Meet our Board
Finding Inspiration in Every Journey
Our Board of Directors is comprised of autism parents and active community leaders who advocate for our cause.
Behind each child is a parent who never gives up. We all advocate for our kids and our community.
Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.
Andreza Carleo Silva
Founder and CEO Andreza.Carléo brings more than 20 years of personal experience to the organization. She is a mother of 3: Alex, Alexia and Zaa. Alex, 20, is severely
autistic, non-verbal, and blind. He was born a twin and stayed in Texas Children’s Hospital for 6 months. When his twin brother passed away at 7 months, Andreza found herself a grieving new mother and full time nurse to her surviving son. She learned that keeping a job while caring for his evolving needs would be a perpetual challenge. Still, a trilingual business professional, she managed to attend college, work in management for a multi-unit franchise, and navigate the challenging system to help her son get the care he needs. Today, her goal and mission is to help other families navigate similar challenges with the support they need
Sarah Swindell lives in the Houston area with her husband, Greg, a former Major League Baseball
player, 2001 World Series Winner, and 2019 Texas Sports Hall of Fame Inductee. Sarah is a former
commercial actress/model and worked in the industry for over thirty years. She enjoys spending herfree time with her four grown children and six grandchildren who reside in Texas as well. Sarah is currently working as a home stager for Showhomes Houston and is a consultant for Beautycounterskin care as well. She is an avid moviegoer, loves the outdoors, and has her own true-crime podcast thatshe hosts with her daughter called Fight or Flight. Most of all, Sarah enjoys being an advocate for children and adults with autism and other disabilities.
Her son, Dawson, was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of eighteen months and is the
inspiration for her memoir, Rounding Home.
Raul Juarez is a dad to three amazing sons and a husband to a strong, amazing wife. He is another voice in our community, assisting families in connecting and adapting to the daily autism rollercoaster ride. He is a Houston Police officer who understands the needs of the entire community and has become a voice and leader for us. Raul understands that our autistic children are all different; some have other challenges; some are nonverbal; some are verbal; some are low functioning; some are high functioning; and so on. but that we are all in this journey together to help each other! Having their son Noah on the autism spectrum, who is their youngest son, diagnosed at age 2 and is now 9 years old, has really taught him the importance of listening, being patient and kind, and having the strength and courage to move forward in good and bad times.
Yirali Perez is a proud Autism mom and a special education assistant teacher. She has a B.A. in Mass Communications and worked as a journalist in her native country, Venezuela. Yirali decided to become a Bilingual Teacher after moving to the United States and now she is working with special needs students. Yirali is also a LoneStar LEND Fellowship graduate and after her two-year program she became a consultant closely working with the Developmental Neurology Clinic at UT Physicians assisting Hispanic parents of newly diagnosed children with autism to navigate and prioritize the resources in order to get optimal services for their children. Being the mom of a beautiful and creative girl on the Autism spectrum motivates Yirali every single day. She wants to be the best advocate and role model for her daughter who is already learning about the power of self-determination and self-advocacy skills. Yirali believes in continuous learning and in the power of knowledge to promote change. She dedicates her time to volunteer and help other parents of students with special education needs and she is looking forward to keep serving the community and families of children with disabilities.
Leona Filis, owner of The Filis Law Firm, P.C., in Houston, is an attorney who focuses her time and energy on helping families with children with special needs. Leona has built her practice by being a partner and a resource to parents helping them navigate through tough decisions regarding
their child’s care.
Leona grew up in a Greek family spending much of her youth in the family-owned restaurants. After graduating from the University of Texas, Leona attended South Texas College of Law in Houston. When she passed the State Bar in 2002, Leona founded The Filis Law Firm, PC, as a
general civil practice. Later, being that she lived in Houston, Texas, Leona began working in oil and gas law. Her personal life changed in 2010 when she received the diagnosis confirming her belief that her son, Jonathan, was on the Autism Spectrum. Since then, Leona realized that the niche of a Special Needs Attorney wasn’t being filled and that many parents were overwhelmed
and uninformed regarding their medical and legal rights.
Her primary focus is to help, guide and educate parents and families of children with special needs.Leona and her staff provide free presentations to parent groups with information about Interest Lists for Medicaid Waiver Programs, SSI, local services and programs, Estate Planning,
Supplemental Needs Trusts, Wills, Power of Attorney and Medical Power of Attorney documents, Supportive Decision-Making Agreements, 529A accounts, transitioning into adulthood, Guardianship cases, and lesser restrictive alternatives. In addition to the e-newsletters to her clients and subscribers, Leona has a publication – “8 Steps to Consider When Raising a Child with Special Needs” and an award-winning article “Utilizing Section 504, IDEA, and Special Education”, The Houston Lawyer, January/February 2018. Her article was included in a compilation that won the
2017-2018 State Bar of Texas, Substantive Law Series of Articles Award for Special Needs Law & Advocacy.
Leona is absolutely active in her community with volunteer work, donations of pro bono legal services, and funding of special projects. As a result of the decades of service, Leona was honored in 2021 with the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her philanthropic work.
Youtube Channel https://www.youtube.com/@AttorneyFilis