Our Self-Advocate Council

In October 2021, the ASCV formed our first Self-Advocate Advisory Council. This group of self-advocates advises and supports the ASCV team in the development, implementation, and evaluation of our programs, services, and supports, to ensure we are appropriately including, incorporating, and amplifying autistic voices in the work we do.  Our Council Members represent a broad range of ages, cultures, and autistic experiences. This year, the Council aims to contribute to current organizational priorities, identify other potential focus areas, and build its membership. If you would like to find out how to get involved, please reach out to [email protected].

Rachel Pretlow (she/we)

Rachel has been a member of ASCV since 2020. She has experience in habitat restoration, farming, education, and positive youth development. We are passionate about cultural preservation and indigenous healing modalities. Rachel holds a Master of Health Science degree from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She enjoys exploring, swinging, dancing, and making traditional crafts. 

Shawn Kirk (he/him)

Shawn is a person with Autism and a native of Richmond, Virginia. He joined the ASCV back in 2007 and has been involved ever since. Shawn has many interests and hobbies, including: tinkering with computers and helping people with their computer problems; DJing in-person and virtual events; all kinds of music (his favorite is ’70s Disco); going to the Outer Banks; and camping in the mountains. Shawn has served on several nonprofit boards, including the ASCV Board of Directors, in many different capacities. He has also taken various classes on becoming a more effective leader and advocate for people with disabilities. One thing Shawn would like for everyone to know is “People with Disabilities Have Many Different Talents and Abilities. Give Us A Chance and We Will Show You All That We Can Do!”




Justin Ratliffe (he/him)

Justin Ratliffe joined the ASCV in 2016. He is a graduate of the Partners in Policy Making Program and a former VA-LEND trainee.

Katherine Wallace (she/her)

Katie is from the rural county of Halifax where she was the first Autistic girl in the country to be crowned Homecoming Queen in 2004. In 2007, she graduated from the Partners in Policymaking Program and was also honored with the “Yes I Can” Award by the Council for Exceptional Children for her self-advocacy at the state and international levels. Katie is a Special Olympics Athlete and serves as an Altar Server at her church. 

Bill Lemmond (he/him)

It took Bill 40 years finally to rise to lower middle class, largely because of very late diagnosis of: clinical depression, non-hyper, daydreaming type attention deficit, and autism (at age 51). With depression finally in remission, Bill was able to try college again, and win academic and creative (for newspaper cartooning) awards, completing a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics in 10 years. Graduating into the typical experience for people with disabilities, the only job Bill has been able to keep is part-time janitor, cleaning for first responders.

Gabriella Delgado Castro (she/her)

Diagnosed at 18 years old, Gabriella has seen how Autism runs in a family. She joined the ASCV in May 2021. Gabriella has seen how community support is important to empower people to become stronger as a person. Gabriella has an older sister with Autism and has experiences of what it’s like to be autistic in the Hispanic Community. She is interested in making change in the community and wants inclusion and equality for all regardless of different walks of lives.

Twitch Justice (they/them)

Twitch is a multiply disabled, non-binary autistic adult who has a passion for advocacy, activism, social justice, volunteering (service), and photography. Through the years, they and their photography have been published in multiple magazines, featured on MSNBC, mentioned in newspapers, as well as displayed in a gallery. They enjoy using their photography skills to highlight social issues and non-profit organizations as well as documenting the world we find ourselves in. 

Ian Young (he/him)

Ian has been a member of ASCV since the Fall of 2020. When not participating in the Adult Social Group, he also serves as the ASCV Program Assistant, assisting with administrative tasks for the preparation, implementation, and evaluation of programs, with a particular focus on Membership and Information & Referral (you might have even gotten an email from him). Ian enjoys bike riding, yoga, and meditation. He is very honored to be a part of the ASCV Self-Advocate Council!

Jackson Haynes (he/him)

Jackson attend Reynolds Community College and participates in the Courage to Succeed Program at UMFS. He has a wide array of talents and interests, including: singing-songwriting, acting, directing, poetry, creative writing and comedy. Jackson wants to offer self-advocates like himself a way to freely express themselves. That way, we cab all be seen as equal members of society. He hopes his tenure with the ASCV will allow him to take step towards changing how the media portrays Autistic people.

Kyle Cope

Kyle has been involved in meetings of Autistic youth since adolescence, and now has joined the ASCV in order to find young adults who have interest in providing a unified message of encouragement to other individuals on the spectrum. He is working towards a full time job in writing and publishing, some of which is geared towards those with autism as well as the professionals who work in this field and may benefit from the opinions of those who’ve experienced different approaches to treatment. In addition to his work in writing as an autistic voice, Kyle also is preparing academic theses on a rage of topics from artistic critique to linguistics, and also is aspiring for work in the creative arts such as sketching and screenwriting; he also regularly looks online for obscure authors to read, whether it is find undiscovered talent or just to reveal underappreciated old manuscripts. In his own time, Kyle enjoys walking through Virginia’s natural scenery, reading and watching any classics he can find and talking with his loved ones.

April 2023

April Thompson (she/her)

April was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism in 2015 at 27 years old. Her interests include listening to music, watching documentaries, going for walks, word searches, and traveling, especially to the beach. She is active in her church, Speaking Spirit Ministries, the ASCV and Jacob’s Chance. April is currently enrolled in J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, where she is taking classes to become a doctor. 

Rachel 2023

Rachel Matthews (she/her)

Rachel grew up in Tappahannock, Virginia. She moved to Richmond in 2007 when she began her undergraduate studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. She has lived in the Richmond area ever since. She holds a Master’s degree in Special Education from George Mason University. In her free time, Rachel enjoys reading, hiking, kayaking, and indoor rock climbing.