Our Team, Our Heart

Our Founders

Meghan Perazella, M.Ed. BCBA LBA (CT) Co-Founder & CEO
Meghan Perazella, M.Ed. BCBA LBA (CT)
Co-Founder & CEO

Meghan brings passion and over fourteen years of experience to The Hangout Spot. She has provided special education and behavior analytic services in both home and public school settings throughout Fairfield County. Meghan has co-authored publications in Autism Parenting Magazine and Behavioral Science in the 21st Century blog, and serves as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Saint Joseph.  She is a five-time prize recipient of awards honoring excellence and leadership in working with children with disabilities. Meghan earned her Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction for Students with Severe Special Needs and Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Human Development from Boston College. She later completed her Post-Master BCBA Certificate at Endicott College.

Justyna Balzar, M.Ed. BCBA LBA (CT) Co-Founder & CEO
Justyna Balzar, M.Ed. BCBA LBA (CT)
Co-Founder & CEO

Justyna Balzar has over 15 years experience with learners of varying profiles between the ages of 3 to 18 across multiple settings. She received her Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) certification in 2014 from Florida Institute of Technology, her Master in Curriculum and Education in Applied Behavior Analysis from Arizona State University, followed by her BCBA certification in 2016. She has authored and co-authored publications in Behavior Science of the 21st Century blog and Autism Parenting Magazine.  Driven by a passion for educating others about the wide-reaching applications of ABA, Justyna founded @Behaviorchik, an online persona intended to disseminate behavior analytic resources, and the @Theabaadvocacyproject, an initiative spearheaded by The Hangout Spot founders and a fellow BCBA that unifies the advocacy practices of parents and professionals using ABA.

Our Team

Jessica Mateo - BCBA LBA (CT )
Jessica Mateo, M.Ed. BCBA LBA (CT)
Board Certified Behavior Analyst

Jessica is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst who is passionate about cultural awareness and diversity. Her experience working with children began in Spain, where she worked for 2.5 years as an English Language Teacher at schools in Barcelona and Madrid. Jessica earned her Master of Bilingual and Multicultural Education from the University of Alcalá in Madrid, Spain and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from High Point University. She later completed her Graduate Certificate Program in ABA at Arizona State University. Jessica is passionate about supporting independence, happiness, and continual growth in children and adolescents by facilitating engaging, positive social experiences. Jessica is also determined to use her bilingual abilities to provide wide-reaching access to the highest quality care for the children and families she is lucky to serve.

Jennifer Herford - Registered Behavior Technician
Jennifer Herford
Registered Behavior Technician

Jennifer has vast experience providing educational and behavioral support services to preschool and elementary age students in the public school setting since 2016. She has developed unique expertise supporting individuals with complex learning needs across a variety of settings, including general education, co-taught, and self-contained classrooms. Having achieved her Registered Behavior Technician credential in 2019, Jennifer has developed a passion for using the science of Applied Behavior Analysis to foster socially significant change in her clients’ lives. As such, she is currently pursuing her Board Certified Assistant Behavior credential at the University of West Florida and is eager to use her knowledge to empower children to achieve life changing outcomes in regard to their ability to develop successful relationships with others.

Audrey Vogel, Registered Behavior Technician
Audrey Vogel
Registered Behavior Technician

Audrey has worked with individuals with autism ages 3-26 since she was a teenager. In 2018, she transformed her passion into a career, graduating from the University of Hartford with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary and Special Education. Upon graduation, she served as a special education teacher in Harlem and the South Bronx, gaining invaluable experience working with elementary and middle school students. Audrey is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis and Special Education with a concentration in Severe Disabilities at Endicott College. She is eager to join the field as a BCBA upon obtaining her degree. Audrey’s ability to develop strong relationships with her clients, passion, creativity are just a few of the attributes that make her an asset to The Hangout Spot community.

Mary Beth Peterson, Business Administrator
Mary Beth Peterson
Business Administrator

Mary Beth brings 25+ years’ experience in social work practice, franchise ownership and client services to The Hangout Spot. Her passion for helping others led her to pursue her BSW from Elizabethtown College and her MSW from the University of Maryland. Mary Beth served as a social worker in school and hospital settings before moving overseas with her young family. Upon return, she opened several My Gym Children’s Fitness Center franchises in Maryland. During her ten years as Owner-Operator, she focused on hiring, training exceptional staff, and customer service. She later pivoted to client services in a co-working space, where she excelled at fostering community and increasing sales revenue. Mary Beth is eager to utilize her unique skillset and background in both human services and business operations to help The Hangout Spot family grow and thrive.

Mary Beth Peterson, Registered Behavior Technician
Carissa Campos
Registered Behavior Technician

Carissa has many years of experience working with and improving the lives of preschool and elementary school-aged children. Her passion for helping children arises from her collaboration with a preschool Special Needs Coordinator whom she assisted in addressing a wide range of learning and social issues. Carissa was first introduced to the field of Applied Behavior Analysis in her role as an undergraduate intern. Carissa then received her BS in Psychology from The University of Bridgeport. After graduation, she continued to provide behavior analysis services, supporting children between the ages of three to six in the home, clinic, and community settings. She is currently pursuing her MS in Mental Health Counseling, specializing in Adolescents. Carissa is eager to utilize her experiences and education to promote happy, healthy, and positive social relationships.

Andrew Portnoy, Marketing Manager
Andrew Portnoy
Marketing Manager

Andrew is responsible for marketing programs, brand building and management and constituency engagement at The Hangout Spot. He has over 30 years of experience leading marketing and strategy teams for a suite of iconic global brands such as McGraw-Hill Education, Standard & Poor’s, JD Power & Associates and BusinessWeek. Passionate about representing the voice of the customer and using data to drive decision making. Andrew has consistently accelerated growth and grown market share for the brands he has stewarded. He has also served as Corporate representative for organizations including The Council of Foreign Relations, The U.S. Council for International Business, The Corporate Executive Board and the Marketing Leadership Council. Andrew received his BA with honors from Washington University in St. Louis with dual majors in English Literature and British History.

Benjamin Philpott, Behavior Technician
Benjamin Philpott
Behavior Technician

Benjamin has extensive experience in special education, having worked for more than five years supporting learners, instructors, and faculty in a therapeutic environment. His day-to-day responsibilities included interacting with children of all ages and abilities, supporting instructional and behavioral programs, and participating in progress monitoring. Ben’s passion for helping children grow and succeed led to his receiving a BA in General Studies with a concentration in Behavioral Science from SCSU. Ben is fully committed to helping others find their individual path to success and can form and nurture new relationships with ease!

Advisory Board