Initiative Leadership

Kathy Koenig, M.S.N. is the Director of the Initiative for Girls and Women with ASDs. Ms. Koenig has had a lifelong interest in autism spectrum disorders, and has worked with children with autism since her teen years. In 2005, she published "Pervasive Developmental Disorders in Girls", with her colleague Katherine Tsatsanis, Ph.D., in the Handbook of Behavioral and Emotional Problems in Girls, edited by Bell, Foster & Mash, (Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishing). The chapter stressed the differences in socialization and communication between males and females throughout development and the need for research in ASD to address these issues. Kathy has worked extensively in clinical and research capacities in ASD research over the past 18 years, under the mentorship of Dr. Fred Volkmar, Dr. Ami Klin and Dr. Robert Schultz. In 2012, Kathy published Practical Social Skills for Autism Spectrum Disorders: Designing Child Specific Interventions , (W.W. Norton & Co.).

Leah L. Booth, M.A., CCC-SLP , is the Communications Specialist for the Initiative. She will be working with professionals in the community to address the best ways facilitate communication with participants during activities. Leah is an associate research scientist at the Child Study Center. She received her Master of Arts in Speech and Hearing Science from the University of Maryland at College Park. As a speech-language pathologist, Leah has been designing and implementing visual supports for children with social disabilities for over fifteen years. Her areas of interest include evaluation; development of practical and measurable social and communication objectives; school consultation; family consultation; development of school programs; and teaching students, parents and teachers to employ visual strategies and technological tools as means to improved social and communication skills. Leah has been with the Developmental Disabilities Clinic since 2003, where she serves as a communication specialist for multi-disciplinary teams that provide diagnostic evaluations for children and young adults with a range of developmental disabilities including Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Pavita Singh , is a graduate student at the Yale University School of Public Health. Pavita assists Ms. Koenig with many aspects of the Initiative, including co-leading Focus Groups for parents and working on program design. She was a peer mentor in a group for young adults with ASD at the Child Study Center in 2012-2013. Pavita graduated from New York University, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Gender and Sexuality Studies (with High Honors), Linguistics, and Child and Adolescent Mental Health. In April 2013 she was awarded the Weinerman Fellowship at the School of Public Health for her dedication to social justice, equality and human rights. Pavita has worked as a peer mentor, a tutor, and research assistant during her time at Yale. Her master's thesis is "The Relationship Between Cyberabuse in Teen Dating Relationships and Self-Efficacy in a Sample of High School Girls". 

Allison Jack, PhD. is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the NIMH Training Program in Childhood Neuropsychiatry Disorders who will be assisting with the program. She completed her doctoral training in developmental psychology at the University of Virginia in 2012, where she studied under James P. Morris in the area of social neuroscience and Amori Y. Mikami in clinical developmental psychology. Previous to her doctoral work, she worked with the Autism Society of North Carolina and in an autism classroom at St. Coletta of Greater Washington, a school for children whose special needs cannot be met in the public system. Currently, she works in Dr. Kevin Pelphrey's lab at the Yale Child Study Center.

Advisory Board

Individuals with special talent and expertise in autism research, women's issues, media & communication, parenting, advocacy and sustainability comprise our advisory board. Current Advisory Board members include:

Prisca Chen Marvin, J.D. , has worked with Ms. Koenig to guide the development of this Initiative since its inception and continues to work closely in a consulting capacity. She is past Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR), a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to funding and accelerating biomedical research focusing on autism spectrum disorders, and also an Associate of the Yale Child Study Center at Yale University. She is the mother of a teenage daughter with autism. 

Cathy Lord, PhD , is Professor of Psychology and founding Director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain (CADB), at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical College, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Cathy is renowned for her work in longitudinal studies of children with autism. She has been involved in the development of standardized diagnostic instruments for ASD with colleagues from the United Kingdom and the United States (the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) an observational scale; and the Autism Diagnostic Interview – Revised (ADI-R) a parent interview), now considered the gold standard for research diagnoses all over the world. 

Amy Harmon is a National Correspondent for the New York Times, covering the impact of science and technology on American life. Amy has won two Pulitzer Prizes, one in 2008 for her series, "The DNA Age," the other as part of a team for the series "How Race is Lived in America," in 2001. Ms. Harmon's article "Autistic and Seeking a Place in an Adult World'' won the 2012 Casey Medal for excellence in reporting on children and families. Her story "Navigating Love and Autism'' won the 2012 feature writing award from the nation's best-named press club, The Society of the Silurians. Ms. Harmon has written "Asperger Love: Searching for romance when you are not wired to connect" published as an eBook by the NYT, 2013. 

Robin Pellish, M.B.A. is a founder, partner and Chief Executive Officer of Rocaton Investment Advisors, Norwalk, CT. Robin earned an M.B.A. in Finance at the University of Chicago and a B.A. in Economics at Union College, where she graduated summa cum laude. Ms. Pellish has been featured in Asset International's CEO "Movers and Shakers" in 2013 and 2012, which names the 25 top influential investment consultants in America. Ms. Pellish brings her expertise in financial matters to the Initiative for Girls and Women with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Nancy Crown, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City. She works with children and adults and presents, teaches, and publishes on various topics, including developmental disabilities. Dr. Crown is Assistant Clinical Professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Faculty in the Child and Adolescent Program at the William Alanson White Institute. Dr. Crown was the guest editor for a special issue of the Journal of Infant, Child, and Adolescent Psychotherapy published in January, 2009, focusing on Autism Spectrum Disorders: Current Psychodynamic Approaches. This volume provided a much needed perspective on the complex dynamics of individuals, parent-child dyads, and families as they address the challenges presented when a family member has an autism spectrum disorder. Dr. Crown is the mother of an adult diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Celine Saulnier, Ph.D. is the Clinical Director for Research, Marcus Autism Center, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, and Assistant Professor, Division of Autism and Related Disorders, Department of Pediatrics, Emory University School of Medicine. She is At the Marcus Autism Center, Dr. Saulnier oversees all activities related to the diagnostic characterization of individuals participating in clinical research, and she is the Director of the Clinical Assessment Core for the NIH Autism Center of Excellence grant. Her research focuses on profiles of adaptive behavior in autism spectrum disorders, particularly on the discrepancy between cognitive ability and the application of functional skills to daily contexts and routines. Dr. Saulnier is an avid lecturer and educator on ASD, having conducted hundreds of workshops and seminars nationwide over the past decade. She is also is co-author of the book, Essentials of Autism Spectrum Disorders Evaluation and Assessment. 

Kirsten Lindsmith is a writer, public speaker, and autism advocate, with a BSc. in Vertebrate Ontogeny and Phylogeny from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. After receiving an ASD diagnosis at the age of 19, she began co-hosting the online television show Autism Talk TV, and speaking at conferences and events and about her experience as a young woman on the autism spectrum. She has written columns for WrongPlanet.net and AutismAfter16.com, and was profiled in The New York Times. Most recently she has begun work on her own solo project writing a book on romance and sexuality for women with ASDs.