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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.

Sarah Goddard
Assistant Director & Equine Specialist:

Sarah is the Assistant Director & Equine Specialist of Rocking Horse Rehab.   Sarah began her career at Rocking Horse Rehab as a volunteer at the age of 14 and was hired as a Program Assistant by age 16.  Soon after graduating high school, Sarah went to Colorado to work as a wrangler, riding instructor and horse packing trail guide.  After four months in the Rocky Mountains, she moved to Vermont to attend the University of Vermont where she achieved a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science, with a Pre-Vet concentration in Equine Science.  Sarah is currently a PATH Intl. therapeutic riding instructor in training. She has been an avid equestrian for 18 years and has always had a passion for horses and helping children.  

In Sarah’s free time, she enjoys training & riding her horse Allegra, a 6-year-old Quarter pony. She enjoys spending time and traveling with her family and friends.

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.

Joan Checca, BS, RPT
Physical Therapist

Joan is a pediatric physical therapist. She graduated from S.U.N.Y downstate with a B.S. in physical therapy in 1992.  She is and AHA Level 1 therapist and has fifteen years of experience treating children with cerebral palsy, downs syndrome, neurological disorders and developmental disabilities.  Four of those years were spent teaching movement; gait training and providing physical therapy to children who were both deaf and blind at Helen Keller School For the Blind in Brooklyn NY.  Joan has been integrating the Tae Kwon Do movement vocabulary into her treatments for five years and is a pediatric movement specialist. This is now being developed into a Therapeutic Martial Arts Class for children challenged with physical and neuro-motor disablities at Rocking Horse Rehab.  Joan is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association section on pediatrics and The American Hippotherapy Association.

Joan holds a first dan black belt in Tae Kwon Do.  She is the student of Head Master Rick Lee (5th Dan) and Grand Master Taek Sung Cho (8th Dan and founder of the Talium Schools).   She is working toward her 2nd Dan at Talium's Cedar Grove School.  The entire Checca family have been members of Cedar Grove Talium since 2001.  Her husband and daughter hold first-Dan black belts and her two sons hold second-Dan black belts.  She earned a level IV certification in Qi Gong (a Chinese form of moving meditation for health and healing) at the Eastern School of Acupuncture.  She is passionate about the martial arts, wellness, nutrition and sustainable farming.

Joan lives in Montclair NJ with her family. In addition to working at Rocking Horse Rehab, Joan works in the Passaic School district delivering physical therapy services to children in an autism program.  She enjoys her family, her golden retriever, gardening and plays the cello.

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.

Peggy lore
NARHA Therapeutic Riding Instructor

Peggy Lore graduated Cum Laude from Kean College of New Jersey, with a B.A. in Special Education, and a minor in Psychology. She returned to Kean to complete a Master's Degree in Learning Disabilities. During 10 years of teaching at St. Joseph's School for the Blind, she held a Certification as Teacher of the Blind and Visually Impaired. In addition, she has15 years of teaching students with Cerebral Palsy, Global Developmental Delays, Oppositional Defiance, NOS, etc.

Peggy is a full-time teacher at the Passaic County Cerebral Palsy Treatment Center in Clifton, New Jersey. In conjunction with the regular education program, she utilizes therapist guided carry-over programs to provide daily sensory integration diets, oral motor stimulation, communication (sign language, tangible symbols, etc.) and active physical routines for her students. She has presented the Tangible Symbol System at parent meetings. She is also a 2007 recipient of the ASAH teacher of the year award (in large part to efforts to promote therapeutic riding, and helping to pilot a one year adapted archery program at the CP Center.)

Peggy received her NARHA register Instructor Certification via the TRAC program at Centenary College, Hackettstown, N.J. She considers herself fortunate to have been a student of Octavia Brown, a founder of NARHA. She was a presenter (Fun Games) at the 2009 NARHA Region 2 conference at Centenary College and Equine Center. Professional riding time has been at the Bergen Equestrian Center taking private lessons. For many years, she participated in the Wednesday adult troop at Watchung Stables, in Union County, N.J.

She is the co-owner of 4-Shoes Riding, Inc. and the riding instructor for New York Therapeutic Riding and Equestria.

Peggy is an active community volunteer. She is a co-instructor for the Union County 4-H Archery Club. In addition, she is a member of the Union County Medical Reserve Corp.

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.

Stacey Schneider MA, ATR, CCLS, LCAT

Stacey is a practicing Art Therapist and Child Life Specialist, with specialty training in Ericksonian Hypnotherapy and guided imagery. She is currently a full time employee at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, New Jersey on the Pediatrics Unit as an Art therapist and Child Life Specialist. She previously spent 13 years at NYU Langone Medical Center on the pediatrics acute care and intensive care units. As part of her duties, she has provided groups and individual therapy, supervised staff and students, taken part in in-services and grand rounds presentations, spearheaded hospital outreach and stepped in to provide general overseeing of department when needed. In addition, she has attended many workshops, trainings and in-services to further her skills.

Stacey feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to work here at Rocking Horse Rehab for the past year and comes with a commitment to continue to provide quality care in this special setting.

Diana Torres
Program Assistant

Diana is a college student pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design and is then going to obtain her masters in speech pathology. She loves and has been around horses her entire life. She is one of our skilled program assistants responsible for preparing the horses for therapy and assisting when needed. She is also a skilled western rider.

In her spare time, she enjoys hanging out with friends, photography, art, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

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.