About Us

Monterey Peninsula Autism Assistance

MPAA was founded in 2011 to fulfill a community need. Due to cuts in funding, our educational and healthcare systems began providing fewer services for special needs children. Many parents battled to get services covered, reach deductibles, and generally not go crazy! The out-of-pocket expenses that families incur to assist their children can create extreme financial hardships. Some families cannot afford these services at all.

At MPAA, we want to ensure families that they are not alone. We understand that many are having financial difficulties and cannot find the resources they require to start, continue therapy, or get a needed resource. That is why we do everything in our power to get the help that’s needed right now, and we do so with a sense of urgency.

Meet Our Team

Mary Peitso

Mary Peitso, Executive Director

Email: mp@mpautism.org

Mary graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in English and a minor in political science. She has been involved with providing services and therapies for children with learning disabilities and special needs in varying degrees. These include being a board member, teaching classes that educate parents on their rights, and volunteering with other nonprofit organizations.

Mary attended the Institute of Special Education Advocacy at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. Recently, she returned there for an advanced advocacy and certification course. She has advocated on behalf of students with disabilities for several years and continues to do so.

Mary enjoys spending time at the beach. She also loves hiking with her husband, two kids, and her camera.

Lori Arnaldo, President

Email: la@mpautism.org

Lori began working with school-age children for the City of Monterey in 1995. She has been providing community services in this city for more than 20 years.

Lori has a B.A. in Child Development with a Minor in Psychology. After graduation, Lori worked as a master teacher/director for a child development center and opened her own preschool/day care in 2002.

In 2004, Lori began working in the mental health field as a day treatment counselor. She went on to co-develop the RISE program (Reaching Independence through Sustainable Employment), an employment program for adolescents. It was also during this time that Lori worked as a transitional housing program specialist, teaching life skills to adolescents exiting out of foster care.

In 2006, Lori went back to teaching at a child development center. She worked as an applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapist and became the director/administrator of the Trumpet Academy Preschool in 2013. Today, Lori works in special education for a local school district.




Jennifer Rhoads, Treasurer

Email: jr@mpautism.org 

Jen graduated with a degree in psychology and concentration in early childhood development from Westfield State College in Massachusetts in 2002. She has worked with hundreds of children with varying abilities, having served as a toddler teacher, nanny, and behavioral therapist.

Now, Jen works full time in development for a local area nonprofit that provides after-school programming to the youth of Monterey County. She lives in Pacific Grove with her daughter who believes she is part fish.