Meet the Team

Catherine Trezona – National Manager 

Catherine is charged with providing quality, evidence-based and timely information to autistic people and the professionals and family/whānau who support them. Catherine is responsible for both the strategic and operational management of Altogether Autism, which is delivered in partnership with Life Unlimited and Parent to Parent.

Catherine joined Altogether Autism as a researcher in 2014 after completing a Master’s degree in health psychology, and moved into a managerial role in 2015. She is one of the programme developers and lead facilitators for PRISM, our specialist autism workforce development series. She brings a passion and commitment to building community and is a strong advocate of seeking and supporting an authentic autistic voice to ensure Altogether Autism is built on the principle and practice of ‘nothing about us without us.’

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Emily Acraman  (B.A. – Psychology) – Researcher

Emily joined the Altogether Autism team as a researcher in early 2019. She graduated from the University of Waikato in 2009 with a Bachelor of Social Sciences degree majoring in psychology and human development and then completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Psychology.

Emily has worked with children with autism in an education setting and also has experience in the mental health field. Emily is a mother of two young boys and comes to us most recently from her role as researcher for the Hamilton City Council.

Sanam Bagherian (Ph.D., registered clinical psychologist in Iran)

Sanam Bagherian has recently joined Altogether Autism team as Autism Specialist Facilitator. She has strong interest in autism and has a Ph.D. in autism psychology which included delivering educational programmes to support parents with children on autism spectrum. Sanam has worked as a clinician and educator to support children on the spectrum and their families for 13 years, and more recently has worked with autistic adults. She is registered clinical psychologist in her home country of Iran and is working towards registration here in New Zealand. Sanam has published more than six studies and has presented at events such as the 5th World Congress on Positive Psychology (July, 2017).  Sanam is passionate about getting up to date in depth reliable autism information and sharing it with the autism community.

Jenny Gibbs – Clinical Psychologist

Jenny Gibbs is a Clinical Psychologist who has worked at the Child Development Centre at Waikato Hospital for the past 25 years. She has a small private practice of quirky kids and their families.  Jenny has a strong interest in autism and autism spectrum conditions.  Jenny has been the consultant clinical psychologist for  Altogether Autism for the past two years and was previously a member of the Altogether Autism Professional Expert Group.

In 2009, Jenny was a member of a reference group which gave input into the development of a training toolkit on ASD assessment, diagnosis and clinical management for Paediatricians, Psychiatrists, and Psychologists. She was subsequently invited to co-present this training to these professional groups.

Mary Anne Gill – Editor, Altogether Autism Journal

Mary Anne is communications manager at Life Unlimited Charitable Trust and edits our Altogether Autism Journal. She was an award-winning journalist for many years at INL publications (now Stuff NZ) and owned her own newspaper and printing company. In 2007 she was appointed communications director at Waikato District Health Board leading many national initiatives around social media, printing, shared services and communications. Since joining Life Unlimited and taking over as editor of the Journal, Mary Anne has overseen development of the Altogether Autism website so it now includes individual articles from the Journal and an increase in “lived experience” pieces. Contact her on 021 705 213 or

Paula Jessop, Autistic Advisor

Paula Jessop is an autistic woman who advocates for ‘radical acceptance’ of autism as a valid type of neurological difference and supporting autistic people through strengths based methods.

She has been a member of a range of autism reference groups most recently including a Te Pou group aimed at formulating an autism skills framework for the disability workforce. Along with being a founding member of the Consumer Reference Group, Paula works with Altogether Autism in an advisory role as an autistic advocate.

Paula has strong connections with Autistic communities and works as an independent autism mentor through her own business Autism Insights as well as working for Enrich+ co-facilitating an autistic youth group and supporting disabled people living in community.

Paula also gives ‘lived experience’ workshops for Altogether Autism or Autism Insights aimed at assisting parents and professionals to understand autism from ‘the inside’.

Julie Peake – Researcher

Julie was raised having children with a range of health and disability needs spending time in her family home.   After travelling and working overseas Julie returned to New Zealand and commenced tertiary study as an adult student.  While studying Julie supported adults with autism as they transitioned into community settings.

She graduated with an Honours (First Class) degree majoring in psychology and sociology in 1998 and then went on to complete studies in social work, adult education, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Social Service Supervision (with Distinction).

Julie is currently completing her Masters of Professional Practice, is a registered social worker with the New Zealand Social Workers Registration Board and a member of the professional body Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers.  She has more than 20 years social work practice experience.

Amanda Phillips (B.A. – Psychology)

Amanda is one of the founding facilitators for PRISM. Amanda has worked with people on the autism spectrum for more than 12 years in England, New York and New Zealand.

Through working in schools and the community, Amanda has experience in many settings and across all ages. Previously Amanda was the service manager for Enrich+ Spectrum Energy, developing new services in the Waikato for people with autism.

After 18 months maternity leave, Amanda has returned to the workforce as PRISM sales and delivery for Altogether Autism.

Amanda is passionate about building knowledge and awareness about autism in the community along with supporting those with autism and their families to navigate support services.

Jamie Timoti – Research assistant, Live Chat

Jamie Timoti has a passion for helping people.

She is the face of instant #LiveChat on the Altogether Autism website. Which is another way our #autism community can engage in real time with real questions.

A whole new world has opened up for Jamie and her whānau since her youngest son’s Williams Syndrome diagnosis. Jamie, a mother of four, knows what it’s like to have questions.