Laboratory on Language Development in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Research Team | UC Davis MIND Institute

Research Team

  • Leonard Abbeduto, Ph.D.
    Principal Investigator

    Leonard Abbeduto, Ph.D.

    Leonard Abbeduto's research at the UC Davis MIND Institute focuses on the development of language across the lifespan in individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities. His current projects focus on the factors accounting for variation in the course of language in children, adolescents, and young adults with fragile X syndrome, autism, or Down syndrome. These projects seek to identify the behavioral, biological, and environmental influences that shape language in these conditions. Other projects focus on the development of methods to optimize language development through parent-mediated interventions and the role of telehealth technology in the delivery of these interventions. His research has been funded virtually continuously by the National Institutes of Health since 1985.

  • Angela John Thurman, Ph.D.
    Principal Investigator

    Angela John Thurman, Ph.D.

    Angela Thurman's research at the UC Davis MIND Institute focuses on characterizing the dynamic processes underlying the development of language and other skills in individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities, particularly autism, Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome and Williams syndrome. Because development stems from a continuous interplay of multiple influences across time, unpacking the influences of the behavioral phenotypes (areas of strength and challenge) in neurodevelopmental disabilities provides insight into the factors supporting and impeding development and how this differs across neurodevelopmental disabilities.

    Her current projects are focused on characterizing developmental similarities and differences across different neurodevelopmental disabilities and identifying the factors influencing child development. She is also interested in the development and validation of new methods for measuring cognitive, emotional, and behavioral skills across the lifespan in individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities. The long-range goal is that this work will help identify the extent to which similar and/or different processes should be targeted in intervention efforts across neurodevelopmental disabilities.

  • Nancy Castignetti, M.Ed., M.S.
    Research Associate

    Nancy Castignetti, M.Ed., M.S.

    Nancy Castignetti 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 pediatric language disorders.  

  • Andrea Drayton, B.S.

    Andrea Drayton, B.S.

    Andrea Drayton is a transcriber for the Laboratory on Language Development in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities. She received her Bachelor’s in Cognitive Science with a minor in Psychology from UC Merced in 2015. She is interested in Speech-Language Pathology, and plans to pursue a Master’s degree in the field.

  • Sydney Kirton, M.S.
    Clinical Psychology Intern

    Sydney Kirton, M.S.

    Sydney Kirton is a Clinical Psychology Intern for the Laboratory on Language Development and received her B.S. in Communication and Rhetorical Studies from Syracuse University and her M.S. in Psychology of Mental Health from the University of Edinburgh. Sydney's research interests include girls and women with autism.

  • Hari Rajan
    Junior Specialist

    Hari Rajan

    Hari Rajan is a Junior Specialist for the Laboratory on Language Development and graduated from UC Davis in 2020 with a B.S. in Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior and a B.A. in Psychology. Hari's clinical and research interests lie in working with the neurodivergent population, and he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

  • Vivian Nguyen, M.A.
    Clinical Specialist

    Vivian Nguyen, M.A.

    Vivian Nguyen is a Clinical Specialist for the Laboratory on Language Development in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and the Autism Phenome Project at the MIND Institute. For the past 10 years, Vivian has worked with children with autism and other developmental disabilities in the schools, homes, and community settings. She received her Masters of Arts degree in Educational Psychology at California State University, Long Beach and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

  • Amanda Dimachkie Nunnally, Ph.D.
    Postdoctoral Scholar

    Amanda Dimachkie Nunnally, Ph.D.

    Amanda Dimachkie Nunnally, Ph.D. is a postdoctoral scholar who received her doctorate from the Department of Human Development and Psychology in the School of Education at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research interests focus primarily on the development of social-emotional competence in children with neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Down syndrome.

  • Robyn Tempero Feigles, M.S., CCC-SLP
    Speech Language Pathologist

    Robyn Tempero Feigles, M.S., CCC-SLP

    Robyn Tempero Feigles holds Bachelor of Science degrees from UC Davis in Human Development and Utah State University in Communication Sciences and Disorders, and a Master of Science degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. As a Speech Language Pathologist, her special interests include language trajectories in neurodevelopmental disabilities and alternative and augmentative communication. 

  • Jenniffer Villarreal, M.S.
    Graduate Research Assistant

    Jenniffer Villarreal, M.S.

    Jenniffer Villarreal holds a Bachelor of Science in Educational Psychology degree from Catholic University in Ecuador and a Master of Science in Child Neuropsychology from the Central University in Ecuador. She was part of the International Training Program in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities at the MIND Institute. For the past 15 years, Jenniffer has worked with children and adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities. Her special interests include developmental characteristics across different neurodevelopmental disabilities in the Hispanic population.