No one could have predicted that the career path Leigh Rolnicki chose in education and counseling would lay the foundation for something even greater – the creation of LoveU2Pieces, an organization dedicated to providing resources for parents and families living with a child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Her background as an elementary school educator, school counselor and, finally, a counselor in private practice gave her the perfect background to not only see the difficulties families and caregivers manage on a daily basis, but to act on her newfound knowledge to make a difference.
Always a tenacious learner and champion for education, after achieving her B.A. in education in 1990, Leigh was often found on committees to develop and implement new education programs and receiving awards for her dedication to not only the children she served, but to other educators and the community as well.
She also continued her own education, receiving her M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction in 1994, M.Ed. in Counseling in 1999 and her Ph.D. in Counseling in 2004. She also became a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Missouri and graduated from the Leadership Academy for Character Education. Recognized as a leader in her field, Leigh was chosen for a coveted tenure-track position at UM-St. Louis in the College of Education, Division of Counseling and Family Therapy also in 2004.
It was this position she elected to leave in 2005, to fully experience the next chapter of her life, being full-time Mom to her son. She closed her private counseling practice 2006, to devote herself to being a full-time mom to her son and her daughter who was due in early 2007.
After her son’s diagnosis, Leigh again became a student, learning as much as she could about ASD through reading about it, discussing it with doctors and affected parents, and therapists. She began to take note of the mental and physical demands of effectively meeting the needs of a child with ASD, and wondered how parents without so much support from family and friends could manage. While she read about the isolation that so often comes with an autism diagnosis, she knew from her professional experience that connection to others is critical in meeting life’s stresses with resilience.
She realized at that point she had to act, and LoveU2Pieces began. Since 2009, Leigh has been partnering with parents to learn, grow and thrive.