Autism Awareness: 2022 UofSC faculty experts list

April is Autism Acceptance 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.

Autism and families

Robert Hock, a professor in the College of Social Work, specializes in the impact of autism spectrum disorder on family life and best practices for supporting families across service systems. He has been engaged in clinical work and research with individuals with autism and their families for more than 11 years. Hock designed and evaluated several parent interventions and facilitated a federally funded effort to help state agencies develop family-centered services for youth with autism. His current research focuses on understanding factors that contribute to family adjustment, parent well-being and treatment engagement in families. Hock has developed a program called Autism Parent Navigators, which allows parents of children with ASD make home visits to other parents whose children have just received a diagnosis. 

News contact: Victoria Montgomery,, 803-777-9462

Diagnosing autism

Kimberly Hills, a clinical professor of psychology, specializes in the identification and diagnosis of autism and disorders that coexist with it, such as ones involving language, anxiety or attention. 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 assessing and diagnosing autism, Hills can discuss autism as it relates to school and clinical psychology, graduate training and post-diagnosis recommendations for families.

News contact: Bryan Gentry,, 803-576-7650
Jessica Bradshaw, an assistant professor of psychology and licensed clinical psychologist, directs the Early Social Development and Intervention. Her research focuses on methods for identifying autism earlier, allowing for earlier intervention. She studies possible signs of autism that include pre-verbal social communication skills, sleep patterns, sitting skills in young infants and heart activity. She also conducts research on the sociodemographic predictors for autism and attention deficit hyperactive disorder.

News contact: Bryan Gentry,, 803-576-7650 

Autism intervention

Katie Wolfe, associate professor of special education in the Department of Educational Studies, coordinates the board-certified behavior analysis coursework and the M.Ed. in applied behavior analysis. Wolfe has 18 years of experience providing intervention to individuals with autism spectrum disorders and their families in public and private schools and home-based services. She researches the effectiveness and feasibility of teacher-implemented interventions to promote language and communication skills in children with ASD. She can discuss evidence-based practices for students with autism, including those designed to address challenging behaviors and teach language and communication skills.

News contact: Anna Westbury, or 803-576-6851
Sarah Edmunds, an assistant professor of psychology, directs the Community-Oriented Lab for Autism and Behavioral Interventions. Her research focuses on interventions for social communication, and how we can identify the most effective interventions for each autistic child or teen. She also studies emotion regulation and challenging behavior in toddlers, and ways of training or supporting community systems (e.g., "early intervention" systems) to incorporate evidence-based early social communication interventions into their current practice with families. 

News contact: Bryan Gentry,, 803-576-7650

Autism and the language of music

Scott Price, Carolina Distinguished Professor of piano and piano pedagogy in the School of Music, is the founder of the Carolina LifeSong Initiative which provides piano lessons and creative 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, and teacher education. His work with special needs musicians has been featured by organizations in the United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand.

News contact: Marlena Crovatt-Bagwell,

Autism and fragile X

Jane Roberts, professor of psychology, is among a handful of researchers in the world 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. She runs the Neurodevelopmental Disorders Lab and 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.

News contact: Bryan Gentry,, 803-576-7650

Jessica Klusek, associate professor of communication sciences and disorders in the Arnold School of Public Health, studies communication disorders associated with autism and fragile X syndrome. Fragile X syndrome represents the most known genetic cause of autism. Klusek’s work investigates communication and autism-associated phenotypes that are associated with FMR1, the gene that causes fragile X syndrome. She also studies broader profiles among family members of children with autism or fragile X syndrome that are linked to genetic risk. She can discuss the overlap between autism and fragile X and implications for both conditions.

News contact: Erin Bluvas,, 843-302-1681

Severe autism

Sofia B. Lizarraga, a biological sciences professor, studies the cellular and molecular functions linked to severe autism, which affects close to 30 percent of autism patients and is associated with intellectual disability and seizures. In February, her lab showed how a mutation on one gene plays a role in severe autism and how epigenetic treatments could be used to remedy the mutation and treat severe autism.

News contact: Bryan Gentry,, 803-576-7650

Autism and anxiety

Abigail Hogan is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Disorders at the Arnold School of Public Health. She is a key member of a growing group of UofSC researchers committed to understanding neurodevelopmental disorders. Using her background in social psychology, Hogan’s work focuses on social communication development in autistic children. Her goal is to gain a better understanding of how, when and why anxiety develops in autistic children and how anxiety impacts broader abilities like communication. 

News contact: Erin Bluvas, 843-302-1681

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