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Stories from the Field: Mental Health and the Outdoors

Nov 30, 2021

Wilderness therapy programs have evolved over the last twenty years to better help those with learning differences that impact mental health. Many young people who enroll in wilderness therapy programs have undiagnosed learning differences, including dyslexia, ADHD, etc., that need to be addressed for a healthy change to occur.
In this episode, we dive into this topic with Sanford Shapiro, a learning specialist at Evoke, and Anson McNulty, Operations Director at Summit Achievement, who has dyslexia.


Sanford's Bio from the Evoke Website: 
Sanford Shapiro, M.Ed

Learning Specialist & Executive Consultant for Evoke Therapy Programs

Sanford Shapiro is a learning disabilities specialist who is a highly sought after trainer and speaker, noted for his ability to bridge gaps between therapy and cognitive science. He has been interviewed on TV and in print for his insights into learning differences and social-emotional concerns.

Education & Prior Work Experience

Sanford has had an extensive career as a teacher-trainer, school director and special needs consultant. Sanford’s knowledge is steeped in research and heart, born from personal and family experience as well as professional and clinical work. Known for his success with dyslexic learners, gifted students and those on the autism spectrum, Sanford’s mission has always been grounded by sharp insights about the day-to-day lives of children and adults who learn differently.


Sanford has lived abroad in Australia as well as the west coast and mountain ranges of the northwestern U.S. Sanford was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and lived and worked in Appalachia and New England. These diverse experiences have reinforced the idea that different cultures are to be celebrated and yet always finding the joy in common ground.


Sanford and his wife Debbie, parents of two young adult sons currently live in the beautiful UNESCO world heritage city of Cuenca, Ecuador. This is their current base of operations and life, and enjoy traveling back to the USA for friends, family, and work.

Sanford is also the author of two children’s books, A Light Within (2017) and A Light Within My Dyslexia.


Anson's Bio from the Summit Website: 

Anson grew up in the West Village of New York City, where he got to experience the vast culture and diversity the city has to offer. As Anson is dyslexic, he went to a special boarding school in midstate New York where he started to develop his love for nature.

Anson attended Unity College in Maine where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Outdoor Recreation Administration. Anson first discovered Summit Achievement shortly after graduating college. He was drawn to this work as it allowed him to be outside and give back to youth. He experienced so much support in his journey through dyslexia, and Anson wanted the opportunity to provide that same support to young people.

Anson has worked at Summit Achievement since 2002. Since starting out as a guide, he’s held multiple roles at Summit. Currently, Anson serves as the Operations Director, as well as being a co-owner. Anson is responsible for hiring and training guide staff and for overseeing the general day-to-day operations of the program. In addition to his education at Unity College, Anson is also certified as Wilderness First Responder, CPR Instructor, and CPI (Crisis Prevention and Intervention) Instructor.

When Anson is not at Summit, which isn’t often, he likes to spend time with his family on the Saco River and enjoys the scenic roads of New Hampshire and Maine on his motorcycle.