Sally J. Rogers, Ph.D.

Sally J. Rogers, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

Dr. Rogers specializes in conducting developmental and treatment research into autism and other developmental disorders and working with children with developmental disabilities and their families, especially young children with autism. She studies early developmental processes, including imitation, social-communicative behavior, development of motor skills, language, and social interaction patterns.  She is currently focused on developing and improving treatments for early autism using a treatment model that she developed in collaboration with Geraldine Dawson, the Early Start Denver Model. Her efforts to deliver effective interventions to people with autism and their families takes her to places all over the globe, training therapists use ESDM in.  She is the primary scientist of a number of federal grants, including an NIH funded ACE Network grant involving a multisite randomized clinical trial comparing ESDM and discrete trial interventions, a study focused on how to help parents use ESDM techniques at home to improve their children's language and behavior, and a large postdoctoral training grant that she directs with Dr. Amaral. Her clinical interests include evaluation of cognitive, behavioral, social, emotional, and adaptive functioning; early intervention for children with autism; developing treatment and educational interventions for persons with autism of all ages, and social skills groups for adults with autism. She has written extensively in her field, authoring numerous articles and books and developing training videos. Dr. Rogers serves on the editorial board of many publications, including Autism Research, the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, and Infants and Young Children. She also reviews for many journals, including Child Development, Developmental Psychology, Science, American Journal of Mental Retardation, Journal of Early Intervention, Journal of Child Psychology and Child Psychiatry, and Development and Psychopathology. 

Aubyn Stahmer, Ph.D.

Aubyn Stahmer, Ph.D.



Aubyn is an associate professor in Psychiatry from a similar position at UC San Diego. Aubyn received her Ph.D. under Dr. Laura Schreibman at UCSD and has spent her research career developing and testing interventions for young children with autism, developing integrated toddler day programs, testing improvements in public school classrooms that support children with ASD, and conducting dissemination and implementation studies of empirically supported treatments in community settings. She is a licensed psychologist and a board-certified behavior analyst with expertise in Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT), and Early Start Denver Model, and a wide range of other interventions as well.  She is widely considered to be one of the most experienced intervention researchers in ASD, with a host of publications and a recently published text on use of PRT in public school settings with children with ASD.


Marie Rocha, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Marie Rocha, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Lab Manager, Early Start Lab


Marie L. Rocha, Ph.D., BCBA-D is the manager of both the Early Start Laboratory and the ESDM Training Program.  Dr. Rocha’s primary responsibility as lab manager is to provide support and supervision for all of the research study teams under the direction of Sally Rogers and Aubyn Stahmer. As the manager of the ESDM Training Program, Dr. Rocha provides oversight for all of the ESDM training workshops and all certified therapists, trainers and parent coaches worldwide. The goals of the ESDM Training program are: 1) to make the evidence based practices of the ESDM accessible to organizations and professionals working directly with young children with autism and their families through workshops and the certification programs, and 2) to provide organization and support for certified ESDM therapists, parent coaches and trainers throughout the world. Dr. Rocha is a certified ESDM therapist, parent coach and senior trainer, leading multiple training workshops annually. In addition to her extensive training in ESDM, Dr. Rocha has over 15 years of experience using behaviorally based, empirically validated, autism intervention methods in a variety of community settings. As a board-certified behavior analyst and experienced clinical supervisor, Dr. Rocha provides ongoing behavior analytic supervision to the clinical team. Her research to date has focused on developing and evaluating naturalistic behavior analytic techniques, including parent education models. Her clinical experience includes supervising home and school-based behavioral intervention programs in both research and community settings. Dr. Rocha received her master’s degree and doctorate in Psychology at the University of California, San Diego and has worked with Dr. Rogers since 2008.

Dr. Cynthia Zierhut, Ph.D.

Cynthia Zierhut, Ph.D.

Early Start Clinical Supervisor

  Dr. Cynthia Zierhut is a clinical supervisor for the Early Start Laboratory providing clinical oversight to many of the treatment projects.  She is also a senior trainer in the ESDM Training Program.  The mission of the ESDM Training Program is to disseminate knowledge and the empirically supported practices of the ESDM to organizations and professionals working directly with very young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families. Working with the ESDM Training team, Dr. Zierhut aims to make accessible high quality learning opportunities for therapists in local communities and for our international colleagues.   Dr. Zierhut is a developmental and licensed clinical psychologist specializing in working with young children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their families for over a decade. She has been working with Dr. Sally Rogers since 2005, is a trainer and parent-coach trainer in the ESDM, and managed a collaborative ESDM group delivery project in Melbourne Australia in 2011.

Vanessa M. Avila-Pons, M.A., LMFT

Vanessa M. Avila-Pons, M.A.

Team Leader, TADPOLE Project 

Vanessa Avila-Pons, M.A., is the Play Based Team Leader for the TADPOLE Study the MIND Institute. Her primary responsibilities include program development, case supervision, and parent coaching. Her responsibilities also include the training and supervision of all members of the Play Based treatment team. Prior research experience involved the use of different behavioral treatments to improve disruptive behaviors, inattention, and academic skills in children with ADHD. Vanessa has many years of clinical experience working with children with autism and their families. Her early intervention experience has included developing and managing home and school based intervention programs for children in community based treatment programs, using evidence based treatment approaches. Vanessa is a certified therapist, parent coach, and trainer of the Early Start Denver Model. Vanessa received her Master’s degree from Santa Clara University and her Bachelor’s Degree from Notre Dame de Namur University and she is currently pursuing licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist.

Dr. Lesley Deprey, Ph.D.

Lesley Deprey, Ph.D.

Data and Assessment Lead 

Lesley Deprey, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist at the UC Davis MIND Institute.  She has been involved in the evaluation of research subjects in studies investigating Autism, Fragile X Syndrome and other genetic disorders.  She has expertise in the design and analysis of research studies in autism.  Dr. Deprey has also been a Sub-Investigator and Clinical Rater for FDA clinical drug trials.  She is a Certified Trainer on the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) and Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-Second Edition (ADOS-2), our current gold-standard autism measures.

Melissa Mello, M.A., BCBA

Melissa Mello, M.A., BCBA

Team Leader, TADPOLE Study

  Melissa is a Team Lead for the TADPOLE Study at the MIND Institute.  At the MIND she provides case supervision to children receiving Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT) as their intervention approach, as well as parent coaching and general supervision to the lab.  She has been working with children with autism for the past 10 years in a variety of settings, including as a special education teacher and early interventionist delivering one on one intervention in community based programs.  For the past 7 years, Melissa has been supervising early intervention programs as a Clinical Manager; using behaviorally based, empirically validated methods to ensure children with autism are improving their behavior, language and social skills at home and in the classroom.  Melissa is certified in the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), and has trained both locally and internationally as a certified ESDM trainer.  Melissa has a Master’s Degree in Special Education from San Francisco State University and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

Aimee Bord, MA, CCC-SLP

Aimee Bord, MA, CCC-SLP

Speech-Language Pathologist, Early Steps Lab

TADPOLE & ESDM Training Program

Aimee Bord, MA, CCC-SLP is a licensed speech-language pathologist specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of communication disorders across the lifespan.  She is certified in the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) and, along with a multidisciplinary treatment team, provides both direct and indirect treatment and consultation for toddlers receiving intensive early intervention.  Her clinical and research interests include the study of evidence based interventions for children and adults with speech and language disorders and their families.  Ms. Bord also has experience as a presenter, developing training seminars and courses on a variety of speech and language related topics including autism spectrum disorders.

Beth L. Goodlin-Jones, Ph.D.

Beth L. Goodlin-Jones, Ph.D.

Assessment Team

Dr. Goodlin-Jones, a clinical developmental psychologist, is an active member of the MIND Institute’s clinical research teams. These research teams see a wide range of children with at-risk development and neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and fragile X syndrome. Dr. Goodlin-Jones completed her undergraduate education at Stanford University and her graduate education at University of Washington. Her focus of research involves sleep patterns in typically developing children and children with autism, developmental delay, and fragile X syndrome. Dr. Goodlin-Jones works closely with several colleagues at the MIND Institute on the early indicators of autism and parent-child interaction patterns in families with fragile X syndrome and autism. 

Deeniece Hatten

Deeniece Hatten

Study Coordinator

Deeniece is the Early Start Lab Study Coordinator for the TADPOLE, ESS Follow-Up and PATH Projects. She serves as the main liaison for all families who participate in our lab research projects. Deeniece also oversees and manages daily operations of the lab including equipment, supplies, personnel/subject recruitment and all patient billings.

Kylee Cook, M.A.

Kylee Cook


Kylee began her work at the MIND Institute in 2002 as a data coordinator for the Fragile X Research Studies team.  She was data manager for the NeuroTherapeutics Research Institute. She is excited to join the Early Start Lab as Analyst in 2014.  Her responsibilities include working closely with the ESDM Training Program, designing and maintaining local databases, and managing data for multiple projects.  Kylee received her M.A. in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from CSU Sacramento in 2009.

Marykate Miller, B.S.

Marykate Miller, B.S.

Junior Specialist

Marykate Miller is a Junior Specialist for the Early Start Lab at the UC Davis MIND Institute.  Her relationship with the Early Start Lab began in 2012 while volunteering as an undergraduate research assistant.  Shortly after graduating from UC Davis with her B.S. in Psychology, she was brought on to provide overall assistance in all studies in the lab.  Her day to day tasks include managing data collection and entry, coordinating visits and supervising our team of research assistants. She also serves as the Project Coordinator for Project ImPACT.

Emma Coe

Emma Coe Junior Specialist
Emma Coe is a Junior Specialist for the Early Start Lab. She began her work at the lab in 2014 as an undergraduate research assistant. After graduating from UC Davis with a B.S. in Psychology in 2015, Emma was hired on to become a full-time member of the Early Start Team. She provides assistance in several studies, including TADPOLE and ESS Follow-up. Her responsibilities include tracking and following up on data collection, coordinating visits, and training the lab’s team of undergraduate research assistants.

Meagan Talbott

Meagan Talbott Postdoctoral Fellow
Meagan Talbott is a postdoctoral fellow whose research focuses on early language and communication development within the everyday interactions of young children and their caregivers. She received her doctorate in Psychology from Boston University, where she used home-based video diaries to examine vocal and communicative exchanges between infant siblings of children with ASD and their mothers in the first year of life. Her goals are to better understand the mechanisms underlying language and communication growth in young children experiencing difficulty in these areas and to support families in fostering children’s development over the first few years of life. In the Early Start Lab, she is investigating these issues on both the PATH and TADPOLE projects. In addition, she is part of the lab’s assessment team and serves as the lab’s recruitment coordinator.

Deirdre Cain, B.A., BCAT

Deirdre Cain is a graduate student from the M.S. in Child Development program at UC Davis and is involved in the C-ESDM project. After graduating from Reed College with a B.A. in Psychology in 2013, she worked as an interventionist at a company providing behaviorally based interventions to children with autism and qualified as a Board Certified Autism Technician (BCAT). Her research interests are centered around developing and evaluating interventions for autism, parent-child interactions in autism, and adapting evidence-based practices in community settings.

Tzu-Ling Lin

Tzu-Ling Lin is a short-term visiting researcher involved with the TADPOLE project in the Early Start Lab and is currently pursuing her certification as an ESDM therapist. She is a Ph. D. program student in clinical psychology at National Chengchi University in Taiwan. Tzu-Ling has also been a Taiwanese licensed clinical psychologist since 2003 and provides both early assessments and interventions for children with developmental delays, particularly children with ASD. Her clinical and research interests include studies of evidence-based interventions for children with ASD and their families and adapting those interventions for Taiwan's medical and community settings.