Senior Team Announced at Glenwood


Ken Oliver, the newly named president and chief executive officer of Glenwood, Inc., has announced the senior team that will manage the nonprofit organization. Glenwood touched the lives of more than 18,000 families last year through more than 20 programs. 

“This outstanding group of leaders brings an amazing depth and breadth of experience in the human services field,” Oliver shared. He went on to say, “Their combined experience represents over 125 years of experience and service to others. Their past work includes experience in government agencies, for-profit ventures, and religious and non-profit organizations in Alabama as well as several other states. Each member of this group shares a deep commitment to the values represented in Glenwood’s legacy—service to others at the highest possible levels of quality and loving compassion for those we have the privilege of serving. It is my pleasure to join them every day in our efforts to continue to pursue and fulfill the Glenwood mission, and I look forward to serving with them for many years to come.”

Linda Baker, with more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit development, is the chief development officer. She has a background in media and corporate communications and previously worked in development with the American Red Cross and United Ability.  Baker was the staff lead on Glenwood’s recent $10 million capital campaign. The ninth and largest campaign in Glenwood’s 46-year history has allowed major growth and expansion for families touched by autism spectrum disorder and other mental health concerns.

Thomas Bernal joined Glenwood recently as the chief financial officer to drive development and implementation of financial strategy and to assist with financial planning and economic modeling. He oversees accounting, billing, contracts, 403b administration, food services, instructional technology and facilities. He came from St. Anne’s, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization, where he helped manage a $30 million budget and has more than 20 years of experience in senior level finance positions.

Christy Castleberry has been promoted to chief compliance and administration officer. She has been with Glenwood more than 20 years and oversees compliance and program integrity, outpatient services in Birmingham, legal and risk management, community education, health services, human resources and staff training. She holds a master’s degree in business administration.

Cinda Walchli is vice president of child and adolescent services and has been named clinical director. In her position she oversees children’s residential services for children with autism and boys with severe emotional and behavioral disturbances (SEBD). She also oversees Lakeview School for the boys in the SEBD program. She recently added responsibilities for clinical oversight of all of Glenwood’s programs. She holds a master’s degree in social work, is a licensed clinical social worker and has expertise in attachment disorder, behavior disorders, crisis management and parent skills training. She has been with Glenwood more than 30 years.

Barbara Mosley is vice president of adult services. This includes Glenwood’s day rehab program for more than 50 adults, Journey Academy in Birmingham and Huntsville that serves more than 30 adults in learning job skills. It also includes six residential homes for adults with autism on campus and 14 homes in the community. Mosley holds a master’s degree in public administration and has more than 25 years of experience in the field, seven of which have been at Glenwood.

Paul Agostini is the new vice president of education and applied behavior analysis (ABA). He oversees Allan Cott School, which serves 50 students on the severe end of the autism spectrum. He oversees all ABA services which includes Allan Cott students, adults served on the south Jefferson County campus, young children at the Mallie M. Ireland Children’s Center that opened in Avondale last fall and children in the greater Birmingham community. He also oversees Outpatient Services in Montgomery. Agostini has a master’s in psychology with emphasis on applied behavior analysis from Ball State University. He started at Glenwood is a board certified behavior analyst seven years ago and is aa licensed behavior analyst in Alabama.


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Girl Scouts Bring Cheer to Campus

On Saturday, December 14th, for the 16th year in a row, Girl Scouts from the Vestavia area came to Glenwood’s main campus to deliver presents and spend time with the individuals that we serve. All the troops are from Girl Scout Service Unit 262 in Vestavia Hills. They had parties at three different locations on campus, and they served cookies and refreshments at each party. Santa even made an appearance and helped hand out gifts and candy canes!

At one of the parties we had 6 troops of Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors in the chapel with the adults. They sang Christmas Carols and helped Santa hand out gift bags and candy canes.

In the cafeteria, we had 1 troop of Cadettes spending time with our CRS individuals. They helped by handing out gifts and passing out refreshments. The girls were amazing with the kids, and everyone was excited when Santa came with his gifts too!
We had 3 troops of Brownies and Juniors in the gym with the Daniel Houses. They had multiple games set up for the boys to play, and they also helped Santa give out gifts. There were so many smiles! So much fun was had!

Not only did the girls give their time, but they also purchased presents for each child who lives on Glenwood’s campus and gift bags for the adults. They truly have given these children the miracle of Christmas, and gifts to open on Christmas morning.

Their time, generosity, and love is what Christmas is really about!

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Save the Date for Big Top 2020

Step right up to the BIGGEST event of the year!

Exciting changes are in store for Big Top 2020! The date has been set for February 21, 2020 and the tent will be raised in a new location. Haven in the Lakeview District will host this year’s event and Glenwood’s Junior Board has plans to ensure that this year’s is the best one yet!

Learn more by visiting the event page at

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A Very Special Christmas Moment

Sometimes you witness something so special, it’s hard to describe. When you know of a 40-year-old woman who is on the severe end of the autism spectrum, and who has no family (except the Glenwood staff who work with her daily) it’s touching to know that people who don’t know her are willing to help.

I’ll call her Candy, and here’s what I saw. Candy says few words. As presents with bows were brought in, she said, “Ho, Ho, Ho.” She was ready to receive.

She saw friendly, open faces and sensed giving hearts. She said, “Hold,” as she offered a hug, and another hug. And another hug. She was in the spirit of giving and receiving.

She opened clothes – pants, a shirt, underwear, and washcloths – necessities that most of us just buy for ourselves whenever we want. She buried her face in a warm, fuzzy blanket. She opened a box to find a shiny necklace and bracelet and put them on immediately. She borrowed someone’s phone case with a pink strap and rhinestones and put it on as a necklace as well. She loves bling. Candy was obviously happy.

Two other words she knows well and said sweetly as she opened each gift were, “Thank you.”

Remembering this scene of joy, wonder and thankfulness brings tears to my eyes, and I wish that you could have witnessed it. Your support made it possible for one adult with autism to receive some extra special attention at Christmas. This story is just one example of how your donation through Operation Santa Claus 2019 was a big success.

On behalf of Candy and 19 other adults, “Thank you.”

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Oliver Assumes President and CEO Position at Glenwood

Ken Oliver has assumed the role of president and chief executive officer for Glenwood, Inc.  Deborah “Lee” Yount announced her retirement from the role after more than 38 years as the leader of the organization that touched the lives of more than 18,000 families last year.

Oliver has more than 25 years of health care, social services and mental health experience. He has served as Glenwood’s chief operating officer since 2013. The private nonprofit organization started by a small group of community leaders with a commitment to providing treatment, education and research in the area of children’s mental health has grown into one of the largest nonprofit behavioral health centers in Alabama.

“There is a tremendous need for the services Glenwood provides. While we have grown tremendously, even over the past three years, there’s still so much to do,” said Glenwood Board Chair Philip Young.  “With 20 percent of school children experiencing mental health disorders, and 1 in 59 children being diagnosed with the autism, Glenwood’s work is important to many families. The fact that Ken is stepping in, with the learning curve behind him and a strong leadership team in place, positions Glenwood well to continue helping many families.”

Oliver holds a master’s in public administration from the University of Tennessee and a graduate degree in health care administration from UAB.

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Twelve Tips for Helping Individuals with Autism Have a Happy Holiday Season

While many happily anticipate the coming holiday season, families of people on the autism spectrum also understand the special challenges that may occur when schedules are disrupted and routines broken. Our hope is that by following these few helpful tips, families may lessen the stress of the holiday season and make it a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved. The following tips were developed with input from the Autism Society, the Indiana Resource Center for Autism, Easter Seals Crossroads, the Sonya Ansari Center for Autism at Logan and the Indiana Autism Leadership Network. The original article from the Autism Society can be found here.

  1. Preparation is crucial for many individuals. At the same time, it is important to determine how much preparation a specific person may need. For example, if your son or daughter has a tendency to become anxious when anticipating an event that is to occur in the future, you may want to adjust how many days in advance you prepare him or her. Preparation can occur in various ways by using a calendar and marking the dates of various holiday events, or by creating a social story that highlights what will happen at a given event.
  2. Decorations around the house may be disruptive for some. It may be helpful to revisit pictures from previous holidays that show decorations in the house. If such a photo book does not exist, use this holiday season to create one. For some it may also be helpful to take them shopping with you for holiday decorations so that they are engaged in the process. Or involve them in the process of decorating the house. And once holiday decorations have been put up, you may need to create rules about those that can and cannot be touched. Be direct, specific and consistent.
  3. If a person with autism has difficulty with change, you may want to gradually decorate the house. For example, on the first day, put up the Christmas tree, then on the next day, decorate the tree and so on. And again, engage them as much as possible in this process. It may be helpful to develop a visual schedule or calendar that shows what will be done on each day.
  4. If a person with autism begins to obsess about a particular gift or item they want, it may be helpful to be specific and direct about the number of times they can mention the gift. One suggestion is to give them five chips. They are allowed to exchange one chip for five minutes of talking about the desired gift. Also, if you have no intention of purchasing a specific item, it serves no purpose to tell them that maybe they will get the gift. This will only lead to problems in the future. Always choose to be direct and specific about your intentions.
  5. Teach them how to leave a situation and/or how to access support when an event becomes overwhelming. For example, if you are having visitors, have a space set aside for the child as his/her safe/calm space. The individual should be taught ahead of time that they should go to their space when feeling overwhelmed. This self-management tool will serve the individual into adulthood. For those who are not at that level of self-management, develop a signal or cue for them to show when they are getting anxious, and prompt them to use the space. For individuals with more significant challenges, practice using this space in a calm manner at various times prior to your guests’ arrival. Take them into the room and engage them in calming activities (e.g., play soft music, rub his/her back, turn down the lights, etc.). Then when you notice the individual becoming anxious, calmly remove him/her from the anxiety-provoking setting immediately and take him/her into the calming environment.
  6. If you are traveling for the holidays, make sure you have their favorite foods, books or toys available. Having familiar items readily available can help to calm stressful situations. Also, prepare them via social stories or other communication systems for any unexpected delays in travel. If you are flying for the first time, it may be helpful to bring the individual to the airport in advance and help him/her to become accustomed to airports and planes. Use social stories and pictures to rehearse what will happen when boarding and flying.
  7. Be prepared and stand firm when advice is offered. Accept well-meaning but unwanted advice with the phrase, “I’ll have to think about that,” and smile.
  8. Prepare a photo album in advance of the relatives and other guests who will be visiting during the holidays. Allow the person with autism access to these photos at all times and also go through the photo album with him/her while talking briefly about each family member.
  9. Practice opening gifts, taking turns and waiting for others, and giving gifts. Role play scenarios with your child in preparation for him/her getting a gift they do not want. Talk through this process to avoid embarrassing moments with family members. You might also choose to practice certain religious rituals. Work with a speech language pathologist to construct pages of vocabulary or topic boards that relate to the holidays and family traditions.
  10. Prepare family members for strategies to use to minimize anxiety or behavioral incidents, and to enhance participation. Help them to understand if the person with autism prefers to be hugged or not, needs calm discussions or provide other suggestions that will facilitate a smoother holiday season. If the individual becomes upset, it might also be helpful to coach others to remain calm and neutral in an effort to minimize behavioral outbursts.
  11. If the person with autism is on special diet, make sure there is food available that he/she can eat. And even if they are not on a special diet, be cautious of the amount of sugar consumed. And try to maintain a sleep and meal routine.
  12. Above all, know your loved one with autism. Know how much noise and other sensory input they can tolerate. Know their level of anxiety and the amount of preparation it may take. If you detect that a situation may be becoming overwhelming, help them find a quiet area in which to regroup. And there may be some situations that you simply avoid (e.g., crowded shopping malls the day after Thanksgiving). Know their fears and those things that will make the season more enjoyable for them.

Don’t stress. Plan in advance. And most of all have a wonderful holiday season!

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Save the Date for the 2020 Ireland Legacy Golf Tournament

Mark your calendar for Glenwood’s 28th Annual Ireland Legacy Tournament on Monday, May 4. Thanks to the help of our sponsors, this long running golf tournament raises more than $100,000 each year for Glenwood’s programs for adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is named in honor of the Ireland family and in memory of Kitty, Kathy, Faye & Bill Sr., and Mallie & Glenn Ireland. The Ireland family was instrumental in founding Glenwood 40 years ago to serve individuals with ASD and behavioral health needs in Alabama. The tournament will be held at Old Overton Club with the shotgun start at 11:30 a.m.

Special thanks to our returning Title Sponsor, King Acura, who has supported Glenwood for over 10 years! The golf tournament is a sell out event. If you are interested in reserving a team, contact Meredith Colquitt, 205-795-3268,

Download and fill out the team registration form and email it to

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Connections Newsletter Fall 2019

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How do I help my family understand my child’s autism diagnosis?

Article written  by Sara at KGH Autism Services

Chances are your family members have heard of autism, but it can still be confusing for them to understand what that might mean for your child. Time of onset, severity, and characteristics can vary for every child on the spectrum. When helping your family to understand autism, it can be helpful to explain it to them in terms of your child’s specific behaviors. Below are some topics that may be important to explain to your family to help them to understand why your child may act the way that they do.

1. Social interaction and communication

Overall, it’s important for your family to know that your child may act differently than others in social situations and for them to know ways to appropriately interact with your child. For many people with autism, it can be hard to make eye contact with someone, but it doesn’t mean that they aren’t listening. Eye contact can be uncomfortable for some and it can also make it harder to focus when they’re trying to listen, read facial expressions, and understand body language. Some people with autism have said that their comprehension increases when they are allowed to not make eye contact and can instead look in a different direction or close their eyes (Faherty, 2014). People with autism can find it difficult to understand humor, sarcasm, and figures of speech and instead may take things very literally. It can be beneficial to speak in terms that are specific and concrete. People with autism may also struggle to comprehend what people are saying. You can encourage your family to try to communicate with your child in a way that they understand. This could include using less words, talking slower, talking in a quiet place, writing things down, giving them enough time to think and respond, and not insisting on eye contact. 

2. Feeling emotions and behaviors

People with autism feel emotions, but they might not show their emotions in the same way as others do. Many people who are neuro-typical automatically show their emotions through facial expressions, but the faces of people with autism do not show how they really feel on the inside. They may also not have the words to communicate their emotions or know which words match how they are feeling. As a parent, you might know signs that show how your child is feeling and it can be important to share this with your family. Maybe they rock back and forth when they’re anxious, or they clap their hands when they’re happy.

Sometimes people with autism may show their emotions by engaging in self-injurious behavior (SIB) or in aggressive behavior towards others. It’s important to warn your family that these behaviors might happen and to communicate what you might need from them if the behavior does happen, whether it will be helping with managing the behavior or if it’s best for everyone to leave the room. By giving your family this information, it can help ensure the safety of not only your child but also your family. It can also be beneficial to try to explain to your family why the behavior may have happened and that your child didn’t mean to hurt anyone but instead may have felt anxious, scared, or overwhelmed.

3. Stereotypy

Though the stereotypical behaviors might look different, it can be beneficial to explain to your family the reasons why your child may engage in these behaviors. Many people who have autism engage in stereotypy in one way or another. Repetitive behavior can meet a need that people with autism have, and can often be a type of emotional regulation for anxiety, happiness, excitement, or other emotions. On top of this, research has shown that allowing people to engage in self-stimulatory activities on a regular basis can decrease the total amount of self-stimulatory behavior (Faherty, 2014). Catherine Faherty recommends that families could take a “stim break” and that everyone could engage in similar behavior with the child (2014). Many neurotypical adults engage in self-stimulatory behaviors as well! Examples include playing with hair, tapping fingers, and using fidgets.

4. Routines and schedule changes

Some people with autism are routine oriented and can find schedule changes challenging, which can make visits and holidays with family difficult. You can let your family know that your child may have a hard time because they aren’t used to routine changes and encourage them to be patient with your child. Let them know if there is anything they can do to make the process easier. For example, your family members could follow the routine and schedule that you use with your child during the day. To try to decrease any behavioral problems you could foreshadow family visits with your child. This could be done with social stories and by putting family visits on the calendar/schedule. It might help to even put pictures of the family members that are coming on the calendar so that your child knows who to expect. By taking preventive measures it could help make the visit smoother for your child and your family.


Overall, it’s important to let your family know what you expect and need from them. It’s also important to let them know what they should expect from your child. Autism can be different, but people with autism also have some pretty special abilities. Let your family know all the cool things your child is capable of doing! You can encourage them to do their own research on autism and recommend books (House Rules by Jodi Picoult, Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin, etc.), television shows (Atypical, The Good Doctor, Sesame Street, etc.), or movies (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close) that portray people on the spectrum. Allowing and encouraging your family to understand your child’s needs can help to build a strong support system that can help not only your child but also you, live a healthy and happy life!


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Join Us for the Christmas Program

The Glenwood annual Christmas Program is coming up, and you’re invited. This is a beloved event for the staff and individuals served by Glenwood. Each year, this creative performance can’t be beat for putting us in the holiday spirit. Join us Friday, December 13th at Grace, a United Methodist Congregation (formerly Liberty Crossings United Methodist). The program will begin at 11:00 am with a boxed lunch to follow. 

Let us know if you plan to attend, and if you are interested in a lunch. A $10 donation is requested to cover the cost of lunch.

Click here to RSVP

Questions? Contact Meredith Colquitt at, 205-795-3268.

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