LEND faculty and Staff members | UC Davis MIND Institute

Leadership Education

Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities


Leonard Abbeduto

Leonard Abbeduto is a nationally recognized expert on the behavioral profiles of individuals with intellectual disabilities, with a particular focus on the development and use of language by these individuals. Abbeduto's research focuses broadly on the development of language across the lifespan in individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities and on the family context for language development. He also investigates the effects of stress on parents and caregivers who raise children with neurodevelopmental disabilities, and how parent stress affects the behavior and development of their children. Current research projects in Abbeduto's lab examine the feasibility of using samples of spoken language collected in naturalistic contexts as outcome measures in clinical trials. His lab also is developing telehealth-delivered interventions that involve training parents in strategies they can use to facilitate their children's development of language.

Vanessa Avila-Pons

Vanessa Avila-Pons is the Project Manager and Play Based Team Leader for the TADPOLE Study at the MIND Institute. She assists with the management of the TADPOLE study by providing oversight to research protocols, training, and supervising lab staff professionals and paraprofessionals carrying out the ESDM. Her primary responsibilities and duties pertain to her role as team leader overseeing the program development, case supervision, direct treatment delivery, and parent coaching of children receiving the Play Based treatment within the TADPOLE Project. Vanessa is also a certified therapist, parent coach, and senior trainer of the Early Start Denver Model. Her clinical experience also includes the use Cognitive Behavioral therapy and family therapy for adults and families with emphasis on assessment and treatment of Latino clients. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and received her Master's degree from Santa Clara University.

Kathy Angkustsiri

Kathy Angkustsiri is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics.  She is Program Director of the MCHB Developmental Behavioral Pediatric Fellowship Program and Medical Director of the 22q Healthy Minds Clinic.  She is a board-certified developmental-behavioral pediatrician with clinical expertise in autism, ADHD, chromosome 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, fragile X syndrome, and high-risk infant follow-up.  Her research includes behavioral phenotyping in children with 22q and Down syndrome, along with clinical trials in autism, Down syndrome, and fragile x. 

Nancy Castignetti

Nancy Castignetti is a pediatric Speech Language Pathologist, and has served as a Research Associate at the MIND Institute since 2012. She also provides direct intervention and assessment with English and Spanish speaking children at the Language Academy of Sacramento. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Loyola University Chicago, Master of Education degree from Marquette University, and Master of Science degree in Communicative Disorders from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a Speech-Language Pathologist, her special interest lies in phonological learning disorders and early literacy.

Faye Dixon

Faye Dixon is a licensed clinical psychologist with a long history in child psychopathology, specifically the areas of depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD and learning differences in children. Currently, she is the director of clinical management and community outreach for the AIR Lab. She coordinates the ADHD Parent Education curriculum and groups for the MIND clinic. She is also a member of the UC Davis Medical Center Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences as well as a MIND Institute faculty member. Her clinical and research interests include attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning differences, anxiety, and mood disorders in children.

Eden Donahue

Eden Donahue is an assistant professor at the School of Nursing, California State University, Sacramento. Her passion for serving people with disabilities and their families started when she became a nurse in 2010. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Humboldt State University, her Master’s degree from California State University, Sacramento, and her Doctoral degree from California State University, Fresno/San Jose State University. Her professional and research interests include improving care across the continuum of healthcare settings and focusing on under-served communities.

Sarah Dufek

Sarah Dufek is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the UC Davis MIND Institute. She is a licensed psychologist and board-certified behavior analyst with expertise in the assessment and treatment of autism across the lifespan. She received her Ph.D. at the University of California, San Diego. She has had formal training in and is actively practicing many intervention programs such as Pivotal Response Training, Classroom Pivotal Response Training, Picture Exchange Communication System, Project ImPACT, the Early Start Denver Model, and the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills. In addition, during her postdoctoral training and subsequent faculty appointment at Weill Cornell Medical College, she received comprehensive training in the assessment and diagnosis of autism and related conditions. She became a trainer for both the Autism Diagnostic Interview- Revised (ADI-R) and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2) in 2014. She has been working with children, adolescents, and adults with autism and related developmental disabilities in clinical and research contexts since 2000.

Janice Enriquez

Janice Enriquez is the Northern California LEND Training Director. She is a licensed clinical psychologist within the Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics Section at the MIND Institute who conducts developmental evaluations with infants and children to identify neurodevelopmental concerns related to intellectual and learning disabilities, autism, ADHD, and related mental health concerns. She currently provides training to medical residents and fellows on diagnostic assessment of infants and children, and supervises a clinical psychology internship program. Past and current clinical and research interests pertain to the identification of developmental delay in infants at high risk due to medical conditions, neuropsychological and behavioral functioning of children diagnosed with neurodevelopmental and genetic disorders, evaluation and treatment of developmental and socioemotional concerns related to child abuse, evidence based assessment and treatment of childhood concerns (PCIT, CBT, Triple P-developmental disabilities and health disparities.

Kristen Godfrey

Kristen Godfrey is a LEND Alumni, disability advocate, public speaker, writer, researcher, and mother. She provides firsthand experience navigating the world both as an autistic adult and as the parent of two autistic children. She has participated in multiple symposia and panels related to neurodiversity and co-authored an article focused on unmet patient and family needs in autism. Kristen is a graduate student at Southern New Hampshire University with a major in Child and Developmental Psychology. She is currently partnering on projects including the Inclusion Study Community Collaborative and the Institute for Exceptional Care. Her interests include language and terminology related to autism, refining diagnostic criteria to be more inclusive, disability rights, and supporting other autistic women and mothers.

Jean Gonsier-Gerdin

Jean Gonsier-Gerdin is a tenured Professor in the Departments of Teaching Credentials and Graduate and Professional Studies in Education at California State University, Sacramento. She teaches courses in legal and social foundations of inclusive education, collaborative program planning, positive behavioral supports, evidence-based practices for students with autism and dual diagnoses, and other Masters courses. She also coordinates the M.A. in Education, Special Education concentration program and supervises student teachers. Jean is an active member of the Board of Directors of TASH, an international disability advocacy organization, and of Cal-TASH.

Anu Gupta

Anu Gupta completed her training in general psychiatry at the University of South Dakota. She completed her fellowship in Child and Adolescent psychiatry at UC Davis Medical Center, where she is now a clinical faculty member with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Her clinic and academic interests include infant mental health, neurodevelopmental disabilities, and medical education. 

Robin Hansen

Robin Hansen is Professor of Pediatrics, and Founder of the UC Davis Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. She is a board-certified developmental behavioral pediatrician with vast experience in treating children with neurodevelopmental disabilities as well as in clinical research. Her clinical research has focused on children's temperament, long-term effects of prenatal drug exposure, gene-environment interactions related to causes and early identification of autism, and biomedical treatments for neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Kelly Heung

Kelly Heung is the Program Manager for the Northern California Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) training program at the UC Davis MIND Institute. She received her Ph.D. in Human Development from the University of California, Davis. Past research interests include regression in autism and the effectiveness of applied behavior analysis on self-stimulatory behaviors. She has been a researcher and project coordinator for different studies at the MIND Institute examining social relationships in school-aged children with autism, the development of speech in nonverbal preschool children, and the epidemiology of autism in California. She is an active volunteer with the Davis Joint Unified School District and sits on several committees including the Davis Parent University, DJUSD Strategic Planning Committee, Superintendent Parent Advisory Committee, and the Davis Schools Foundation Board.

Katrin Mattern-Baxter

Katrin Mattern-Baxter is a Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at Sacramento State. She received her Physical Therapy degree from Albert-Ludwig's University of Freiburg, Germany and her post-professional Doctor of Physical Therapy from A.T. Still University in Mesa, Arizona. She has worked as a physical therapist for 30 years. Her practice focuses on the assessment and treatment of individuals with pediatric and neurological conditions. She has completed neurological residency training in Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation and certification in Neurodevelopmental Treatment. She is an American Physical Therapy Association Board Certified Pediatric Specialist. She currently teaches the pediatric and neurological curriculum in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Sacramento State. Her research activities mainly focus on treadmill training in young children with cerebral palsy and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Meghan Miller

Meghan Miller is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the UC Davis MIND Institute. Her research uses a developmental psychopathology framework to understand the early emergence of neurodevelopmental disabilities, with a particular focus on autism and ADHD. The long-range goal is that this work will help identify factors that account for the transition from risk to disorder, and will be highly translational, delineating core shared processes to be targeted by transdiagnostic prevention and early intervention efforts. She is also a licensed clinical psychologist.

Sally Rogers

Sally Rogers specializes in conducting developmental and treatment research into autism and other developmental disabilities and working with children with developmental disabilities and their families, especially young children with autism. She studies early developmental processes, including imitation, social-communicative behavior, development of motor skills, language, and social interaction patterns.  She is currently focused on developing and improving treatments for early autism using a treatment model that she developed in collaboration with Geraldine Dawson, the Early Start Denver Model. Her efforts to deliver effective interventions to people with autism and their families takes her to places all over the globe, training therapists to use ESDM. Her clinical interests include evaluation of cognitive, behavioral, social, emotional, and adaptive functioning; early intervention for children with autism; developing treatment and educational interventions for persons with autism of all ages, and social skills groups for adults with autism. She has written extensively in her field, authoring numerous articles and books and developing training videos.

Joseph Shen

Joseph Shen, M.D., Ph.D., is in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Genomic Medicine at UC Davis as an Associate Clinical Professor. He has interests and has published broadly throughout the genetics field including in molecular genetics, clinical genetics, inborn errors of metabolism, genetic counseling, dysmorphology, and laboratory genetics variant interpretation. He comes to UC Davis and the MIND Institute to initiate clinical and molecular research into CNKSR2-related neurodevelopmental and seizure disorder.

Carrie Silver

Carrie Silver is licensed clinical psychologist at the UC Davis MIND Institute. Her interests include diagnostic assessment of neurodevelopmental and mental health concerns in children. She also has specialized training in providing evidenced based therapy with at risk youth including those with a history of trauma and co-morbid neurodevelopmental disabilities. These include Parent Child Interaction Therapy, PC-CARE and Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Charleen Singh

Charleen Singh is an assistant clinical professor in the clinical programs at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis. She has a strong pediatrics background and teaches primarily in the family nurse practitioner and Master’s Entry Program in Nursing. She is part-time faculty member who also teaches at the San Jose State University School of Nursing Wound Ostomy program and is a co-director and co-founder of the program.

Singh earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree from University of British Columbia in 1997. She then completed the wound ostomy continence program at Emory University in 2009, followed by a Master of Science in Nursing at the University of Phoenix in 2010. She completed the University of Phoenix nurse practitioner program in 2012 and earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Healthcare Services from Walden University in 2017 and an MBA in 2021.

Having spent much of her nursing practice focused on pediatrics at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, she helped develop best practices in pediatric wound and ostomy care. Singh also focused on pediatrics for her doctoral work. She has collaborated with children’s hospitals across the country in developing best practices and research for pediatric pressure injury prevention.

Aubyn Stahmer

Aubyn Stahmer is an Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the UC Davis MIND Institute. She received her Ph.D. at UCSD and has spent her research career developing and testing interventions for young children with autism, developing integrated toddler day programs, testing improvements in public school classrooms that support children with autism, and conducting dissemination and implementation studies of empirically supported treatments in community settings. She is a licensed psychologist and a board-certified behavior analyst with expertise in Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT), and Early Start Denver Model, and a wide range of other interventions as well. She is widely considered to be one of the most experienced intervention researchers in autism, with a host of publications and a recently published text on use of PRT in public school settings with children with autism.

Heather Thompson

Heather L. Thompson, Ph.D., CCC-SLP is an associate professor and coordinator for the speech-language pathology assistant program in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at California State University, Sacramento. Her line of research is focused in the areas of developmental speech and language disorders. She has a specific interest in examining speech and language outcomes in children with cleft palate and developmental syndromes of Ras/MAPK pathway dysregulation. She is the principle investigator of research projects in the areas of dysphagia, interprofessional education, neurofibromatosis, and cleft palate. She also is part of the Response Evaluation in Neurofibromatosis and Schwannomatosis International Collaboration and serves as co-leader of the Patient Reported Outcomes Working Group. She serves as volunteer clinical faculty in the Department of Otolaryngology at UC Davis and participates on the professional advisory board for the Costello Syndrome Family Network.

Megan Tudor

Megan E. Tudor, Ph.D., is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics and a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at the UC Davis MIND Institute. She received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Stony Brook University and completed her postdoctoral training at the Yale Child Study Center. Dr. Tudor's research examines the experiences and clinical presentations typically developing siblings of youth with autism. She co-runs the Anxiety Treatment Center wherein she supervises trainees, provides direct clinical care, and administers community trainings related to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for youth with anxiety and co-occurring conditions. Her clinical specialties include CBT, sibling relationships, anxiety, disruptive behavior, and neurodevelopmental assessment. She is also an avid teacher, including courses and student groups at the UC Davis campus, didactics for medical students and other trainees within UC Davis Health, and events within the broader community.