Here’s what people are saying about Barb Tresness and The CHAT Collective:

“Barb’s vision of providing a voice for people using augmentative and alternative communication also provides a voice for families and the entire community. Barb’s leadership and education are enriching lives and creating a truly inclusive community in which all voices are heard. Her innovative approach is life changing.”

Prudence York
Executive Director, AccessCNY

“Barb Tresness is a tireless advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, and she’s a champion for ensuring equality in communication. With full and equal communication comes participation and respect and, ultimately, this is the key to expanding the opportunities America affords all its citizens with disabilities.

Barb has been at the front lines of a civil rights battle, along with others, seeking to ensure the full and equal participation of their children in today’s world. She has created and supported innovative programs to help nonverbal communicators like her son, Graham. She’s given her time, talent and resources to support programs at the Burton Blatt Institute and elsewhere, and she has been a driving force behind the exploration of new approaches to communication equality. Barb has shown unfailing optimism and determination to support to individuals with disabilities and their families.”

Peter Blanck, Ph.D., J.D.
Chairman, Burton Blatt Institute &
University Professor
Syracuse University

“Barb and her family have done so much to raise awareness in our community about alternative and augmentative communication.  Barb advocates for a greater understanding and appreciation of what it means to communicate. Beyond that, she has developed practical ways to share that know-how with others.  Barb is the consummate advocate: empathetic, effective and empowering.”

Nienke P. Dosa MD, MPH
Upstate Foundation Professor of Child Health Policy
Senior Fellow, Burton Blatt Institute

Center for Development Behavior and Genetics
Department of Pediatrics
SUNY Upstate Medical University

“Barb is a visionary. Where other see struggle, she sees hope. Barb recognizes potential in everyone and through creativity and determination, she inspires others to help create a more compassionate community.”

 Matt Seubert

Associate Executive Director for Development, AccessCNY


“I met Barb Tresness at the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University, where she and her husband Greg founded Communication Hope through Assistive Technology, a social group for children who were non-verbal. At the time, I wasn’t aware that I was meeting a great friend. I’ve worked with Barb on many projects, and she has the amazing talent of juggling many tasks at once and getting them all done. With her creative imagination, Barb can create solutions to solve many difficulties and the know-how to make those solutions into reality. She is one of the leading people advocating for individuals with disabilities and education the public communicating with people who are non-verbal.”

Kate Battoe
Research Assistant at the Burton Blatt Institute
And an admired friend whose energy
and courage in facing the challenges
of living with cerebral palsy herself
is an inspiration for all.

“I have had the honor to work side-by-side with Barb during our time as therapists in the Upledger dolphin assisted intensive program, as well as in other intensive CST programs. Barb is a therapist who adds the communication piece to the sessions. When working with a nonverbal client, Barb always knows how to find the form of communication that works for that individual. Verbally or not verbally, it does not matter. Barb is connected and understands the importance of voice and being heard, whatever way that happens to be. Barb and I did some of our training together. Not only is she a good student, she is more than capable of taking that information and applying it creatively. As a therapist, she is totally present and willing to go the extra mile for the sake of her clients. As a human being, I find her passionate, compassionate, intellectual, loving and well informed. If Barb takes on a project, you can count on it being done right and in a timely manner.”

Glenda Greenberg
LMT craniosacral therapist
Dolphin Assisted program, Upledger Intensive programt

“Barb Tresness is a passionate believer in the importance of every voice being heard and a tireless advocate for those whose circumstances have conspired to silence them. Over the years, as a volunteer and contributor to Vera House, Barb has provided assistance to families in crisis, supporting our mission of helping those affected by domestic and sexual violence to live safe, self-sufficient lives. Barb knows firsthand what it feels like to experience trauma and crisis and has chosen not only to meet those challenges head on, but to help others in need survive and find hope again. I am pleased to support Barb in her new venture with the Chat Collective as she is committed to identifying the needs of those who may not be able to advocate on their own. It is difficult to advocate for yourself or for your loved ones, but Barb also continues that advocacy for her community and beyond.”

Randi K. Bregman, LMSW
Executive Director
Vera House, Inc.

“I first met Barb more than six years ago when I reached out to parents in my community for help with advocacy for my special needs child. Barb was the first parent to respond. Since that time, I have worked directly with Barb on effecting positive change for all persons with disabilities. Barb is the Champion among Champions in advocacy. She fears no challenge and faces all with professionalism, enthusiasm and complete dedication. Barb’s talents extend far beyond what most consider advocacy to be. She has a “can do” spirit and is able to “get things done.” It is my pleasure and privilege to call her mentor, colleague, and friend.”

Kim M. Swanson
Parent, Human Service Professional, Advocate

“I have known Barb for over 15 years and have worked with her in the Junior League of Syracuse and Manlius Library Board of Trustees. Working with Barb on a project is always rewarding as she brings a passion and energy to any cause she represents. She sets high goals and standards for herself and her work and for those on her team. My 14-year-old daughter Amelia worked with Barb this past spring on a CHAT initiative that brought kids with communication challenges together for an afterschool program. It was an incredibly rewarding experience for Amelia as she saw firsthand how difficult simple day-to-day actions were for the kids and yet, how even she could make a difference in their lives. Barb has an ability to inspire adults and children alike. Barb is a leader for whom you want to support and work. I have a hard time saying “no” to Barb because if Barb is on the team, a successful outcome and rewarding experience is guaranteed.”

Anne Krouse, past president
Junior League of Syracuse

“My first memory of Barb Tresness is, not surprisingly, of her sitting beside Graham in a hotel meeting room on Grand Bahama Island. Barb had brought Graham to a circle of hands-on (craniosacral) therapists for assistance to strengthen and direct his motor movement. I remember vividly how she spoke up for him with love, concern and tears in her eyes: “Just because Graham cannot speak directly to you with words does not mean that he has any less pride in himself as a person and a young man. Please respect him as you work with him.” And she was the living embodiment of that respect—she was not just his mother, she was always his defender, his coach and his partner. Given her passion and devotion and Graham’s open-hearted participation in the work, it was inevitable that all of us there would fall in love with both Barb and Graham.

Through the following years, I was privileged to be with them during their participation in several therapeutic programs. Barb not only remained Graham’s champion, she decided to study hands-on therapy herself so that she could participate fully in the treatments that seemed to be helping Graham bridge the gap of communication with others and strengthen and refine his motor skills. From the beginning, Barb had the complete dedication to making sure that others knew that Graham not only deserved the best of care and treatment but that he could learn and grow and be accepted in society not just as a patient (or even victim) but as a full person with both rights and opportunities. I am delighted to learn that Barb has committed herself to the work of enhancing communication for those with limited verbal skills. Through her dedication to finding and implementing measures to ensure that her son Graham had the opportunity to “speak” for himself, she has developed a wider vision to help others who struggle with similar limitations in communication skills. I believe she will be able to help many through the CHAT Collective.”

by William M. Cunningham
(retired craniosacral therapist)

I met Barb many years ago, when her son, Graham, was client in an Upledger Foundation Dolphin Assisted Therapy Program. She was a caring and dedicated mother who wanted her child to have every opportunity to grow and blossom. Had Graham been born to other parents, he could easily have become like so many other “handicapped” children, hidden away and given only what he needed to survive. Over the years, we saw Graham many times. Though many outsiders could not see it, Graham was very present. He communicated, but many of the professionals in his life didn’t know how to communicate with him. Barb knew. And she managed to find the people who could help Graham who were able and willing to communicate on his level and see the amazing child inside. Barb continued to bring him to the Dolphin Assisted Therapy Programs for CranioSacral Therapy. His mother saw and heard how the dolphins verbalized back to him!

The years went by, and Barb was a full time advocate for Graham and for others like him who were challenged by verbal communication. She never gave up. She continued her education and became a massage therapist and CranioSacral therapist, herself. She even became a therapist in the Dolphin Assisted Therapy Programs. She has worked with us as a therapist in the Integrative Intentions therapy programs. Eventually, she found a way for Graham to communicate with everyone! She wants every person to be viewed fairly. She wants every person to have the opportunity to be heard. She wants everyone to have the information they need to facilitate their part of the conversation. She’s a tenacious lady! She won’t give up. She’s dedicating her work in the world to those who have communication challenges and those who may learn to communicate with them. Barb Tresness is a shining star in this world and I’m privileged to know both Graham and her.

Kat Perry, CST-D
Integrative Intentions, LLC

To Barbara,

I admire and support you as a mother — I love and respect you as a human – and I am here for you in every way.

Inscribed in a copy of “Lessons Out of School” by Dr. John Upledger
Founder, The Upledger Institute

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