Naomi Brickel Director

Naomi Brickel, M.S.Ed., is the Director of the Community Support Network and Coordinator of Policy at WIHD. In these roles she oversees WIHD’s Self-Advocacy programs, Self-Direction Services, the implementation of state grants and contracts related to education and technical assistance for families and professionals navigating disability services across the lifespan, provides professional development and assists school districts in program development and implementation, and oversees policy initiatives for the organization. Her areas of expertise and research interests include student and family engagement, student post-secondary transition and self-determination (including student-driven IEPs, school-to-work, and inclusive post-secondary education, and educational and adult systems policy. She has played an active role in state policy development in all of these areas and is appointed to NYSED’s Commissioner’s Advisory Panel. Naomi co-authored a NYSED Training curriculum and has developed online resources to assist families and students with disabilities to be more engaged in IEP development, including the Student “Draft IEP” Tool. Naomi oversaw establishment of two Project SEARCH programs, a regional SEARCH Consortium, and has provided consultation in the development of several inclusive post-secondary programs, She presents frequently at conferences and other events, which have included the National State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) Annual Conference, the U.S. OSEP National Leadership Conference, NYSED, state and national conferences of the Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE) and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and others.

Naomi earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Special Education and Transition from the University of Kansas. She and her husband reside in New Rochelle, NY where her six children have or still attend public schools, and she served formerly on the Board of Education. She was also an active Parent Member, participating in hundreds of CSE and CPSE meetings over years. She is the recipient of the 2015 New Rochelle Special Education PTA Bridges Award, in recognition of her work to promote the meaningful inclusion of students with disabilities within school and the community, and the 2018 NYCASE Friend of Special Education Award, recognizing her career devoted to “advocating for children and families and improving opportunities and outcomes for all.”


Stephanie Bellantoni Outreach Coordinator

Stephanie Bellantoni is an Outreach Coordinator at the Hudson Valley Special Education Parent Center, working to provide information and resources to parents and school districts in order to promote effective collaboration and better outcomes for all students. Before joining the WIHDCSN, she practiced as an attorney in New York for over 20 years, where she honed critical skills including research, writing, advocacy, and negotiation. Stephanie is a 2013 graduate of the LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities) Interdisciplinary Fellowship at WIHD, exploring core values of cultural competence, family-centered practice, life course theory and social determinants of health. She is a strong proponent for building a more inclusive culture. Stephanie is a Parent Member for her school district and has participated in many CSE and CPSE meetings over the years. She has four children and resides in Westchester County. Her daughter has a significant developmental disability, and is an integral and successful member of her family, school, and community. Stephanie advocates for each of her children to optimize their educational and community experience through persistent collaboration with appropriate school and community members.


Lulu Bencosme Bilingual Outreach Coordinator

Luarben (Lulu) Bencosme, M.S.Ed., holds a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education, with a Special Education Extension. Her previous experience includes teaching, Special Education Itinerant Teacher, Parent Coordinator, and CPSE & CSE meeting interpreter. She also spent many years in early childhood education working with English language learners and students with disabilities. Lulu works closely in partnership with school districts, community agencies, colleagues, and families, with a special focus on the needs of Hispanic students and parents. She provides training to parents in English and Spanish in a format so that parents can easily understand and access information, assisting them to understand and navigate the special education process. She is or has been a member of various organizations such as National Association for the Education for the Young Children (NAEYC), Westchester Association for the Education of the Young Children (WAEYC), New York State Association for Bilingual Education (NYSABE), and the Changing Suburbs Institute (CSI). She presents frequently to professionals on understanding and meeting the needs of Spanish-speaking families, and has presented at many conferences and the New York State Education Department.


Joyce Hawk Mid-Hudson Coordinator (Orange, Sullivan, Ulster, Duchess)

Joyce Hawk has worked with individuals with disabilities in many capacities for more than twenty-seven years. In addition to working with parents, Joyce’s experience includes coordinating academic accommodations and services for college students with disabilities, teaching college courses, providing professional development training for school district personnel, career counseling with high school students, as well as managing residential programs for individuals with developmental and emotional disabilities. Joyce works in partnership with school districts, families, community agencies, and colleges to improve effective transition planning practices and services through her active participation in four regional transition councils and college consortiums. In addition to a college degree, Joyce holds professional competency certifications in College Coaching for students with Asperger Syndrome, Basic Assistive Technology Services and Person Centered Planning. Her unique experiences enable her to provide parents with valuable information and resources on many different levels.