Staff Bios

Here we are... the Smart Apps for Special Needs Team!  Meet us now:

Ron Engel is the founder and Grand Poobah of Smart Apps For Kids. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Tulane University, and has worked in public relations for both Tulane and Special Olympics of Louisiana. A native of New Orleans, Ron loves Journey, fried chicken, and horror movies, hates eye exams and fruit, and has a man-crush on Daryl Dixon. He does not have any tattoos, but desperately wishes he did. Ron does not like the sun and may actually be a vampire, but not a cool one that fights werewolves or anything. 

Heather Hetler holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Communication Disorders and works as a Speech-Language Pathologist in an elementary school. Her greatest areas of interest are literacy, language, and autism, and her experience with a family member with Asperger Syndrome has been a huge help to her in her work with SAFK.

Originally from North Dakota, Heather considers herself predictable and boring. She would love to play the piano well, but wants to accomplish this with little or no actual effort on her part. She dreams of running the Boston Marathon and being more organized, and plurals written as possessives make her cringe. She is an obsessive rule-follower and must give herself a pep talk before removing the tags from furniture, pillows and mattresses. A champion multitasker, she is also a wealth of useless information. Her favorite word is exacerbate.

Lisa Ruddy is a Ph.D. student at Queens University Belfast, studying apps that improve communication skills for kids with ASD. She also has degrees in creative writing, drama and English, and loves poetry, music and James Stewart films. She is left-handed, right-footed, and loves men with facial hair. Her hidden talents include doing the splits and assembling flat-pack furniture. She is terrified of butterflies.  

Heather Salsman has a Bachelor of Science in Special Education and Elementary Education from Indiana State University and is currently a Special Education Teacher.  She is addicted to Pepsi and chocolate. She is a flip flop fanatic who writes a teaching blog, enjoys using American Sign Language, multi-tasking, and frequenting three restaurants way too often with her hubby.  She is a teaching supply hoarder who strongly dislikes Justin Bieber and many foods.

Amanda Renz has a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education and a Master’s in Middle Level Education. As a stay at home mom for three wonderful children, caring for each of their unique and special needs, she uses her hard-earned degree to build their love of music. Disney World is a favorite family trip, but you will find her avoiding Chuck-E-Cheese's, as she enjoys playing the games a little too much. Amanda loves the feel of clean sand between her toes and the smell in the air after it rains. She has learned that baby powder on your hands at the airport can result in a full pat down, so consider yourself warned.

Rachel Hall has a Bachelor of Science in computer science and uses this degree to play tech support for her friends and family. In Texas, where she was born and raised, she is currently a stay at home mom with 2 children: a seven year old firecracker of a daughter and a five year old sweetheart of a son with Asperger’s. Rachel hated cheese until she was 18, and currently could live off hamburgers, chocolate, and coffee. At her home, you would find Rachel and her daughter cooking, while her son uses his keen sense of smell to tell them when it is too stinky.

Sarah has a Master of Science in Communication Disorders and Sciences and is currently an SLP working with children birth through 6 years old. She made her best random decision ever when choosing to change from a theater major to a Speech Path major because she liked to talk and decided to do the same as her friend. One of her most favorite life experiences was attending a taping of Oprah, and she is still figuring out the meaning behind the “meaningful eye contact” made with Robert Pattinson. Sarah is glad she no longer has her imaginary friends, Cindy and Julie, because they were always mean to her.

Rachel Jones is a speech language pathologist and a recent graduate of Indiana State University (we’re so proud). She is a lover of coffee, office supplies, and all things Disney, and is annoyed by toads, bridal shower games, and Christopher Walken. A 6-foot-2-inch girly girl, she sleeps with a teddy bear and owns a ridiculous number of children’s books. She has been with the staff for quite some time now but everyone still calls her Newbsies.

Heather S. stole four bios from Smart Apps for Kids and wrote the rest after begging for random facts about each person.