). A real estate professional with almost 20 years experience, Mr. Linder developed a specialty in finding ways to incorporate technology into the profession and produce efficiencies in the real estate marketplace. Later, he took his technology background and founded the online communications firm eMotiv Marketing, where he remains company president. Mr. Linder is committed to the idea that education should be exceptional, accessible and affordable. He has been one of the most powerful voices in California government in keeping down tuition costs and allowing local school districts to determine how their funds are spent. As Assemblyman, Mr. Linder helped push for funding for the new UC Riverside School of Medicine, the state’s first new public medical school in 40 years. This was one of Mr. Linder’s top priorities, because it ensures that the region will have more physicians and better health care access for residents, while simultaneously establishing an economic anchor and stimulating the local economy as much as $150 million every year.
Melanie Sapp
Board Member
Melanie Sapp’s years in advertising/public relations provided opportunity to work with a range of industries from the Fortune 500, pro sports, government and non-profits; however, it was her volunteer work that sparked a passion for childhood advocacy and improving public education. Mrs. Sapp worked with the most impoverished schools throughout Atlanta with the Star Pupils Task Force for Prevent Blindness Georgia, and served as legislative liaison for the Emory Lavista Educational Council. She served on a National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence committee, and accepted the prestigious award in Washington, D.C. by U.S. Department of Education Secretary Rod Paige. Her team was also presented a congratulatory certificate by Georgia Governor Roy Barnes. Mrs. Sapp was a 4-term Parent-Teacher Association officer at the elementary and high school levels. She homeschooled her autistic daughter through middle school, a particularly hard time for children with disabilities. The lack of available behavior therapies in the 1990s for high-functioning autistics like her daughter is the catalyst for Mrs. Sapp’s commitment to support other parents of children on the autism spectrum. She engages in childhood disability caregiver support groups and helps parents navigate the IEP/504 process for early intervention therapies from highly-qualified clinicians.
Harry Sadeghi
Board Member

Harry Sadeghi earned his B.S. at California Polytechnic State University and an M.P.H. at the University of Loma Linda. He then earned his A.B.A. to become an Applied Behavior Analyst. Mr. Sadeghi added to his broad education when he received his J.D. from the University of West Los Angeles, Law School. He is a member of the California State Bar, the California Supreme Court, the Federal District Court of Los Angeles, member of the Beverly Hills Bar Association, past and current member of the Association for Behavior Analysis International. He is Managing and Supervising Attorney at The Law Offices of Harry Sadeghi & Associates where he handles federal and states cases in corporate laws, insurance laws, education law, serious personal injuries, and employment law. He is also involved in advocacy for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for children with autism. Mr. Sadeghi is a weekly co-host for the Didar TV show discussing and responding to callers about issues of Consent and Ethical duties in rendering professional medical, behavioral and psychological services. He provides legal advice to professionals to how to avoid medical malpractice, and responds to callers to assess cases regarding their legal rights in obtaining behavioral therapy and other professional psychological/behavioral services. Additionally, he served as exam proctor for the California School of Law. Further, he provided legal counsel for Dr. Ali Sadeghi, noted psychologist for California Psychcare. He coordinated and supported Dr. Sadeghi’s efforts to pass SB 946, requiring private health plans to cover autism. His clinical experience includes working as Behavioral Specialist at Inland Empire Regional Center. Under the supervision of Dr. Ali Sadeghi, he provided, assessment, and behavioral intervention and modification services to children with autism, down syndrome, epilepsy and related syndromes at home and school environments.

Dr. Matthew W. Kirkhart
Board Member

Dr. Kirkhart graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in Psychology from West Virginia University. He also earned his M.A. in Clinical Psychology from West Virginia University, then completed his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. His pre-doctoral internship was at the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology at Shands Hospital, University of Florida College of Health Professionals. Dr. Kirkhart is a licensed psychologist in Maryland and is past Chair of the Psychology Department and a past interim Chair for the Department of Teacher Education, both at Loyola University Maryland. His two primary research interests are in medical/health psychology, primarily focusing on those with serious or chronic medical conditions such as factors that affect general adaptation and adjustment to the medical conditions (i.e., adjustment to chronic pain conditions, adaptation to lifestyle changes in managing diabetes, etc.), and in the prediction of adjustment and adaptation to future medical procedures (i.e., predicting adjustment post organ transplantation). His second primary research interest is in basic research examining learning and memory, in the conscious and unconscious learning and memory, rule-governed behavior, and a functional analysis of language in efforts to understand how verbal behavior affects other behavior. Additionally, he has research interests in mentoring and teaching in psychology, adult psychopathology, and interpersonal psychotherapy models and methods.

Sheena M. Piehota
Board Member

Sheena Piehota is a Qualified Behavior Analyst (QBA). Mrs. Piehota currently works in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis providing a variety of behavior analytic services to military families. She is currently in the Ph.D. (I/O psychology) program at Capella University where she also received her M.S in Psychology with a focus in Applied Behavior Analysis (2014). Mrs. Piehota earned her B.S. in Psychology from the University of Central Florida (2012), and has over 9 years experience working with children with disabilities. Prior to her work in Applied Behavior Analysis, she worked in education with children in PK-12th grades. Mrs. Piehota focuses her current practice in verbal behavior and functional communication.

Dr. Lydia Luna
Board Member

Dr. Luna is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the state of California who earned her B.S. in Psychology from California Lutheran University and her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. She is currently in private practice and provides psychotherapy. She also conducts psychodiagnostic evaluations specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Additionally, Dr. Luna provides wellness retreats which incorporate various healing modalities aimed to improve mood and overall well-being. Dr. Luna’s prior experience includes leading one of the largest behavioral health agencies in Southern California, 360 Behavioral Health. Her role began as a behavioral therapist, then led to supervisory level roles, Clinical Director, and eventually she was appointed as Chief Operating Officer. This has provided Dr. Luna with a wealth of knowledge and experience in understanding various tiers of service delivery and in creating and developing protocols and systems to ensure a high-quality service delivery model. Her roles included providing supervision and trainings, conducting psychodiagnostic evaluations, overseeing and supporting Regional Directors of Clinical Services, as well as, the functions of over 20 offices throughout Southern California. Dr. Luna has broad clinical experience, having been in private practice since 2013, and prior to that, she worked directly with patients at residential level care for substance abuse disorders at Cliffside Malibu; treated at-risk youth and families through the wraparound program at Tarzana Treatment Centers; and provided psychotherapy to low-income families at Valley Community Clinic. Her expertise also includes educating parents who have children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities. She educates parents on the causes, characteristics, and treatment of several developmental disabilities including Applied Behavioral Analysis and other techniques used to modify behavior.

Claire Norris
Board Member

With her early background as a classroom teacher in Tennessee, Claire Norris, QBA, has specific knowledge of the various learning styles and individualized needs of all students. Her education includes a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from Austin Peay State University, and a Master of Art in Teaching with a focus in Applied Behavior Analysis. As a Behavior Interventionist at Autism Behavior Services, Inc., Claire implemented behavior and treatment plans, collected and graphed behavior data. After becoming a masters-level BCBA, she performs behavior assessments and develops treatment and behavior plans for individuals across the autism spectrum. Claire has a deep commitment to the practice of applied behavior therapy; she joined the QABA Board to make sure that all certified clinicians meet the strictest standards in order to provide consistent, high-quality care. QABA is fortunate to have such a qualified clinician as Claire to serve on our Board of Directors.

Lauren Green
Board Member

Within one year of completing her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Utah State University, Lauren earned a Master of Arts in special education and also earned her Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) credential and became a Qualified Autism Service Practitioner (QASP) that same year. Her dedication and enthusiasm for helping improve the lives of individuals on the autism spectrum led her to work with Reaching Milestones, Inc. where she has served at all levels of care from Behavior Assistant, to Training Specialist, Clinical Director and Learning and Development. Lauren brings a depth of direct clinical care to the QABA Board of Directors, where her input is an invaluable resource to ensure QABA meets the needs of all stakeholders. 

Dr. Liliane de Aguiar-Rocha
Board Member/International Liaison

Dr. Liliane Rocha, DBH, QBA, BCBA, completed her graduate training in behavior analysis at the Graduate Center (CUNY), and her doctoral degree in behavioral health, with a focus on integrated care at the Cummings Graduate Institute for Behavioral Health. She has broad interests in Behavior Analysis, particularly in how behavior analytic strategies can be used in large scale to improve systems in healthcare. She is interested in improving the care for people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) starting at the pediatrician’s office. 

She has worked with behavior analysis, in a variety of settings, including a Psychiatric Hospital leading a team of behavior analysts who designed behavior interventions to decrease the use of restrictive interventions during acute psychiatric admission. At the hospital, she also had the opportunity to work in performance management and quality improvement projects where she had the opportunity to exercise her OBM (Organizational Behavior Management) skills. She is a certified ACT Matrix facilitator and uses the Pro-social Matrix in crisis-management trainings.

At this time, she is a faculty member and student advisor in the doctoral of Behavioral Health program at Cummings Graduate Institute in Arizona. She is a consultant who provides consultation to local schools and hospitals, as well as international consultation in Brazil, her native country. She is interested in ways to bring behavioral analytic treatment to areas with difficult access to quality services. To that end, she has developed a telehealth practice, where she supervises behavior analysts serving children with ASD in Brazil.