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Meet Our Pediatric Experts

Each of our toys is designed with the input and guidance of a team of pediatric experts. These experts bring their deep understanding of child development and therapeutic needs to the design process, ensuring that our toys are not only fun but also developmentally appropriate.

This interdisciplinary approach ensures that our toys address multiple aspects of child development, from fine motor skills and sensory processing to language acquisition and social-emotional learning.

Our relationship with pediatric experts doesn’t end once the toy is designed. We continue to have ongoing conversations with our expert team to continuously improve our product line based on the latest advancements in pediatric therapy and feedback from therapists and parents who use our toys in real-world settings.

By incorporating the knowledge and expertise of these specialists into every step of our design process, we ensure that our toys are not just playthings but powerful tools that contribute significantly to a child’s growth and development.

Julie Barry

Speech-Language Pathologist

Julie has been an ASHA-certified Speech-Language Pathologist since 2012 and holds a license in the state of New Jersey. With a diverse range of clinical experience, Julie has worked in various settings, including hospitals (both inpatient and outpatient), rehab centers, public and specialized schools, early intervention programs, and private practice. As a PROMPT-trained clinician, Julie has developed special interests in early intervention, late-talking, motor speech disorders such as apraxia of speech, and preschool speech-language disorders. She is renowned for her innovative approach of incorporating movement into her sessions to keep children fully engaged in their learning.

Julie practices evidence-based, child-led, and family-centered therapy, offering individualized 1:1 therapy sessions tailored to each child's unique needs. Outside of her professional life, Julie enjoys watching Bravo, spending time in the sunshine and at the beach, playing corn hole, and bike riding.

Liz Kidney

Occupational Therapist

Liz is a skilled occupational therapist who currently works in the public school setting, spending the majority of her time having a blast with preschool and elementary students. She is passionate about sensory processing in the school setting and strongly believes in a neurodivergent-affirming approach. This approach aims to create a supportive and inclusive learning environment for all students. With experience in early intervention, specialized schools, and skilled nursing facilities, Liz brings a diverse skill set to her practice as a school-based therapist.

Liz is also a pediatric toy tester at Pediatric Toy Experts, where she evaluates children's toys, focusing on their benefits for sensory processing, perceptual, and motor skills. Driven by a commitment to effective learning and meaningful engagement, Liz also creates occupational therapy resources that are easily adaptable for varying skill levels, using a multisensory approach to enhance learning. Outside of work, Liz enjoys cooking, crafting, listening to Taylor Swift, and spending quality time with her husband and toddler.

Jessica Ortega

Playspace Expert

Jess is the owner and founder of Giggles Play, a Reggio-inspired indoor playspace in the North Shore of Chicago. A former nanny and preschool teacher, Jess opened Giggles with the hopes of creating a space where families could come together to connect with each other and their children through play.

She has a deep passion for helping children learn and develop through Reggio-inspired practices and believes in open-ended play and exploration, as well as fostering growth, by optimizing a learning environment and classes through intentional design and quality offerings.

Jess is a local business owner and spends her free time helping to support other small and local businesses as a board member on the Highwood Chamber of Commerce and regularly volunteers with other organizations in and around her small town. When not working or volunteering, Jess enjoys playing cozy games like Animal Crossing, reading, cooking, and spending time with family.

Sarah Sweeney

Speech & Myofunctional Therapist

Sarah Sweeney is a board-licensed and certified speech-language pathologist, as well as a qualified orofacial myologist. She owns her own private practice in Mechanicsville, Virginia.

She holds a Master’s degree in Communication Disorders from the University of Virginia and specializes in orofacial myofunctional disorders, including tongue thrust, tongue ties, and thumb-sucking habit elimination. Her expertise extends to feeding and swallowing issues, voice disorders, and speech and language difficulties.

Sarah has received extensive training in various specialized methods, including the International Association of Orofacial Myology (IAOM™), Neo-Health’s Orofacial Myology Certification (QOM track), PROMPT (Prompts for Restructuring Oral Muscular Phonetic Targets), the D’Onofrio Institute for diagnosing and treating OMDs, Natural Play Therapy (NPT), and Feed the Peds.

In her spare time, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga, making music, researching, and spending time with her husband Luke, their son Finn, and their sweet big mutt named Beau.

Bri Hicks

Learning & Development Expert

Bri is the co-founder of Indie Learning Co - a one-of-a-kind learning center that is dedicated to inclusive education and the holistic development of all children. Bri began her career as an ABA therapist within home, school and clinic settings while obtaining her degree in Psychology. Along her journey, she obtained her RBT certification. Her professional passions include trauma informed care, holistic approaches to teaching, + parent education!

In her 10 years, Bri has continually innovated within the field, with a strong focus on raising the standard of therapy/service delivery and pushing toward truly neurodiversity affirming supports. She has long advocated for and implemented changes in strategies for teaching skills, proactively supporting behavior, respecting ALL modes of expression and meeting the sensory needs of each learner.

Bri’s work in the last 4 years has been dedicated to building the foundation of Indie.

In 2020, Bri began making adapted learning materials for families whose services had been impacted by the pandemic. As schools and clinics shut down, Bri stepped up to make high-quality adapted teaching materials for families in her community. Within a year, she’d served hundreds of families with handmade adapted books, learning supports, visuals and parent guides to help families build skills at home. In 2022, Bri and Jessica utilized this extensive collection of adapted books and materials in their inclusive classes, story times and play groups around the valley! This Spring, much of this collection will serve as core resources in Indie’s adapted curriculum!

As an adult, Bri received an ADHD and SPD diagnosis, which centered and validated a lot of her experiences from childhood to adulthood. Her areas of support as a child — organization and planning, have turned into strengths as she navigates running a business. Bri is responsible for all of Indie’s branding, content, events, operations + anything else behind the scenes! She has an extremely creative and analytic brain, which allows her to hyper focus and learn all that she can to create each of Indie’s systems.

Bri is also in the process of completing her DIR Floortime Certification.

Jessica Costa

Teacher & BCBA

Jessica is the co-founder of Indie Learning Co - a one-of-a-kind learning center that is dedicated to inclusive education and the holistic development of all children. Jessica began her career as a certified PK-3 educator with a B.S. in Psychology and a B.S. in Early Childhood Education.

She was a founding member of an inclusive preschool program in Hartford, CT where she fell in love with child-led, play-based teaching methods. As an educator, Jessica recalls feeling like she was inadequately prepared to support her neurodivergent and disabled children in their overall development. With a lack of training and support, she felt that even in an “inclusive” program, her neurodivergent students weren’t receiving an equitable educational experience. She pursued her M.S. in Autism & Applied Behavior Analysis and obtained her BCBA certification in an effort to better serve all children in her teaching.

Along her professional and personal growth journey, Jessica discovered that she was neurodivergent herself. She saw many parallels between the barriers her students faced within traditional education + clinic settings and her own experiences as a child within the public education system. Many of her experiences as a child began to finally make sense, as she came to accept and be empowered in her own neurodivergence.

Jessica is a first Gen American to immigrant parents and often references her experience learning English within the public school system. She recalls significant barriers to her own learning and development within the public school system with teachers and administrators who were ill-prepared to identify and support her range of needs.

As an adult, Jessica’s areas of support include her expressive language, sensory regulation, social reciprocity and cognitive flexibility

Her strengths include a deep sense of justice, strong logic + analytic skills, her empathetic nature and her passion for leaving this world a better place for the next generation!

Outside of teaching, she is passionate about animals and advocating for animal rights! In her free time, she volunteers with local dog rescues to foster, exercise and train dogs at shelters and boarding facilities. She has 3 rescue dogs named Mötley Crüe, Ozzy and Hendrix.

Lauren Ryder

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist

Lauren is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and owner of her solo private practice in the beautiful and sunny San Clemente, California. She works exclusively with children and teens ages 5 to 18-years-old utilizing play, sand tray, bibliotherapy, art and more.  

After receiving her bachelor’s in Child Development, Lauren went on to work as a preschool teacher where her passion to help children and families grew. From there, she decided to help children on a deeper level and received her Masters in Counseling Psychology to become a therapist. 

As a new mom, Lauren understands the love and concern that parents have for their children and is honored to work so closely with the families in her community. 

When Lauren isn’t at her office filled with toys, you can find her spending time with her family, going to the beach, and on walks in nature!