Skip to Content
Banner Placeholder

Autism Awareness: 2023 USC faculty experts list

April is Autism Acceptance Month and the University of South Carolina has compiled a list of faculty experts to help reporters develop stories about autism spectrum disorder. An estimated 1 in 36 people are affected by autism, a lifelong developmental disorder. As South Carolina’s leader in health sciences, USC has researchers across disciplines who specialize in autism. 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 12 years. Hock designed and evaluated several parent interventions and led 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 the Autism Parent Navigators, a program that pairs families who have experienced autism with families who have just received a diagnosis. 

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


Diagnosing autism

Christian O’Reilly, assistant professor of computer science and engineering, specializes in autism and how different areas of the brain communicate and are linked. Studying how different brain regions respond or talk to one another may help diagnose autism early and provide therapies that build self-esteem and teach life skills and healthy coping mechanisms. He also researches novel ways to study autism and neuroscience through artificial intelligence. 

News contact: Chris Woodley,, 803-576-7745

Caitlin Hudac is an associate professor of psychology and director of the Brain Research Across Development (B-RAD) Lab ( Hudac’s work uses a variety of cognitive neuroscience technologies, including EEG/ERP, eye tracking and fMRI, to understand how the brain changes as infants, children, adolescents and adults. Hudac is identifying biomarkers or characteristics of health (e.g. hormones, cholesterol, blood pressure) that may be critical for generating targeted treatments for people with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability.  

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

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 where she conducts 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 and post-diagnosis recommendations for families.

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

Jessica Bradshaw is an associate professor of psychology and director of the Early Social Development Lab ( Her research focuses on methods for early detection of autism in infancy. She studies early development of attention, motor skills and social interaction that predict the emergence of communication skills and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder.

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

Autism intervention

Dan Foster is an assistant professor in the Pharmacology, Physiology and Neuroscience Department at the School of Medicine Columbia. His research focuses on discovering new drugs to help treat habitual behaviors often seen in individuals on the autism spectrum. Funded by a $1.7 million grant from the National Institute of Health, Foster’s work establishes a direct connection between specific areas of the brain and those behaviors, increasing confidence that treatment with these drugs could potentially succeed in clinical trials.

News contact: Emily Miles,, 803-216-3302

Katie Wolfe is an associate professor of special education in the Department of Educational Studies. 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 autism. 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,, 803-576-6851

Sarah Edmunds, an assistant professor of psychology and licensed clinical psychologist, 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 externalizing behavior in autistic toddlers, and ways of training or supporting community systems (e.g., "early intervention" systems) to incorporate evidence-based early 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,, 803-777-7962


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 characteristics 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


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 USC scholars who research neurodevelopmental disorders. Hogan's research focuses on how, when and why anxiety develops in young autistic children and children with associated conditions such as fragile X syndrome. Hogan aims to understand how anxiety symptoms impact broader abilities, such as social communication, across early development. Her research informs targeted treatments that will reduce the negative impacts of anxiety and improve quality of life in children and their families.

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