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.
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.
Tracy Grant, J.D.
Tracy joined the Clinical Connections Business Department in 2019. She received bachelor’s degrees in both English and Linguistics from the University of Michigan, and her juris doctorate from George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School. Tracy previously owned Leona Agency, Inc., a literary agency and consulting company for aspiring authors. Her experience managing Leona Agency, as well as her eight years of experience at two area law firms, prepared her for her current role at Clinical Connections. She appreciates the opportunity to collaborate with such an exceptionally dedicated staff. The proud mom of six children, Tracy spends her free time cheering them on in basketball, fencing, swimming, high school band, Girl Scouts and all activities in between.
Kellie Klasen, M.Ed.
Administration and Supervision CCDS Principal
CCDS happily welcomed Kellie back to CCDS in April 2021. She had previously served as
Program Director from 2012-2016. Kellie received her bachelor’s degree in special education
from Eastern Michigan University in 1998. She began her first year of special education
teaching at a therapeutic day school for children with emotional and behavioral disorders. She
then taught for CPS for seven years at Jenner Academy (in Cabrini Green) as a self-contained
special education teacher for students in 4th-7th graders.
She earned her Masters Degree in 2005 from Loyola of Chicago in Administration and Supervision. Over the past sixteen years, she has worked as an Administrator in a variety of roles supporting students with disabilities. In addition to CCDS, she has worked for the Illinois State Board of Education (district offices), and District 25 in Arlington Heights, IL.
Kellie’s teamwork philosophy shines through daily – she is very supportive of the staff and works hard to make their days run smoothly. As a special educator, she is a wonderful resource for all academic and therapeutic questions, as well as the students’ day to day needs.
Kellie’s hobbies include cooking, reading, and attending live music events. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two daughters, two dogs and two cats.