Described as a down-to-earth licensed psychologist, I integrate humor and compassion with a pragmatic, problem-solving approach to help clients reach their goals. I provide psychotherapy to young adults and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity (AD/HD), anxiety, depression, and other co-occurring disorders.
Experiences that laid the groundwork for my passion for working with those with ASD began during my psychology pre-doctoral internship as the Community Pediatric intern at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry. During this internship, I completed multiple rotations at two hospitals - the Chapel Hill School of Medicine School of Psychiatry and Raleigh’s Wake Medical Center's high-risk infant follow-up clinic.
At Wake Medical Center I administered developmental evaluations to infants and children referred by Wake County Human Services who were in the foster care system or otherwise involved with this agency. I provided inpatient pediatric consultations with patients who had a wide range of diagnoses, from accidental injury through child abuse and neglect, or chronic illness.
My knowledge about autism and the treatment of autism and related disorders began during one of my clinical rotations at The Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (Division TEACCH). The TEACCH method relies on the core principles of Structured Teaching. These
principles are the organization of the physical environment, a predictable sequence of activities, visual schedules, routines and flexibility, work/activity systems, and visually structured activities.
More extensive training in autism continued during my postdoctoral fellowship at UNC Chapel Hill Division TEACCH - (The Treatment and Education of Autistic and related communication-handicapped Children). The TEACCH Autism program aims to facilitate learning through a visual and structured teaching approach. The methods can be adapted to suit all ages and ability levels. The TEACCH method relies on the core principles of Structured Teaching. These principles are the organization of the physical environment, a predictable sequence of activities, visual schedules, routines, flexibility, work/activity systems, and visually structured activities.
At TEACCH, I learned the importance of focusing on an individual’s strengths instead of eliminating “problematic autistic behaviors”. This novel approach to accepting the autistic person as they are, instead of a person who is lacking in some way, shaped my approach to helping those with developmental disorders. To this day it continues to inform the way work with individuals with autism and related disorders.
Following my postdoctoral fellowship, as a psychologist at St. Johns Community Services (SJCS -a non-profit agency in Washington, DC dedicated to providing support and opportunities to people living with disabilities), I consulted to adult group homes, and classrooms, focusing on modifying the autistic person’s environment building on the person’s strengths and special interests.
Following my employment as a psychologist at SJCS, for almost nine years, I worked as a psychologist at the Chesapeake ADHD Center of Maryland. Although treatment at Chesapeake was geared toward those with ADHD, many children and adolescents also met the criteria of ASD. It became clear to me that ADHD strategies (relying on visual structure, modifying the environment vs. attempting to change the person or behavior, focusing on
strengths, identifying special interests, and skills) is also what I learned about helping those with autism.
My current work in the field of autism and ADHD focuses on conducting ASD and ADHD evaluations with young adults. I help the person understand the reasons for social, academic, romantic, and employment challenges. My work involves concrete, structured interventions for use in the home, in relationships, and in the workplace. It is not uncommon for those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and/or Attention- Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to be misunderstood so information and support are provided to identify strengths, understand labels, and learn strategies to create behavioral change. A deeper understanding beyond the diagnostic label often leads to increased acceptance and, in turn, to a greater capacity for self-advocacy.