12-22 Woodland Avenue West Orange, NJ 07052   |   973-731-8588
Equine Assisted Therapies
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Staff Biographies


Sheri Marino Haiken, MA, CCC-SLP, RYT
Executive Director/ Speech Language Pathologist

Sheri received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology from Rutgers University where she was named to the Golden Key National Honor Society and graduated with Honors. Sheri attained her Master of Arts degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders and graduated Cum Laude from Montclair University. While at Montclair, she was a Graduate Assistant providing evaluation and remediation, for speech improvement, to students majoring in Communication, Theatre and Broadcasting. Sheri's clinical experiences include the University Hospital at UMDNJ in Newark, NJ, where she provided evaluation and treatment services in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Sheri was trained in Applied Behavior Analysis at the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, New Brunswick, NJ, where she treated children on the autism spectrum. For 10 years, she coordinated home programs in New York, New Jersey, and London, England. As a member of a trans-disciplinary team, Sheri conducted evaluations and treatment services for the birth-three year old population at the Milestones Child Development Center, Jersey City, NJ. While at Milestones, she was part of the Expansion Team, providing homebound services to medically fragile infants as well as infants affected by pre-natal drug exposure. Sheri has received training in Links to Language, MORE, PROMPT, and manual therapies including myofascial release and craniosacral therapy.

In 1993, Sheri developed the Hippotherapy program at the Somerset Hills Handicapped Riding Center (now Mane Stream) in Oldwick, NJ, as one of two Speech Pathologists in the US using Hippotherapy as part of a treatment plan. She has since trained dozens of therapists in the US, in this treatment strategy. In September of 2001, Sheri founded Rocking Horse Rehab, a pediatric rehabilitation and family wellness center specializing in equine assisted therapies, located at the Essex Equestrian Center in West Orange, NJ. Rocking Horse Rehab (RHR) treats children with various disabilities including, cerebral palsy, spinal muscular atrophy, brain tumors, autism, rare syndromes and other neuromuscular and developmental disorders. Sheri is the sole Owner and Executive Director of Rocking Horse Rehab (RHR), which treats nearly 100 children weekly, employs 17 therapists and support staff, and relies on the assistance of more than 50 volunteers. RHR has affiliations with more than twenty universities for fieldwork and internship placements for students majoring in family, education and healthcare studies.  Rocking Horse Rehab was voted “NJ’s Favorite Kids’ Docs” in NJ Family Magazine in 2009, and 2011. In addition, Sheri was voted “NJ’s Favorite Kids’ Docs” for NJ Family Magazine’s, exceptional pediatric healthcare professionals issue, 2012. Rocking Horse Rehab has also been selected as Hospital Newspaper Pediatric Rehab and Family Wellness Center of the month in 2009, 2010 and 2013.

Sheri also maintains a position as the Executive Director of the Comprehensive Autism Medical Assessment and Treatment Center of NJ, (501c3). At the Center, Sheri coordinates the Autism Think Tank, which brings together a team of world-renowned doctors using telemedicine to collaborate on complex cases of autism with medical co-morbidities.  She is solely responsible for all fundraising, community outreach, continuing education, marketing and public speaking engagements. More recently, Sheri was asked to participate as an expert in autism, on a panel of healthcare professionals for “Pazoo,” a publicly traded, international health and wellness website, www.pazoo.com.

Sheri has presented in various capacities on speech and language disorders, Applied Behavior Analysis, and Hippotherapy. She co-authored a case study, which was published in the NARHA Strides Magazine and presented at the NARHA national conference in Washington, and internationally in Barcelona and Hungary. Sheri co-created a wellness program for mothers of children with special needs, which was presented at the PATH International Region 2 Conference. She has lectured for the NARHA Region 2 conference, Morris County Speech and Hearing Association, the New Jersey Speech and Hearing Association, Centenary College, Touro College/NYC, Seton Hall University, and Princeton University. Sheri was recently a guest on the “Autism with Dr. Andy” radio show out of Manhattan Beach, CA. She has been interviewed and filmed by CBS News, NBC News, NJN and multiple Cable networks.

In addition to her work at Rocking Horse Rehab and the Autism Medical Center, Sheri is a certified yoga instructor. She enjoys riding her horse Harley, running, and traveling. She has two boys ages 13 and 11, who enjoy spending time with the children and horses at RHR.

Doris Marino
Director of Development

Doris was a New Jersey licensed Director of Therapeutic Activities in long term care facilities for twenty years. Doris was awarded the Madison E. Weidner life-time achievement award by the New Jersey Activity Professionals Association representing leadership, inspiration and education in her profession. She was also a volunteer coordinator responsible for recruiting, training and maintaining volunteers who assisted with various recreational, spiritual and educational
activities for the residents. Doris was the President of the Northwest New Jersey Activity Professionals Association for eight years. She has presented in various capacities in therapeutic recreation including a seminar on exercise in the elderly. Doris was a member of the International Dance Educators of America and was an aerobic instructor for nine years.

In her spare time, Doris enjoys spending time with her husband and her
eight grandchildren, working out at the gym and power walking.

Kathy Lutz, LCSW, LCADS, CP
Clinical Coordinator
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor
Certified Psychodramatist
PATH Intl. Certified Riding Instructor

Kathy received her Bachelor of Social Work degree from St. Francis College in Pennsylvania and her Master of Social Work from the Catholic University of America. Kathy is a licensed clinical social worker, a licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselor and a certified psychodramatist with more than 30 years of clinical experience in a variety of treatment settings.  In addition to her work at Rocking Horse Rehab, Kathy maintains a private practice in Montclair providing individual, family and group therapy.

Kathy is author of the social skills training manual, Horsemanship/Humanship Skills: How Horses Make Us Better People.  In Kathy's role as psychotherapist and certified riding instructor at Rocking Horse Rehab, Kathy developed this social skills training program because parents consistently expressed two major concerns:

1. Could you please not call the work with the horses "therapy"?  - Their
kids had been to enough traditional therapists and were tired of being
told they needed more therapy.

2. The other concern was about the generalization of skills – what was
being taught in their past therapies wasn't carrying over into their
behavior at home or at school.

By making learning fun and engaging the entire family, Kathy's training
manual and social skills program at Rocking Horse Rehab addresses both of
these concerns.

Kathy rode horses for 7 years as a child and adolescent.  She now enjoys
horseback riding weekly.  Working at Rocking Horse Rehab has been the
greatest pleasure of her career!

Kimberly Kones-Abramsohn MS/OTR/L
Director of Rehabilitation Services/Occupational Therapist

Kimberly is a New Jersey Licensed Occupational Therapist who is SIPT
certified (Sensory Integration and Praxis). Kimberly is also a registered
therapist with the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association
(NARHA) and is an AHA Level 11 therapist.

Kimberly received a Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Nutrition from the University of Texas. She received a Master of Science degree in
Occupational Therapy from Shenandoah University in Virginia. Kimberly has extensive experience in a number of areas including evaluation and
treatment in adult and pediatric trauma, early intervention, interactive
metronome as well as school and clinic based pediatrics. Kimberly has
received training in manual therapies including craniosacral therapy and
myofascial release, Therapeutic Listening, interactive metronome and NDT. Kimmy is currently becoming certified in Brian Gym and DIR.

Kimberly enjoys riding her horse Belle and spending time with her son Seth.

Doreen Cruz, M.S., CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

Doreen Cruz, M.S., CCC-SLP is a Bilingual (Spanish/English) speech-language pathologist, who is state licensed and school certified in N.J., N.Y., and PA. Doreen obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Speech Pathology from Brooklyn College and her Masters Degree in Communication Disorders from Hunter College in New York City. She is an AHA Level I Therapist.

Doreen worked for over 10 years in a special education preschool, primarily servicing Spanish-speaking Early Intervention and Preschool students. She currently provides speech and language services to children and adults in New Jersey in a private clinic and within the public school system. She also conducts workshops and webinars targeting bilingualism and disorders in Spanish-speaking children. In her spare time, she enjoys being with her daughter, horseback riding, and traveling.

Dorian J. (DJ) Johnston
Music Instructor, JAM CATS Music Program

Dorian J (DJ) Johnston is founder and owner of The Jam Cats children’s music program. His educational background includes studies at Morris County College and The Collective School of Music in Manhattan where his focus was on performance in classical, jazz band and Latin music. His professional background spans over thirteen years of international touring with the rhythm and dance show The Rhythmics as well as playing with numerous other top 40 wedding/cover bands throughout the New York City metropolitan area. He is also a private music instructor and enjoys traveling to his student’s homes where he is able to develop a close relationship with his students and their families. DJ’s years of stage experience combined with his passion for music and love for children fosters a very special connection between him and the children that he works with.

The Jam Cats is a children’s music program that provides a fun and nurturing environment in which children are introduced to music through singing, movement and response to rhythmic patterns. The Jam Cats primary goal is to put forth and provide quality classes for young children in a goal oriented, non competitive environment that makes every child feel like a winner while learning about and experiencing the amazing magic of music. The curriculum, songs and learning materials used during classes and shows are specifically chosen and created to be developmentally appropriate for each individual group or child.

Tim Livelli
Program Assistant

Tim has been working with Rocking Horse Rehab since 2002 when he started as a volunteer and then became the very first employee at RHR! Tim has faced many developmental challenges in his lifetime as he was born very prematurely. He proudly shares his triumphs with the staff and families at RHR. Tim is pursuing an acting career and wants to publish his own movie based on his life. Tim likes taking his vacations at Rocking Horse Ranch in New York, riding and spending time with horses. In his free time he likes to ride western on Skipper, watch his DVD’s, and loves to listen to different kinds of music.

Carey Masson
Office Manager

Carey is the office manager of Rocking Horse Rehab. She started volunteering at age 16 and was hired as a program assistant when she was 19. Carey attended Centenary College and studied Equine Studies with a concentration in Equine Science, working for two years with the staff veterinarian as a veterinary assistant. This knowledge has helped her to keep the program horses happy and healthy. She has been riding since age 13 and continues to ride in her free time. Carey truly is passionate about horses and enjoys spending time with them.

Carey can be found in her free time around the barn, but also enjoys spending time relaxing and reading at home.

Jennifer Vill, M.A., CCC-SLP
Speech-language Pathologist

Jennifer Vill, M.A., CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist who is licensed in New Jersey. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree from Loyola University Maryland and her Masters Degree is Communication Disorders from Kean University. She is an AHA Level 1 Therapist.

Jennifer currently works at Children’s Specialized Hospital, where she performs speech, language and feeding evaluations and treatment for a diverse pediatric population. She has experience working in private schools, Early Intervention and in private practice. Jennifer has received training in PROMPT, PECS, Talk Tools, The Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration (MNRI) Method, and Augmentative and Alternative Communication. She has completed the year long Basic Course through The Profectum Academy for the developmental treatment strategy, DIR Floortime. She has received the ASHA ACE award for Continuing Education.

In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, running and photography.

Fiana Bezpalko, MS, CCC-SLP
School-based Speech and Language Therapist

Fiana Bezpalko, MS, CCC-SLP, is a school-based speech and language therapist in Northern NJ. With more than six years of experience as a speech and language therapist for all children, including those with developmental challenges, she is a DIR/Floortime certified professional. In addition, she treats clients privately in their home, is involved in Early Intervention as well as, the hippotherapy technique to address motor-speech concerns. She is also PROMPT trained and Beckman Oral Motor certified. Each experience is rewarding and she enjoys celebrating the success of each of her students individually for who they truly are and what they CAN do!