Cris Lovendahl, M.A., CCC-SLP/L
Speech Kids Director
Crisler Lovendahl is a speech language pathologist and child development specialist. She received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Wellesley College and the M.A. degree in Speech Language Pathology from Northwestern University.
Cris began her career in Waukegan Public Schools in 1983 and remained there 12 years. Highlights of these years include the development of the district's in-house Birth to Three Program, and the creation of a model Headstart Preschool Language Classroom. Methodologies and Tools included: The Battelle Developmental Inventory (7 domains), High Scope, and B right Start. These models are currently incorporated into Clinical Connections Programming.
Cris also worked at the Pediatric Alternatives in Creative Therapy (a clinic of Condell Hospital) where the benefits of working side by side with physical and occupational therapists proved invaluable. Highlights of these years include the acquisition of oral-motor and feeding strategies as well as postural and respiratory training from a supervisor certified in Neurodevelopmental Treatment (NDT).
She began her private practice in 1995, with a focus on children with Sensory Integration Dysfunction and related disorders. She has had personal family experience with children who had difficulties with regulation, eating, sleeping, toilet training, tactile defensiveness, movement, proprioception, and relative thinking. Currently, her practice also includes many children with PDD/Autistic Spectrum Disorders. She is also the mother of two boys.
Kari Becker, M.Ed., LBS I Certified
Kari Becker is a special education teacher, educational consultant and academic supervisor. Kari received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Theatre Arts from Illinois Wesleyan University and her Master of Arts, in Special Education at University of Illinois at Chicago. She began her work with Clinical Connections in 2000 as a Play Partner providing social-emotional support in the home environment. Since then, Kari has assisted in the development of the Classroom Connection model, founding the Classroom Connection Day school and providing teacher support and mentoring. She also works closely with families and school staff to create effective and successful educational programs for children with special needs. In addition, Kari provides trainings for teachers and parents on such topics as: visual organization and scheduling, curriculum development for special needs children, independence in the learning environment, adaptations and modifications in the classroom and IEP development. Kari is proud to work at Clinical Connections with a staff that is truly devoted to the children and families they serve. Kari is the mother of two wonderful and active boys.
Stacey Watson, M.S., CCC-SLP
Stacey Watson is a Speech-Language Pathologist for Classroom Connections Day School and serves as Clinical Director for The Clinical Connections. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Disorder Sciences from Central Michigan University and her M.S. degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Grand Valley State University. Stacey began her career in Illinois’ Early Intervention program and continues to maintain her Early Intervention credentials. She is also trained in PROMPT (Prompts for Restructuring Oral Muscular Phonetic Targets). Outside of Clinical Connections, Stacey enjoys being with her husband and doing outdoor recreational activities, including skiing, biking, paddle boarding and camping.
Adam Nikkel, CTRS, MOTR/L
OT Kids Director
Teen Center Director
Adam Nikkel is a licensed Occupational Therapist and has been part of Classroom Connection Day School since December, 2012. He also works at a pediatric outpatient clinic. He graduated from The University of Iowa with bachelor’s degrees in psychology and leisure studies with an emphasis in therapeutic recreation. Adam then graduated from Midwestern University with a Master’s of Science in Occupational Therapy. Adam’s career trainings include MNRI (Musgatova neuro-sensory-motor reflex integration), Therapeutic Listening, Handwriting Without Tears, The Alert Program, and the Assessment of Motor and Process Skills (AMPS). Adam is a credentialed Illinois Early Intervention Provider. His true passion is helping children be as independent as possible. Outside of CCDS, you will find Adam playing golf, spending time with his wife, daughter, and dog, Cooper, and cheering for the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Ivy Gootrad, M.Ed., LBS I Certified
Classroom Connection Director
CCDS Program Director
Ivy Gootrad is the Program Director at Classroom Connection Day School. She has worked at Clinical Connections for a little over 3 years now. She has her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Illinois State University and her master’s degree as a Reading Specialist with her LBS1 certificate from DePaul University. She is back at DePaul now, working on receiving her 2nd master’s degree in Administration. Working with children has always been her passion. She began her professional experience as a one-on-one with children with special needs. She then began teaching preschool and did that for many years before moving into a 2nd grade classroom. She realized that while she absolutely loves working with children, she wanted to do more. That’s when she began her work here at Clinical Connections. Working with children with special needs is truly where she is meant to be and loves every second of it. Ivy enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She also loves the Cubs, traveling, and playing with her niece.
Michelle Jajich, B.A., EC Special Education Certified
Michelle Jajich is our Developmental Director and Developmental Therapist. Her degree is in Early Childhood Studies with an emphasis in Pre-School Special Education, and she has background working in Early Intervention. She has always had a passion for child development. Look for her team's JamKids early childhood programs coming soon! Michelle also loves her dog, Murphy and taking trips up to her family home in Wisconsin.
Gina Ravanesi, B.A., LBS I Certified
Gina Ravanesi is the Curriculum Coordinator and social studies teacher for the Classroom Connections Day School. For Clinical Connections, she is a Special Education Teacher for the Classroom Connection program. Gina received her Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education with the highest honors from Northern Illinois University. She began her career with individuals with special needs during college where she directed a Fox Valley Special Recreation adult summer program for five years. Gina began her work as a special education teacher in 2014 in a public high school teaching science and study skills to freshmen and sophomores with learning, emotional, and behavioral disabilities. In 2015, she moved to a public therapeutic day school where she taught language arts, math, science, social studies, vocational and life skills to sophomores, juniors, and seniors with autism, developmental, behavioral and physical disabilities. Once Gina arrived at Clinical Connections, she finally felt like she had found a place to truly serve students using the abundance of materials available and the incredible support from administration, therapists, and other colleagues. Gina is a huge animal lover and enjoys tennis, painting, playing the ukulele, volleyball, and seeing family and friends.