Director, Principal Investigator
Center Administraotr, UCLA Tarjan Center/Arts Specialist, NADC
Director of Training and Education Services
Director of Outreach and Dissemination
Director of Research
Director of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Professor and Shapiro Family Endowed Chair in Developmental Disability Studies
Cerebral palsy and Duchenne muscular dystrophy
Professor of Human Development and Psychology
George Tarjan Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry at the Semel Institute ofNeuroscience and Human Behavior
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Arts and Postsecondary Education
Andy Vuong, B.S., is a doctoral student in the Department of Bioengineering at UCLA. He is a graduate student researcher in the Kameron Gait and Motion Analysis Laboratory run by Dr. Eileen Fowler of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery. In 2015, he received his B.S. in biophysics and mathematics from Wake Forest University. His research interests lie in biomechanics and its relation to brain imaging, specifically in the population of children with spastic cerebral palsy.
Nurit is a Clinical Psychology Intern in the Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Treatment Track at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, and a Doctoral Candidate at Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology. She is currently involved in the Child and Adult Neurodevelopmental (CAN) Clinic and the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®). She has worked with neurodiverse youth and adults for the past 10 years across a variety of clinical and research settings. In terms of research, Nurit has utilized single-channel VEP recordings to advance understanding of the neural differences in autism. Nurit is also passionate about contributing to the Tarjan Center’s mission of advancing the self-determination, inclusion, and quality of life of neurodiverse people and their families.
Mario Rivera received his bachelor’s degree in Health Education from San Francisco State University. He is currently a second-year graduate student pursuing a Master’s in Social Welfare at UCLA. His background in Health Education sparked his interest in social work. Learning how social and economic issues affect people’s mental and physical wellbeing resonated with him. He has dedicated his career to assisting underrepresented groups in overcoming the social issues and barriers that affect their health with the intention to find solutions and improve their overall quality of life. He is excited to be a Tarjan Trainee as he is eager to learn and increase his awareness regarding developmental disabilities. He will practice his newfound knowledge and skills in his role as a medical social work intern at UCLA Center for Cerebral Palsy.
Meagan Smith-Bocanegra received her B.A. in Sociology from California Lutheran University in 2020. While finishing her B.A., she interned with a local organization supporting older adults, sparking a passion for working with diverse populations. Meagan is currently in her second year of UCLA’s Master’s of Social Welfare (MSW) program, completing field work at UCLA School of Dentistry’s Special Patient Care Clinic, supporting individuals with unique strengths and needs as they seek specialized Hospital Dentistry care. She is passionate about advocating for and supporting individuals and families in their psychosocial wellbeing as they interface with the often-difficult healthcare system. Upon graduating with her MSW in Spring 2023, Meagan plans to pursue a career in medical social work.
Kyle Sterrett is a postdoctoral scholar at the Lord Lab in the Department of Psychiatry at UCLA. He joined the lab in July 2021 and works on Dr. Lord’s longitudinal study, which has been running for over 30 years, as well as providing statistical and methodological support for various other projects. Clinically, Kyle has worked extensively with young, language learning children with ASD. He has provided direct intervention as well as trained parents and intervention providers in the use of evidence based naturalistic early intervention strategies to teach communication and language. Kyle received his M.A. in Social Research Methodology from UCLA and Ph.D. in Education from UCLA under the mentorship of Dr. Connie Kasari. His program of research lies in understanding the mechanisms of treatment response for children with ASD enrolled in early interventions. He is also focused on improving the quality of methods we use in early intervention research.
Dena Gohari, B.A., is a first year PhD student and has been working with children and young people on the autism spectrum since she was a junior in high school. She received her bachelor's degree in Intensive Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz and during her gap year worked full-time as an applied behavioral interventionist at The Bay School Santa Cruz, a branch of The May Institute. Dena holds a range of experiences managing challenging behavior in clinical settings for nonverbal children on the spectrum. Dena's research interests primarily include intersectional identities within the autism spectrum, particularly the perspectives of individuals with co-occurring gender dysphoria and autism spectrum disorder. Alongside tackling her first year courseload, Dena currently juggles a number of tasks in Lord Lab, ranging from coding longitudinal data to administering play-based assessments for young children.
Hillary Schiltz is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Lord Lab at the University of California, Los Angeles. Hillary was awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship from Autism Speaks to develop a self-reported measure of loneliness for autistic adults using PROMIS guidelines with her mentors on the project, Dr. Catherine Lord and Dr. Carla Mazefksy. Hillary is also involved in Dr. Lord’s longitudinal study of autism and assists with research projects related to an observational tool called the brief observation of social communication change (BOSCC). Hillary completed her Clinical Psychology Internship on the Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Assessment Track at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. She received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Marquette University and her M.S. in Child Development from the University of California, Davis, and she is a graduate of the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program. Hillary’s research interests center upon the measurement, trajectories, and mechanisms of aspects of well-being among autistic youth and adults within various family and social contexts. Hillary greatly enjoys being involved in the autism research community; she has been an active member of Student and Trainee Committee (STC) of the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) for the past three years and is the current Co-Chair of the STC.
Maira Tafolla, B.A., is a third year PhD student in the Lord Lab at the University of California, Los Angeles. She graduated from UCLA with a B.A in psychology and a minor in Disability Studies. For the past two years she was working as an early intervention therapist on a few clinical trials for minimally verbal children with ASD under the mentorship of Dr. Connie Kasari and Dr. Amanda Gulsrud. Her research interests range from assessment to intervention for individuals with ASD. She is specifically interested in working with bilingual Latinx populations. She is currently working on a few coding projects in the Lord lab and works as a practicum student at the ABC Child Program.
Postdoctoral Clinical Psychology Fellow
Dr. Elina Veytsman is a postdoctoral clinical psychology fellow at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior in the UCLA PEERS Clinic. Dr. Veytsman earned her PhD in School Psychology at UC Riverside, where she studied the experience of parents of youth with developmental disabilities during their transition into adulthood under the mentorship of Dr. Jan Blacher. Dr. Veytsman completed her Doctoral Psychology Internship at The Help Group, where she worked with youth with a range of neurodevelopmental conditions at the Village Glen School and outpatient department conducting individual therapy, parent training, and diagnostic assessments. Dr. Veytsman began working with the UCLA PEERS Clinic in 2014 as a clinic coordinator and has since conducted the PEERS program in both group and individual formats across clinical and school settings, and has researched the efficacy of the PEERS intervention for Latinx teens with ASD in the Inland Empire. Dr. Veytsman’s research and clinical interests center around supporting youth and parents during the transition out of high school and into adulthood. Currently, Dr. Veytsman facilitates the PEERS for Young Adults clinical groups, as well as the PEERS for Dating and PEERS for Careers research programs. Dr. Veytsman also conducts PEERS certified training seminars, bootcamps, and workshops for mental health professionals and educators.
Hadley A. McGregor is a postdoctoral fellow in the Child and Adult Neurodevelopmental (CAN) Clinic and the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®) Clinic at UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience. She completed her doctorate in clinical psychology at Loma Linda University where her research focused on evidenced-based interventions for families of young children with neurodevelopmental disorders and co-occurring internalizing symptoms. She completed her internship in clinical psychology at UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience’s Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Treatment Track. Hadley has extensive experience in intervention and assessments with individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders and psychiatric disorders and their families. Her interests revolve around researching and providing evidenced-based treatments for individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders from culturally diverse backgrounds who have co-occurring tic disorders, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Postdoctoral Clinical Psychology Fellow
Dr. Rebecca Kammes is a postdoctoral clinical psychology fellow at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior in the UCLA PEERS® clinic. She completed her doctoral degree in Couple and Family Therapy as well as postdoctoral research training at the Center for Research in Autism, Intellectual, and other Neurodevelopmental Disabilities both at Michigan State University. Rebecca has 9 years of experience working as a couple and family therapist for individuals with Autism and other intellectual or developmental disabilities and their families. Rebecca’s research and clinical interests focus on the systemic risks and challenges of developing a positive sexual identity for older adolescents and adults with Autism and intellectual and developmental disabilities. This includes understanding healthy intimate relationship experiences from a family context, providing sexuality education for adults with disabilities and their families, as well as advocating for sexuality rights including access to comprehensive education and health care. Her work is based in the principles of community-based participatory research, with an emphasis on program evaluation to inform wider policy and practice issues. Rebecca has experience with PEERS® for Young Adults, Adolescents, and the PEERS® for Dating groups.