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The ASDEC Team

“The training is just elegant, and the results for my students are the most powerful I have ever gotten.”

- Patricia Bradley, Teacher at Immaculate Heart School, Greensboro, NC, Formerly at St. Mary’s School, Rockville MD

Claire Nissenbaum, M.A., C.A.T Emeritus
Founder, ASDEC

Ms. Nissenbaum, who passed away in 2021, was Founder of the Atlantic Seaboard Dyslexia Education Center (ASDEC). Ms. Nissenbaum had over 30 years experience working in the field of language-based learning differences. She was a principal in the TRI-Services National Institute of Dyslexia for 15 years.  She was a founding Board Member of the International Multisensory Structured Language Association (IMSLEC) and a member of the Professional Advisory Committee of the 32 Scottish Rite Masons Childrens Learning Centers. Ms. Nissenbaum was a Fellow of the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators.  We are all grateful for her vision and her leadership. She leaves behind a growing legacy of excellence in education. 

Ellen O’Neill, MA
Executive Director

With a Master’s degree in Human Services management from Brandeis University, Ms. O’Neill has over 35 years of experience in management,  research, grant writing, and advocacy.  Ms. O’Neill is a founding member of The Reading League Maryland and Maryland READS. She helped to start Decoding Dyslexia Montgomery and Prince George's County and currently serves as a board member of the Siena School Fund and DeMatha High School.  Ms. O'Neill began her career in urban education, juvenile justice, foster care and homeless services.

ASDEC Instructors

CALT: Certified Academic Language Therapist
CAT: Certified Academic Therapist 

Jennifer Appleton, M.Ed., CALT-QI

Director of Education and Outreach, ASDEC

Jennifer Appleton is ASDEC's Director of Education and Outreach. A Certified Academic Language Therapist and Qualified Instructor, Ms. Appleton is also a former classroom teacher and certified reading specialist, working in Baltimore County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools, and in private schools. Jennifer holds certifications in Sounds In Syllables, Take Fight, RAVE-O, Language!,  LiPS, Junior Great Books, and holds current licensure in the state of Virginia as a Certified Reading Specialist. 

Donna Brooks, M.A. Counseling, CALT

Supervisor and Intensive Practicum Director

Ms. Brooks is an ALTA-certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT), an IDA certified Dyslexia Therapist and ASDEC Supervisor and Clinical Director for the ASDEC Summer Practicum. She is the founder of Moving Muscles. This program is specifically used for the ASDEC Summer Program and allows children the ability to become better coordinated, working on total body motion while addressing mid-line, hypotonia, and dyspraxia challenges. Most importantly, the children have fun while participating. Donna is also the founder of Blessings Through Dyslexia, a therapeutic intervention services provider. She is certified as a Myers-Briggs Facilitator, an Equipping Minds (EM) Mediator, a Feuerstein Method Mediator, Primitive Reflex Mediator, The Listening Program (TLP) Provider, Visual and Auditory Assessor through The Listening Program, and an Intern for the Learning Ears Program. Donna has earned her Master’s in Counseling from the Townsend Institute, Concordia University, Irvine, CA. She is currently an LPC Resident Under Supervision, trained in Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) for trauma and The Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-Based (DIR/Floortime) Model for neurodevelopmental and neurobehavioral challenges. Finally, Donna is a Certified AMEN Brain Health Coach. Donna is retired from the United States Air Force. Donna and her daughter, Grace, understand the challenges and blessings that come with having dyslexia.

Sally Duckworth, B.S., CALT


Ms. Duckworth is a former elementary classroom teacher and she has worked as a Certified Academic Language Therapist since 1996. At ASDEC, she has served as Managing Director, Clinical Coordinator, Supervisor of Interns, Director of the Elementary Summer Program, Director of the Summer Program for Dyslexic Adolescents and Co-Instructor for the Multisensory Study Skills. Ms. Duckworth is a past presenter at the International Dyslexia Conference.

Patti Edison, R.N., CALT


Ms. Edison has worked as a Certified Academic Language Therapist since 1994 and has served as ASDEC’s Clinical Coordinator of Intern Training Program, Director of the Summer Program for Dyslexic Adolescents, Clinical Supervisor, and Master Teacher. Patti holds a BS degree in Psychology from the University of Maryland, and carries certification through ALTA and IDA. Serving pre-k through adult students in her private practice, she specializes in remediation of reading, spelling, comprehension, writing and study skills. Presently, she is thrilled to be a part of the supervision team overseeing the teacher training in Frederick County, MD. A past presenter at the annual International Dyslexia Conferences, Ms. Edison worked as a Critical Care Registered Nurse prior to joining the ASDEC team.

Dr. Anthony Henley, Psy.D., CALT

Instructor: Neuropsychology of Learning Differences and Disorders

Dr. Henley has been working in the field of learning disabilities for over 25 years. He started as an educational therapist, providing interventions to students with learning disabilities, but he now exclusively provides psychoeducational assessments as clinical psychologist licensed in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia.  He has presented locally, nationally, and internationally on the diagnosis and remediation of difficulties with learning and attention. He is co-author of a chapter in the primary textbook for providing interventions for students with learning disabilities (Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills). He has played a leadership role locally and nationally in the International Dyslexia Association, and on the Board of Directors of the Atlantic Seaboard Dyslexia Education Center, a center for training teachers to work with students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.

Merida Hurkett, M.S., CALT-QI

Supervisor, Clinical Director Emeritus

Ms. Hurkett is a supervisor at ASDEC in addition to her responsibilities as Master Teacher.  Ms. Hurkett has a MS in Special Education and received her certification as an Academic Therapist in 2005 and is a member of the Academic Language Therapy Association. Ms. Hurkett is a frequent presenter at workshops and professional development training.

Mona Iyer, AMS, CALT. CDT

Supervisor, Instructor and Author of K-Reading Kickstart, Intensive Practicum Director

Mona has been in the field of education, focusing on teaching young children for over 25 years. She received her American Montessori Society (AMS) certification in Montessori training from Dallas, Texas. Ms. Iyer moved to Maryland in 1996 where she has been a teacher at Manor Montessori School in Potomac, MD. Ms. Iyer is author of K-Reading Kickstart, a graduate level course in early screening and intervention.

Joy Jacques, R.N., B.S., CALT

Supervisor, Multisensory Grammar Specialist

Ms. Jacques , Certified Academic Language Therapist, has been working in the field of Academic Therapy since 2002.  Previously she was a Certified Critical Care RN.  Joy serves ASDEC as a Board member, a Supervisor of interns in training, member of the management team, and Master Teacher.   She is the creator and presenter of workshops in Study Skills and Multisensory teaching of Grammar.  She has been director and teacher of Summer Study Skills for middle school students.  In private practice, Ms. Jacques serves K – middle school students. She is certified through ALTA as an Academic Language Therapist, and through IDA as a Dyslexia Therapist. 


Barbara Marbury, M.A.T., CALT-QI

Supervisor, ASDEC Course Instructor

Ms. Marbury is an ALTA-certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT) and Qualified Instructor (QI). She has been in the field of education since 2003 and earned her Master’s in Teaching (MAT) from Johns Hopkins University. In addition to Sounds In Syllables, she has been trained in other programs such as SPIRE, Language Foundations, and Take Flight. Barbara has experience working with students around the globe from kindergarten through adulthood. She teaches the ASDEC course, Language 2


Laurie Moloney, CALT

Certified Academic Language Therapist, Summer Program Director

Ms.  Moloney, Certified Academic Language Therapist, holds a B.A. In English and is a certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT). She began her training in 1989 – first at the Tri-Services/National Institute of Dyslexia and then at the Atlantic Seaboard Dyslexia Education Center (ASDEC), where she completed her training, was a faculty and board member, and supervised interns.   She is a member of the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) and the Academic Language Therapy Association (ALTA). Currently, she is President of DCIDA, the metropolitan DC branch of the International Dyslexia Association.

Ms. Moloney maintains a private practice, serving students of all ages — from the mildly involved to the severely learning disabled. She specializes in teaching students to read and spell fluently; take notes from textbooks, literature, and lecture; remember what they read and hear using powerful memory strategies; enlarge their vocabulary exponentially through the study of Greek and Latin morphemes; write well; manage their time and school materials effectively; and self-advocate. 

Traude Smith, M.Ed., CALT

Supervisor, Clinical Co-Director at ASDEC, Intensive Practicum Director

Ms. Smith is the Clinical Co-Director at ASDEC and the Director of the Summer Program.  She completed her training as Academic Therapist in 1988.  In 2012 she became a qualified instructor. Ms. Smith has a B.A. in speech pathology and a M.Ed in special education.  Her background training in speech pathology and teaching the hearing impaired has been of benefit in the work with dyslexic children and adults.  Ms. Smith is a faculty member at ASDEC and presents workshops and professional development training at schools and conferences.

Deborah Spear, M.Ed., CALT-QI-Emeritus

Clinical Supervisor, Certified Academic Language Therapist, Qualified Instructor

Ms. Spear is a Clinical Supervisor and Certified Academic Language Therapist at ASDEC. She formerly worked for Fairfax County Public Schools as a special education teacher, educational diagnostician, and as a Learning Disabilities Department Chair. Deborah has been in private practice since 2002 and holds certifications in Sounds in Syllables, Scottish Rite Orton-Gillingham, Wilson Language Systems, and Junior Great Books.  She earned her Qualified Instructor (QI) certificate in 2017. She has further training in Lindamood-Bell systems and Handwriting Without Tears. Deborah maintains a private clinical practice, supervisors interns, instructs Language 1 and Language 2, directs the Virginia summer program and consults with schools on improving their reading intervention programs.

Marilyn Zecher, M.A., CALT

Instructor: Multisensory Math

A nationally certified Academic Language Therapist and former classroom/demonstration teacher, Ms Zecher is a specialist in applying multisensory Orton-Gillingham based strategies to a variety of content areas. She trains nationally for The Multisensory Training Institute of the nonprofit Atlantic Seaboard Dyslexia Education Center in Rockville MD and is a part time instructor at Loyola University, Baltimore.  A frequent presenter at regional and national conferences including IDA, LDA, & NCTM, Ms Zecher specializes in evidence based methods and interventions for all students but which are especially effective with students with learning difficulties in the fields of mathematics, written language and study skills. Her presentations incorporate O-G strategies, the principles of UDL, and recommendations from NCTM, The What Works Clearinghouse and the Common Core State Standards. She developed the Multisensory Math Program and graduate level math methods courses for which she is the instructor.  She also gives professional development workshops on multisensory applications in math, written language and study skills. She maintains a private practice supporting older students who have dyslexia and related learning differences in Rockville, Maryland.


ASDEC - Dyslexia Therapy, Training, and Parent Advocacy

3500 East West Hwy

Suite 1418-177

Hyattsville, MD 20782-1916

Phone: 301-762-2414
Email: [email protected]

Copyright ©2019. ASDEC All rights reserved.

ASDEC is accredited by the International Mulitsensory Structured Language Education Council (IMSLEC), one of two organizations in the US to receive the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) endorsement for meeting teacher training standards in reading.

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