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

KaiserAAnn 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

Jennifer Nietfeld, M.A.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, M.Ed., BCBA – Project Director


Lauren Hampton is a doctoral student in Early Childhood Special Education and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. After completing her Master’s at Vanderbilt University in 2010, Lauren worked at the Brown Center for Autism, and returned to pursue her doctorate in 2012. Lauren currently works on the KidtTalk projects serving preschoolers and school-aged children with autism.



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

McCullaKim 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. 



Nicole Dhruv, B.S. – Research Analyst

Nicole Dhruv
Nicole Dhruv currently works as a data manager for the KidTalk project.




Stephanie Jordan, M.S., CCC-SLP – Interventionist

163A5810Stephanie Jordan is a licensed speech-language pathologist who completed her Master’s degree from the University Of California, Northridge. Prior to moving to TN, Stephanie worked as an SLPA for a non-profit clinic in California.  For the past 5 years she has worked on several of Dr. Kaiser’s projects as an interventionist, parent trainer and assessor. Stephanie enjoys studying an effective language intervention that helps to support and mentor strong relationships and language development.Stephanie works on the KidTalk project for minimally verbal children with Autism.



Tatiana Peredo, Ph.D. – Interventionist

Tatiana PeredoTatiana 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.



Tara Hixson, MSW – Research Analyst

Tara Anne Hixson Peabody Campus Vanderbilt University photo: Anne Rayner; VU

Tara is a Research Analyst 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.



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. 



Lauren Ray, B.S. – Research Analyst

Lauren Ray

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.



Jodi Heidlage, M.Ed. – Interventionist

Jodi Heidlage

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.



 Cristina Jacobson, B.A. – Research Analyst

Cristina JacobsonCristina Jacobson is currently a research analyst working on the MERCK and HRSA research grants.  She received her Bachelor’s degree from Xavier University with a concentration in psychology and gender and diversity studies. She is currently seeking 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. 



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

Emily Quinn

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 Fuller

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.



 Lexi Tutor, B.A. – Research Analyst

Lexi TutorLexi obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics from Emory University in May 2015.  During her time at Emory, she volunteered at Emory Autism Center and also interned at Marcus Autism Center.  She is currently working as a Research Analyst on the KidTalk ACE project for minimally verbal children with Autism.  She hopes to attend Speech-Language Pathology graduate school in the near future.



 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. 


 Kelsey Dillehay, B.S. – Education Consultant

Kelsey Dillehay

Kelsey received her Bachelor’s degree from Berry College in Psychology and Family Studies. She has been interning with KidTalk since January 2015 and is currently working on various projects, while training to be an interventionist and parent trainer. As a Master’s student in the Human Development Counseling program at Vanderbilt, she is set to graduate in May 2016.