ASPEN Professional Advisory Board

The following individuals (presented alphabetically) represent a body of professional advisors to ASPEN, covering a wide range of professional knowledge in the field of Asperger Syndrome and Related Disorders.

Simon Baron-Cohen, Ph.D.

Simon Baron-Cohen, Ph.D. is Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Cambridge, Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, and Director of the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge. The author of Mindblindness; The Essential Difference; and Prenatal Testosterone in Mind. Editor of scholarly anthologies, including Understanding Other Minds; The Maladapted Mind; and Synaesthesia. Author of books for parents and teachers such as Autism and Asperger Syndrome: The Facts and Teaching Children With Autism to Mind Read. Author of the DVD Mind Reading: an Interactive Guide to Emotions and The Transporters, an animation for preschool children with autism to help them learn emotion recognition. Recipient of awards from the American Psychological Association, the British Psychological Society and the British Association for the Advancement of Science for autism research. 2007 President of the Psychology Section of the Association, Vice President of the National Autistic Society, and recipient of the 2006 Presidents’ Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychological Knowledge from the British Psychological Society. 2009 Vice President of the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR). Co-editor in chief of the new journal Molecular Autism. Current research is testing the “extreme male brain” theory of autism at the neural, endocrine and genetic levels.

Peter F. Gerhardt, Ed.D.

Peter F. Gerhardt, Ed.D., is the Director of Education, Upper School, for the McCarton School in New York City. Dr. Gerhardt has more than 30 years experience utilizing the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis in support of adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorders in educational, employment, residential and community-based settings. He has authored and co-authored articles and book chapters on the needs of adolescents and adults with ASD and has presented nationally and internationally on this topic.

Dr. Gerhardt serves as Chairman of the Scientific Council for the Organization for Autism Research and his research interests include issues related to: intensity of behavior analytic instruction with adolescents and adults; community integration and employment; development of adaptive behavior competencies; positive behavior supports with complex individuals; and the use of technology to support community safety and independence.

Temple Grandin, Ph.D.

Temple Grandin, Ph.D. was diagnosed with autism at age 2 and went on to become a gifted animal scientist. She is an assistant professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University and has designed 50% of all the livestock-handling facilities in the U.S. The author of two books, Emergence: Labeled Autistic and Thinking in Pictures, she lectures internationally on the subject of autism spectrum disorders.

Ami Klin, Ph.D.

Ami Klin, Ph.D. is chief of autism and related disorders at the Marcus Autism Center, a wholly owned subsidiary of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Klin will also be a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar at Emory University and director of the Division of Autism and Related Developmental Disabilities in the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine.

Previously, he was an autism and Asperger syndrome researcher and a Harris Professor of Child Psychology and Psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center. Klin has worked at the Center since 1989. He obtained B.A. degrees in Psychology, and Political Science and History, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel in 1983 and his Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of London in 1988. He is board-certified in Clinical Psychology.

Dean Mooney, Ph.D.

Dean Mooney, Ph.D. is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Doctorate and a Nationally Certified School Psychologist. He is co-author of Nonverbal Learning Disabilities: A Guide to School Success (May 2006), Nonverbal Learning Disabilities: A Guide to School Success – The Teacher’s Manual (September 2007), A Train Ride to Grandma’s (With NO Chocolate Donut!) (September 2009), and A Snapshot of Me – A Student with NLD (2016). Maple Leaf Clinic, founded by Dr. Mooney, provides neuropsychological, educational, psychological, speech and language, and social thinking assessments of children, adolescents and adults. He has lectured on the topic of Nonverbal Learning Disabilities for local and national organizations throughout the United States, Canada, and England.

Brenda Smith Myles, Ph.D.

Brenda Smith Myles, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Special Education at the University of Kansas. Dr. Myles presents nationally and is co-author of Asperger Syndrome: A Guide for Professionals and Parents, Asperger Syndrome and the Difficult Moment, and Asperger Syndrome and Sensory Issues.

Jerry Newport

Jerry Newport is an adult with Asperger Syndrome and author of the book, Your Life is Not a Label: A Guide to Living Fully with Autism and Asperger Syndrome. He was featured on “60 Minutes” and is the founder of AGUA, a support group for adults with autism spectrum conditions which has groups in Los Angeles, San Dimas, Phoenix and Tucson.

Alex Plank

Alex Plank is the guy behind, the incredibly popular site for individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism. Both Alex and Wrong Planet have been featured by CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and Good Morning America. Wrong Planet has more than 90,000 registered members and its discussion forums contain millions of messages.

Alex graduated from George Mason University with a degree in Film and Video Studies. His areas of interest and expertise include public speaking, the Internet, writing, directing, and filmmaking. He lives in Beverly Hills, California. He runs, owns, and develops, a popular community for individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism which he started in his teen years after being diagnosed at the age of 9. He graduated from George Mason University with a degree in Film and Video Studies. Alex served as the consultant to the lead actress & creators of FX’s hit TV series The Bridge and was a cast member. Alex’s feature documentary film Shameful, which he shot in France along with Noah Trevino, is coming out soon.

S. Paul Prior, Esq.

S. Paul Prior is a partner at Hinkle, Fingles, Prior & Fischer, Attorneys at Law. He has spent his entire legal career representing people with disabilities. As the younger brother of a man with autism, he has a life-long commitment to disability law. His legal work has focused on special education, guardianship, financial entitlements, and access to appropriate services. A substantial part of his practice is devoted to assisting families in estate and trust matters. He serves on the Board of The Arc of New Jersey and is a member of The Supportive Housing Association of New Jersey Family Advisory Committee. He has previously served on the Boards of Autism NJ, the Eden Autism Foundation, and Special Olympics New Jersey.

Paul holds a JD from Seton Hall University School of Law, and has successfully argued leading cases before the New Jersey Supreme Court, Third Circuit Court of Appeals, as well as other state and federal courts. He served as a federal monitor overseeing conditions at state-operated institutions. He is a member of the Elder and Disability Law Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association, and writes and lectures frequently on topics concerning the law and disability as well as issues affecting siblings.

Diane Twachtman-Cullen, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Diane Twachtman-Cullen, Ph.D., CCC-SLP is a communication disorder specialist and licensed speech-language pathologist specializing in autism, Asperger syndrome and related conditions. Dr. Twachtman-Cullen holds a Sixth Year Diploma in early childhood education, and a Ph.D. in special education. She is the author of chapters on high-functioning autism and Asperger syndrome syndrome in the Division TEACCH series, published in 1998, and in Communication and Language Issues in Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder: A Transactional Developmental Perspective edited by Amy Weatherby and Barry Prizant, published in May 2000.

Dr. Twachtman-Cullen is also the author of three books, available from Starfish Press. The books include Trevor, Trevor, a metaphor for children designed to increase the sensitivity of typical peers toward their classmates with special needs, and the newly published How to be a Para Pro: A Comprehensive Training Manual for Paraprofessionals.

Additionally, Dr. Twachtman-Cullen provides consultative services and training seminars internationally on a variety of topics related to Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Vincent J. Varrassi MA, LDT-C

Vincent J. Varrassi MA, LDT-C has been the Campus Director of the Regional Center for College Students with Learning Disabilities at Fairleigh Dickinson University since 1999. Prior to that time Mr. Varrassi’s career in Public Education spanned 27 years during which time he was a General Education teacher, Special Education teacher, Learning Disabilities Teacher-Consultant and the Supervisor of Special Education for a Regional High School District in North Jersey. He is a former member of the Executive Board of the North Jersey Special Education Administrators Association and a former member of the Executive Board of the New Jersey Association for College Admissions Counseling. He has presented on the topics of Learning Disabilities, Asperger Syndrome, Transition to post-secondary options for Students with Disabilities and Assistive Technology nationally.

In 2005 Mr. Varrassi received recognition for his work as a “bridge to college for students with learning disabilities” by being awarded the Special Service Award of the NJACAC as well as a Presidential Citation from J. Michael Adams, President of Fairleigh Dickinson University, for his work on behalf of students with disabilities.

Fred Volkmar, MD

Fred R. Volkmar, M.D. is Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Psychology and Director of the Yale University Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine. He is also the Chief of Child Psychiatry at Yale-New Haven Hospital, New Haven, CT. A graduate of the University of Illinois where he received in undergraduate degree in psychology in 1972 and of Stanford University where he received his M.D. and a master’s degree in psychology in 1976.

Dr. Volkmar was the primary author of the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-IV autism and pervasive developmental disorders section. He is the author of several hundred scientific papers and chapters as well as a number of books including Asperger’s Syndrome (Guilford Press), Health Care for Children on the Autism Spectrum (Woodbine Publishing), the Handbook of Autism (Wiley Publishing), and A Practical Guide to Autism: What Every Parent, Teacher and Family Members Needs to Know (Wiley Publishing) with another three books in varying stages of production. He currently serves as Editor of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. He has served as co-chairperson of the autism/intellectual disabilities committee of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.