Autism Awareness: 2017 UofSC faculty experts list

April is Autism Awareness Month and to help reporters develop stories about autism spectrum disorder, the University of South Carolina has compiled a list of faculty experts. To interview a faculty member, contact the staff member listed with each expert.

Diagnosing autism 

Kimberly Hills, a clinical associate professor of psychology, specializes in the identification and diagnosis of autism and disorders that coexist with it, such as ones involving language, anxiety, attention or medical. She directs the Autism Diagnostic Division at the university’s Psychology Services Center and implements multidisciplinary training in autism for graduate students. In addition to diagnosing autism, Hills can discuss autism as it relates to school and clinical psychology, graduate training and post-diagnosis recommendations for families. Contact: Mary-Kathryn Craft, 803-576-6195,

Autism and families

Kenneth Phelps, an associate professor of clinical neuropsychiatry and behavioral science at the School of Medicine, is an expert in medical family therapy. He specializes in the systemic treatment of children, couples and families coping with a chronic medical and/or mental health problem and can discuss effective family-wide interventions. His research has also focused on psychiatric disorders that can occur simultaneously with autism, including Tourette Syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Contact: Rosemary Thompson, 803-369-0329,

The Autism – fragile X relationship

Jane Roberts, professor of psychology, is among a handful of researchers who study autism-fragile X relationships. Fragile X is a single-gene disorder that is the No. 1 known biological cause of autism.  Among males, nearly 75 percent of fragile X cases also are diagnosed with autism. Her research focuses on early detection methods among high-risk populations. Roberts can discuss the link between autism and fragile X and her research to understand both. Contact: Mary-Kathryn Craft, 803-576-6195,

Autism intervention

 Erik Drasgow, professor of special education in the College of Education, is an expert in the area of communication intervention and positive behavior support for individuals with autism. Drasgow can discuss effective interventions for individuals with autism and can help parents and schools develop legally valid and educationally sound programs for students with autism. Contact: Kathryn McPhail, 803-777-8841,

Katie Wolfe is an assistant professor of special education in the College of Education. She is a board certified behavior analyst with expertise in applied behavior analysis, early childhood special education, and research-based interventions for individuals with autism. She can discuss evidence-based practices for students with autism, including those designed to address challenging behaviors and teach appropriate language and communication skills. Contact: Kathryn McPhail, 803-777-8841,

Autism and the language of music

Scott Price serves as professor of piano and piano pedagogy in the University of South Carolina School of Music and is the founder of the Carolina LifeSong Initiative. Carolina Lifesong provides piano lessons and music experiences for students with special needs, including autism. The initiative is dedicated in fostering best practices in teaching music to students with special needs. His work with special needs musicians has been featured nationally in the “Clavier Companion Magazine,” NBC’s “Dateline” and CNN. Contact: John Brunelli, 803- 777-3697,


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