Our Staff


Joy Alexander, Interim Executive Director

Joy Alexander comes from both the profit and non-profit world with experience in multiple industries and was previously the Vice President of the Autism Society of Texas Board of Directors. She holds an MBA with a concentration in Executive Leadership and is an autism mom.  Joy can be reached at Joy@texasautismsociety.org.

Jacquie Benestante, Director of Advocacy & Outreach

Jacquie Benestante works on communications, outreach, and advocacy. She serves on the Autism Society of America’s Public Policy Advocacy Committee and is on the steering committee for Texans For Special Education Reform. She is also in the 2018-19 class of Texas Partners in Policymaking. She has a Bachelor of Science with a concentration in Business Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Jacquie has two family members with autism and is honored to advocate for the needs of autistic children and adults. She can be reached at Jacquie@texasautismsociety.org.

Ivette K. Hawthorne, Development Coordinator

Ivette Hawthorne has over ten years of experience in non-profit management and special events, fundraising, marketing and public relations.  Ivette was previously Director of Development at The Girls’ School of Austin and prior to moving to Austin, served as Development Manager at Liberty Hall Museum at Kean University and Development and Special Events Associate with Kent Place School in Summit, NJ.   She has experience in running annual fund and capital campaigns, matching gift programs, grant writing, individual and corporate philanthropy, event planning and volunteer management.  Ivette holds a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Design and Marketing, a Certificate in Diversity & Inclusion through The American Conference on Diversity at Fairleigh Dickinson University and serves on the gallery committee for ArtSpace. Ivette can be reached at Ivette@texasautismsociety.org.

Vanessa Staley, Program Coordinator

Vanessa Staley is a bilingual Program Coordinator who graduated from St. Edwards University with a degree in Sociology. She originally started working with individuals with autism in college and has a son with autism. She has experience working with youth with mental health issues, providing families and individuals with resources, facilitating support groups, and working with the Autism Society of Texas as a volunteer and former intern. Besides working with individuals with autism, Vanessa enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, and reading. Vanessa can be reached at Vanessa@texasautismsociety.org.

Deya Velasco, Program Coordinator

Deya Velasco is a bilingual Program Coordinator at the Autism Society of Texas. Deya believes in having access to relevant information and supports to improve the outcomes and quality of life of individuals with disabilities and their support networks. Deya has over 25 years of experience working with children with disabilities and their families, Spanish speaking families, and immigrants. Deya has worked for the Arc of the Capital Area, AISD, CASA of Travis County and as a consultant. Deya authored an article about parent-to-parent support model for families of children with disabilities in Mexico. Deya was also part of a collaboration for the “Promoting Justice-An Essential Resource Guide for Responding to Abuse Against Children with Disabilities” publication by Safe Place Austin. Deya holds a BSc. Engineering degree, a Master’s degree in Human Services and a Certification in Advance Mediation. She is a parent of two adults with autism, and in her free time likes sewing, knitting, traveling and watching movies with family. Deya can be reached at Deya@texasautismsociety.org.

Beau Fannon, Bookkeeper