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Staff

Jan Blacher

Jan Blacher, Ph.D., SEARCH Director, is a nationally known family researcher, advocate, and columnist, developed her vision for the SEARCH Center based on more than 30 years of research with hundreds of Southern California families who had children with ASD and other developmental disabilities, many of whom were Spanish-speaking. Her research has resulted in better understanding of family adjustment, and of how behavioral challenges, common in autism, affect families. Notably, her research focuses on positive as well as negative impacts on families.  Recent work includes: 1)  Smooth Sailing, a teacher-directed intervention to improve student-teacher relationships with young children with ASD; 2) Understanding Mental Health Impact of the Transition to Adulthood; 3) The documentary film, Autism Goes To College, based on the Autism 101 project at SEARCH.

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Katherine Stavropoulos, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Special Education in the Graduate School of Education at UC Riverside, and the Assistant Director of SEARCH. Dr. Stavropoulos conducts translational studies to explore the reward system in ASD, as well as how anxiety contributes to social deficits in ASD. Recent work includes: 1) Measuring brain activity before and after a behavioral intervention for teens with ASD; 2) Studies of social motivation and anxiety in young children (ages 3-6) and school-aged children (ages 7-12) with and without ASD. Dr. Stavropoulos is a licensed clinical psychologist and helps train PhD students in administration and interpretation of screening measures for ASD.

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Yasamin Bolourian, Ph.D., is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Riverside, where she also earned her Ph.D. in Special Education, specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Dr. Bolourian completed the UC-LEND progam, designed to develop leaders in the field of autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities across the lifespan. In addition, she has extensive training in autism screening and assessments at the SEARCH Center. Her research focuses on examining outcomes of college students on the autism spectrum, as well as co-occurring mental health issues among youth with autism. Her postdoctoral work involves developing and piloting a three-component teacher-focused program that promotes positive relationships for general education teachers and their students with autism in early school years (PI: J. Blacher).

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Ann Marie Martin, B.S., is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Special Education program at UCR and is currently a graduate student researcher at the SEARCH Family Autism Resource Center.  She previously earned her B.S. in Psychology from UCSD.  Ann Marie is a bilingual assessor and has experience in assessment and intervention for school-aged children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  Ann Marie's research interests include minority culture, bilingualism, language acquisition, and ASD.

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Laura Alicia Alba, M.S., is a third-year doctoral student in the School Psychology program at UCR. She previously earned her B.A. in psychology from San Diego State University and her M.S. in neuroscience and education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research interests include the examination of the role of early environmental stress (e.g., incarcerated parent, poverty) on executive functioning and development of psychopathology in youth with ASD and ADHD, as well as social justice and equity. In addition, she works on the Smooth Sailing project in order to explore how student-teacher relationships may increase academic performance and positive behavior among students with disabilities and a history of early life adversity.

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Megan Ledoux, M.A., BCBA, is a third-year doctoral student in the Special Education program at UCR, focusing on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and a graduate student researcher at the SEARCH Family Autism Resource Center. Megan earned her M.A. in Special Education with an emphasis on Autism from San Diego State University. While earning her M.A., Megan served as a researcher and coach for the CSESA Project (Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism), collaborating with high school educators to support their students with autism in the classroom. Her current research interests continue in the area of  the transition from high school to adulthood with emphasis on mental health outcomes, as well as working on the team to assess the impact of a teacher-directed intervention for improving student-teacher relationships.

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Ainsley Losh, B.S., is a third-year doctoral student in the School Psychology program at UCR. Ainsley previously earned her B.S. in Neuroscience and English from the University of Michigan. Prior to joining the SEARCH Family Autism Resource Center team, she worked at the University of Michigan STEPS Autism Treatment Program as an SLP clinical assistant and served as the research coordinator for the TRANSCEND Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital studying functional connectivity in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) using MEG neuroimaging. She is currently involved in the Smooth Sailing research project exploring the transition into early schooling for young children with ASD, and the development of a teacher-directed intervention to improve this transition.

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Elina Veytsman, B.A., is a third-year doctoral student in the School Psychology program at UCR, specializing in social skills interventions for adolescents and young adults with autism spectrum disorder. Elina is a graduate student researcher at the SEARCH Family Autism Resource Center, where she facilitates the UCR PEERS for Teens social skills groups. She was previously the clinic coordinator of the UCLA PEERS Clinic. Elina completed the UCLA/UCR LEND (Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopment Disabilities) fellowship program in 2018. She earned her B.A. in psychology with a minor in education from UCLA. Her current research projects include examining the effects of the PEERS intervention with Latino families of teens with ASD, and investigating the family and youth experience during the transition to adulthood for young adults with ASD and intellectual disabilities (Collaborative Family Study).

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Elizabeth Baker, B.A.,  is a doctoral student in the School Psychology program at UCR, specializing in the identification of neural correlates of social communication and reward processing in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). She earned her B.A. in sociology and psychology from UCLA. Currently, Liz is examining neural differences in reward processing in adolescents with ASD to measure treatment efficacy. Additionally, she is interested in developing ways to integrate qualitative research to further inform her work, such as stakeholder perspectives. Of particular interest to her is understanding how caregiver expectations inform adaptive functioning in late childhood.

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Giselle Berenice Salinas, B.A., is a second-year doctoral student in the Special Education program at UCR. Giselle previously earned her B.A. in Psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills where she worked on a research project focused on the support and family involvement of university students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Her research interests include: the college experience, support systems, transition to adulthood, and family involvement of college students with ASD. She is currently involved in the Collaborative Family Study (CFS) exploring the transition period of young adults transitioning from high school into adulthood.

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Michelle Heyman, B.A. is a second-year doctoral student in the School Psychology program at UCR, focusing on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Michelle previously earned her B.A. in Psychology and minored in Neuroscience at the University of Maryland, College Park. Prior to working at the SEARCH Family Autism Resource Center, Michelle worked as a Lab Coordinator at the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain (CADB); where she worked with minimally verbal children with ASD within an intervention-focused study. Michelle has experience in both assessments and intervention with school-aged children with ASD. She is currently working on the Smooth Sailing Research Study and conducting assessments within the SEARCH clinic.