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John G. Borkowski Diversity Travel Award

Chak Li

Chak Li is a doctoral student in the Department of Special Education at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He holds a dual bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from Hunter College, City University of New York, and a master’s degree in Special Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Prior to his current research experience in the doctoral program, he worked as a special education teacher and special education coordinator for several years in many underserved communities. His career aspirations are based on the core idea of conducting and disseminating research with the goal of developing an effective school-home collaboration model to better support the education of students with disabilities. For this conference, Chak will be presenting his research findings from a national survey conducted to explore the child, caregiver, and family-professional partnership correlates of families of students with autism regarding school-home communication. 

Syrina Merilan

Syrina Merilan is a third-year doctoral student and Language and Literacy Fellow in Georgia State University’s Developmental Psychology program. She is currently studying interactions between parent-child dyads and their influence on the language acquisition of children with developmental disabilities using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). The study she will be presenting at the Gatlinburg Conference uses archival data from two 12-week augmented and spoken communication intervention to evaluate conversational turn-taking as a moderator in the relationship between AAC and vocabulary size in children with developmental disabilities. Additionally, she examined the growth trajectory of conversational turns between parent-child dyads throughout the intervention. The results indicate that conversational turns are an integral part of vocabulary acquisition in a population seldom mentioned and often forgotten in the current language literature. 

Zhaotian Chi

Zhaotian is a third-year PhD student at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge. Her studies focus on genetic aetiology of neurodevelopmental disorders and its impact on family mental health. At the 55th Gatlinburg conference, she will present her work on the prediction of genetic diagnosis on parental wellbeing through the mediating effect of child emotional and behavioural characteristics and perceived impact. The effect of timing factors will also be discussed. Before her PhD, Zhaotian completed her master’s degree in child development at the University of Oxford and her undergraduate degree in psychology at Beijing Normal University. 

Theodore Tjossem Postdoctoral Award

Emily Schworer

Emily Schworer is a T32 postdoctoral fellow with a PhD in Applied Developmental Science from Colorado State University. My research centers on cognitive development in individuals with Down syndrome throughout the lifespan. One goal of her work is to determine how biological and environmental factors alter development and explain heterogeneity in skills across individuals with Down syndrome. Another important aspect of her research is aimed at establishing feasible, reliable, and valid outcome measures for research studies and future clinical trials involving individuals with Down syndrome. This includes identifying cognitive measures that correlate with biomarkers of brain pathology in the unfolding of Alzheimer’s disease in Down syndrome. Emily’s Gatlinburg presentation focuses on plasma biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease pathology and their connection to adaptive behaviors in adults with Down syndrome.  

Jenny Mai Phan

Jenny Mai Phan, Ph.D. (she/her) is a NINDS-funded T32 Research Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. Dr. Phan completed her Ph.D. at Iowa State University in Human Development and Family Studies with a research focus on the neurobiology of adolescent mental health and development. Dr. Phan’s research interests include pubertal development, developmental disabilities, autism, and adolescent mental and physical health. For the Gatlinburg Conference 2023, Dr. Phan is presenting her collaborative work with the Autism Centers of Excellence GENDAAR Research Consortium on the pubertal effects on executive functioning among autistic and non-autistic youth.  

Jordan Col

Jordan Cole is a clinical fellow in Neurogenetics at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, where she recently completed Child Neurology residency in June 2022. She is pursuing a clinician scientist career path with the goal of establishing an independent research program applying health equity implementation science to investigate and mitigate disparities in access to genetic testing for children with neurodevelopmental disorders. She was recently awarded a K12 grant through the Child Neurology Career Development Program to support this project. She is thrilled to be presenting her preliminary work at the Gatlinburg Conference this April. 

Catherine Laverty

Dr Catherine Laverty is a research fellow in the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham, England. Catherine’s research focuses on improving clinical outcomes for autistic children with an intellectual disability, with a particular current emphasis on self-injury, sleep, and behaviour. Catherine currently works on ‘The SIB Study’, a large MRC funded project that aims to further understand the roles of sleep and impulsivity in relation daytime behaviour. The project uses a novel and developmentally appropriate executive functioning battery that is administered entirely remotely via Zoom to families in their own homes. Catherine’s presentation will describe the feasibility of this approach to promote inclusive research practices as well as highlighting the key findings from the study and how this expands our current understanding of self-injury. Throughout her work, Catherine is passionate about conducting research that aims to improve clinical outcomes for children and their families.

Conner Black

Conner Black is a psychology intern at the Child Development Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. He is also a graduate student in school psychology working with Dr. Jane Roberts at the University of South Carolina. Broadly, Conner’s research interests are aimed at the early identification of autism and anxiety in children with fragile X syndrome. As a travel award recipient for the Gatlinburg Conference, he will present on the developmental trajectories and the predictive utility of early markers of social anxiety in children with fragile X syndrome.  

Tiffany Whorley

Tiffany Worley is a 4th-year School Psychology Doctoral Candidate at the University of South Carolina. She completed her undergraduate training at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her research and clinical interests target the family system surrounding children with neurodevelopment disorders, anxiety and depression in young children with ASD, and the experiences siblings of children with ASD. Tiffany will be presenting her research project on the associations between child characteristics and maternal mental health outcomes in families of children with ASD, Fragile X Syndrome, and ASD associated with FXS.

Unfortunately, Tiffany Whorley is not able to attend the Conference.

Manisha Udhnani

Manisha Udhnani is a 3rd year is a dual-track PhD student in the Clinical Psychology and Intellectual and Developmental Disability Psychology programs at the Ohio State University. She is interested in the assessment and diagnosis of developmental disabilities. Her thesis project involved the development and validation of an outcome measure, called the Accommodations and Impacts Scale for Developmental Disabilities, for caregivers of individuals with developmental disabilities.

Jessica Goldblum

Jessica Goldblum, MA, is a doctoral candidate in Developmental Psychology in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Jessica splits her time in the Harrop Lab and the Brain and Early Experiences Lab studying the development of early social communication, novel methods for social communication assessment, and disparities in access to services and diagnostics faced by autistic youth. Her oral presentation for the 55th Gatlinburg Conference uses parent-report data from the 2016-2018 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) to understand how disparities in health service access may manifest in autistic minority youth.  

Laraine Masters Glidden Undergraduate Student Award

Alix Peredes

Alix Paredes is a 4th year undergraduate student pursuing a BA in psychology at Boston University. His current research targets the contextualization of service components that affect service experiences of Latin American families of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Specifically, he will be presenting on the contextual processes that impact IDD service providers’ stress, and how this in turn affects service quality for Latino families. Conversations regarding how this research of stress within IDD service providers are key to our understanding of the high turnover and burnout in the field will also be discussed.