Staff

KidTalk has a staff of about 25 people. About one-third of these are masters or doctoral students, and most of the rest are full-time staff. KidTalk also regularly employs a handful of undergraduate students part-time.

Ann Kaiser, Ph.D. – Director, KidTalk Project

Ann is the Director of KidTalk and the Susan W. Gray Professor of Education and Human Development at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. She serves as the principal investigator for the research and demonstration grants at KidTalk.  She has published more than 160 articles and chapters on early language interventions for children with language delays and developmental disabilities, and for children at risk due to poverty. She has received numerous awards for her research and mentoring including the Harvey Branscomb Distinguished Professorship at Vanderbilt University, and the prestigious J. E. Wallace Wallin Lifetime Achievement Award of the Council for Exceptional Children. Dr. Kaiser received her PhD in Developmental and Child Psychology from the University of Kansas.

 

Jennifer Nietfeld, M.A. – Project Director

Jen obtained an undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education and a Masters in Developmental and Child Psychology, Behavior Analysis, both at University of Kansas. She worked with Dr. Kaiser as a parent trainer for four years, which moved her to become the director and founder of SAIL Inc, an early intervention group providing ABA to children with autism. In addition to her work with SAIL, she is the Project Director for the KidTalk ACE project, a four-site grant funded by Autism Center for Excellence. The ACE project serves minimally verbal children with Autism.

 

Courtney Wright, Ph.D., CCC-SLP – Project Director

Courtney graduated from the Early Childhood Special Education Doctoral program at Vanderbilt University in 2013 and has since been working as an instructor and research associate at Vanderbilt Peabody College in the Special Education Department. She is currently directing the Merck Foundation grant serving preschoolers with Down syndrome while also performing assessments and providing intervention to children on this project and other projects. Courtney is a certified Speech-Language Pathologist specializing in children 0-8 and augmentative and alternative communication.

 

Lauren Hampton, Ph.D., BCBA – Research Associate & Interventionist

Lauren recently received a PhD in Early Childhood Special Education from Vanderbilt University. Lauren has worked with Kidtalk since 2008 and she currently coordinates the Kidtalk projects serving preschoolers with autism and children with autism in South Africa.

 

Tatiana Peredo, Ph.D. – Research Associate & Interventionist

Tatiana has served as an interventionist and parent trainer on several KidTalk projects. She earned her Master’s degree in Human Development Counseling from Vanderbilt University in 2010 and her doctorate degree in Developmental Psychology from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2015. Tatiana enjoys working with children with Autism, children with Down syndrome, and Spanish-speaking families.

 

Suzanne Thompson, M.Ed., BCBA – Project Coordinator

Suzanne Thompson is the Project Coordinator for our newest Institute of Educational Sciences grant for toddlers with Autism. She works both as the coordinator of this project and as an interventionist to the children and families. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders, a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education, and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Suzanne has been with KidTalk since October 2009 and enjoys working in an environment where she is able to directly apply research to the clinic and home settings. 

 

Madeline Hinson, B.S. – Research Coordinator

Madeline Hinson is currently the Project Coordinator for all of the KidTalk programs and performs various duties across all projects. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University with a concentration in liberal studies and psychology.

 

 

Kimberly McCulla, B.S. – Research Coordinator

Kim received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and English from Lipscomb University in 2008.  She became acquainted with the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center during her senior practicum experience, where she assisted at the Kennedy Center and TRIAD, working with projects to study Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) detection and intervention.  She has worked for Vanderbilt KidTalk for the past four years as a data analyst and coordinator, working with children who have language delays and ASD. 

 

Tara Hixson, MSW – Interventionist

Tara is an Interventionist for the Down syndrome project. She graduated with her Master’s degree from Baylor University’s School of Social Work with a concentration in children and families and a specialization in military families. Prior to graduate school, Tara received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Developmental Psychology. Tara has worked as a research assistant in the Infant and Child Development Lab at Wayne State University, as well as on the Military Family Coping Project at Baylor University. She has several years of experience working with children and families in a variety of settings.

 

Jodi Heidlage, M.Ed. – Interventionist

Jodi received her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Lipscomb University, and her Master’s in early childhood special education from Vanderbilt University. She has worked for the past seven years as a therapist, consultant, and parent trainer for pre-school and school-aged children with autism. She is currently pursuing her doctorate degree, and works on the KidTalk ACE project serving minimally verbal children with autism.

 

Emily Dayle Quinn, M.S., CCC-SLP – Interventionist

Emily received her Bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders from Penn State University and her Master’s degree at the University of Nebraska specializing in traumatic brain injury and augmentative and alternative communication.  Prior to moving to Tennessee she worked as a speech- language pathologist at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Portland, Oregon and as a research associate at Oregon Health & Science University. Emily enjoys working with children with multiple disabilities. She recently began a doctoral program at Vanderbilt University in Early Childhood Special Education.

 

Lizzy Fuller, B.A. – Interventionist

Lizzy obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2011. She worked for five years in the Kasari Lab as a research analyst, interventionist, assessor, and parent trainer for children with autism. She is currently working on her Doctorate degree in Early Childhood Special Education at Vanderbilt University, and has been working for over a year as an interventionist on the KidTalk ACE project for minimally verbal children with Autism.

 

Kelsey Dillehay, M.Ed. – Interventionist

 

Kelsey received her Bachelor’s degree from Berry College in Psychology and Family Studies, and her Master’s in Human Development Counseling from Vanderbilt University. After interning with KidTalk for two years on various projects, she now enjoys working full time with minimally verbal children with autism and their families.

 

Jennifer Cunningham, M.Ed. – Interventionist

 

Jennifer obtained her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland in 2011, and her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education from Vanderbilt University in 2013. After completing her Master’s degree, Jennifer worked as a lead teacher in an inclusive preschool classroom at the University of Maryland laboratory school. She returned to Vanderbilt in 2015, and is currently pursuing her doctorate in Early Childhood Special Education.

 

Sabrina Smiley Evans, M.S., CCC-SLP – Assessor

Sabrina Smiley Evans is a speech-language pathologist who graduated with her Masters from Vanderbilt University in 2007. Since that time she has focused on her passions of early intervention and Autism through employment opportunities with the University of Tennessee’s Pediatric Language Clinic, the Brown Center for Autism, and collaborating with families by seeing children in their natural environments in her private practice.  Sabrina currently works as an assessor with KidTalk assessing children with autism spectrum disorders. 

 

Ashlynn Campagna, M.S., CCC-SLP – Assessor

Ashlynn is a licensed speech-language pathologist who obtained her Master’s degree in Communication Disorders from Auburn University. Prior to moving to Nashville, she worked for several years within a pediatric private practice in Boston, MA primarily working with early intervention and children with autism spectrum disorders. Ashlynn joined KidTalk to pursue her passion for research and working with children with autism. She currently works as an assessor for KidTalk serving children with autism spectrum disorders. 

 

Mary Rodgers, M.S. – Research Analyst

Mary recieved her B.S. in Psychology from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in May 2015.  During her time there she completed practicum hours at the Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute serving adults in the long-term care unit and at the Johnson Mental Health Center serving children with emotional disturbances.  In December 2016 she graduated with her M.S. in Psychology from Lipscomb University.  Originally an intern, Mary is now a full-time Research Analyst for KidTalk and plans to one day complete her Ph.D. in Psychological Sciences.

 

 

Lauren Ray, B.S. – Research Analyst

Lauren began working as a Research Analyst on the KidTalk ACE project for minimally verbal children with Autism after graduating in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. Prior experience before joining the KidTalk team was gained through multiple internships and volunteer work with children who have intellectual disabilities, including autism. Lauren’s extensive involvement with children has developed a stronger interest in this field, and she plans to continue pursuing Special Education at the graduate level.

 

Cristina Jacobson, M.S. – Research Analyst

Cristina Jacobson is currently a research analyst across a few of the research grants. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Xavier University with a concentration in psychology and gender and diversity studies. She recently earned her Master’s degree in psychology from Lipscomb University. Cristina began working with children with Autism while in high school when she volunteered as a junior counselor in the TRIAD camp. This experience sparked her passion for continuing to work in this field.

 

 


Good Things Happen When You Talk!