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Family Navigators with “lived experience”  will share perspectives on engaging families from diverse cultures and helping them navigate the services and access resources. Their roles impact families you serve, especially families from unserved and underserved communities, rural communities, and where English is not the first language.

Discussion Panel:

Felicia Williams Brown is a Connection & Resource Specialist for the Autism Society of NC. Her work involves supporting families and people with autism on social media by connecting them to services and helping with system navigation. She is a certified Community Health Worker, a Charting the LifeCourse Framework Ambassador, a certified trainer for Adult Mental Health First Aid, a Sexuality Educator for Individuals with IDD, a certified facilitator for the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), a certified instructor for HealthMatters and a certified facilitator for QPR Suicide Prevention. She is also the parent of a son with Autism.

Shagun Gaur has been working as an Autism Resource Specialist with the Autism Society of North Carolina over 5 years.  She is a parent of a child with Autism. In her current role, she provides resources to individuals, their families throughout 10 counties in the Charlotte area. She also delivers presentations, workshops, is an active member of CFAC-Alliance committee and Diversity Committee at the Autism Society.

Mariella Maldonado is a Spanish speaking Autism Resource Specialist with the Autism Society of North Carolina who helps individuals and families in every county of North Carolina. She is a parent of a child with Autism so has a unique understanding of what you are going through. She has many years of experience as an resource specialist and family navigator.

Candy Ross is a Family Services Manager for Headstart/Early Headstart at Qualla Boundary, home to the Eastern North Carolina band of Cherokee Indians.  She is also a partner with the Family Support Network of North Carolina Region A serving 7 counties in Western NC.


Learning Objectives:

By end of the program, participants will be able to:

1. Describe at least 2 ways in how having a family navigator impacts families who are often underserved.
2. Identify at least 1 role of a family navigator in supporting families and helping them navigate services and resources.
3. Name at least 1 way that family navigators from diverse cultures with lived experience impacts family engagement.


Center for Family Involvement


  • Crossman, MK, Lindly, OJ, Chan, J., Eaves, M., Kuhlthau, K.A., Parker, R.A., Coury, D.L., Zand, D.H., Nowinski, L.A., Smith, K., Tomkinson, M., Murray, D.S. (2020). Families’ Experiences With Family Navigation Services in the Autism Treatment Network. Pediatrics,145 (Supplement_1): S60–S71.
  • Ungar, M. (2010). Families as Navigators and Negotiators: Facilitating Culturally and Contextually Specific Expressions of Resilience. Family Process, 49: 421-435.
  • Vanegas, S. B., Dueñas, A. D., Kunze, M., & Xu, Y. (2023). Adapting parent-focused interventions for diverse caregivers of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities: Lessons learned during global crises. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 20(1), 45-57.
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