Our Members
Billy Ayres
Billy Ayres (Founder)
Billy has created a technique called improvisational integrated music/drama. This technique was used to create over 100 original plays and musicals, music videos, short films and more, which the participants have performed. These plays and experiences have been written about in the New York Times, The Journal News, The Bedford press, The Gannett newspaper, Cerebral Palsy magazine and many others. Billy has over 30 years experience working with the special needs population. He is also a published songwriter and commercial singer with many national jingles to his credit. Billy is an “Honor our heroes” recipient in 2007 from Senator’s Schumer and Clinton, for his work with the special needs population.

Laura Ayres
Laura Ayres (Founder)

A certified School Psychologist, received her Master’s degree from Marist College. She has worked with students of all ages with different levels of ability and in a variety of settings, including hospitalization, day habilitation and the integrated classroom. She is the co-author of a teacher’s manual for special education birth to age five. 

Karen Nisenson, M.M., M.A., MT-BC
Karen Nisenson, M.M., M.A., MT-BC

Karen is Founder and Clinical Director of Arts for Healing, a creative arts therapy center serving children and adults with special needs, located in New Canaan, CT.  She has a Bachelor and Master of Music degree in Piano Performance from the Juilliard School, Bachelor of Science from Hunter College, NY, and an M.A. degree in Music Therapy from NYU, where she has been an adjunct professor, affiliated with the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy.  Karen developed the integrated music and art therapy methodology (IMAT) and the Adaptive Music Teaching Curriculum, which is being published by the Simply Music Company. She has also created early childhood academic programs specifically designed for children on the Autism Spectrum, and is a contributor to Special Parent Magazine and The Motor Story Online News Magazine. Karen consults to schools in Fairfield County, Ct. and gives talks and workshops to parents and professionals about the impact and importance of the arts in education
Alan Rackson
Alan Rackson

After earning a degree in Accounting from University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, Alan's first job was in the Small Business Accounting Department of a Big Eight Accounting Firm.   There, he quickly learned the vast challenges of small business owners and their financial and tax complexities.  In addition, Alan designed and developed accounting and operational systems for successful business start-ups.
Today, more than 25 years later, Alan continues to be intimately involved with his clients, helping them make the most of every dollar.   As CEO and Founder of Rackson Accounting Group, he knows the importance of keeping compliant with ever-changing tax laws.  Clients appreciate his pick-up and delivery of accounting records and timely preparation of tax reports.   Alan's ability as a client advisor, advocate and technologist  make him valuable to those he serves.
Alan is a member of the National Society of Accountants, Bethel Chamber of Commerce, Danbury Chamber of Commerce and is a Certified QuickBooks Pro-Advisor.   He continually attends education seminars and classes throughout the year to stay current on the myriad of changes in the tax laws.  Most important, he speaks your language, not just numbers.
Alan and his wife, Fran, have three children, Evan, Brian and Alyson.  Together, with their dog, Sammi, his life is quite busy once he leaves the office. Alan's interests include philanthropy, sitting on the Boards for a variety of health and special needs for children and adults with chronic needs organizations, running, spinning and keeping up with the latest technology!
David Gilman
David Gilman4

David Gilman is currently the President of Gilman Performance Systems, a large consulting firm located in Connecticut. David has served on six boards over the years, and is also currently on the United Jewish Center Board of Trustees. As the former manager of learning and development for companies such as Prudential and GE, David brings a strong internal and consulting experience with 200+ repeat clients. He helps apply his expertise in meeting facilitation, leadership development, team effectiveness and project management execution to help individuals, teams and organizations be more successful.

Paul J. Reiss, MD
Paul J. Reiss, MD

Is Founding Partner of Evergreen Family Health in Williston Vermont, an independent single specialty private practice created in 2002; and Clinical Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.
He is Board Certified in Family Medicine with Certificate of Added Qualifications in Sports Medicine.  His practice includes Pediatrics, as well as procedures such as ultrasound and vasectomy, and his interests include tobacco control, quality improvement, Health Care Reform.   Dr. Reiss has served on the American Academy of Family Physicians Commission on Quality, and was the AAFP Liaison to American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology Committee on Quality and Patient Safety.  He is a past President of the Vermont Academy of Family Physicians, and former Vermont Family Physician of the year. He was a founding Board Member of VITL (Vermont Information Technology Leaders).
Current positions include Chief Medical Officer of Healthfirst, an independent physician association, and Medical Director and Board Member of Vermont Collaborative Physicians a Vermont  ACO. He sits on the Vermont Blueprint for Health Design and Evaluation Committee. 
Dr Reiss has been the Board Chairperson and Facilities Director of The Julian Reiss Foundation since 2001. The JRF has been sponsoring summer enrichment and leadership programs for New York City disadvantaged middle school students for over 55 years.

Kayla comes to Lifeline theatre with over twelve years experience with those who have disabilities. From a young age, she was introduced to a young boy with down-syndrome, and has since written a novel called "The R Word" based on her journey to becoming who she is because of what she was taught by him. Kayla believes that there is no limit to what people can do, with or without disabilities, and encourages and motivates those she works with to be the best they can be.

Barry Strutt
Barry Strutt

Legal Consultant  After graduating law school from the City University of New York at Queens College, Barry R. Strutt was selected to serve in the prestigious position of federal law clerk to the Hon. Richard A. Ensein, currently chief judge for the Western district of Michigan, Southern division. Barry honed his skills as an appeals court litigator by being selected, as one of eight attorneys to represent indigent clients at the office of the Appellate Defender. Barry is admitted to practice in the state and federal courts of New York and Michigan as well as in the United States Supreme Court. Barry is also an active trial attorney and has been selected to participate as a guest lecturer at the trial lawyers committee of the Westchester bar, and has taught legal research at Westchester Community College. He has also been an adjunct professor and mentor at Empire State College, in the areas of Civil Rights, and legal ethics. He has earned the highest national rating for lawyers awarded by Martindale-Hubbell, and was recently selected by and invited to join the National Trial Lawyer’s top 100 Trial Lawyers in New York. Barry is presently serving on the Board of Directors of the Josephine Foundation, an official 501(c)(3) Public Charity Organization and non- profit group that creates, supports, and funds a variety of sports, theater, music, and arts programs. The foundation also provides much-needed donations and services to deserving educational organizations. These various programs, concerts, shows and benefits enrich the lives of not only the participants, but also their local and national communities.

- Henry Viscardi

"When you open up your heart to a special needs child or adult, the most beautiful, wondrous,powerful part of you is exposed. Therin lies the "Genius in Healing."
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