The Autism Interdisciplinary Group (AIG) aims to join together researchers, clinicians, stakeholders, and students at Montclair State University (MSU) and in the community.
Approximately 1 in 36 children in the United States is diagnosed each year with autism. In New Jersey, the number is higher, highlighting the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration to address the complex needs and bolster the inclusion of autistic individuals.
In the world of autism care and research, interdisciplinary collaboration is the best practice. To that end, the central guiding aim of the Autism Interdisciplinary Group is to bring together Autism-related efforts across campus, in order to coordinate 1) scholarship and research, 2) programming and services, 3) education, and 4) outreach efforts to improve the lives of people on the autism spectrum and their families. Our hope is that these efforts will augment the impact of the work on the autism community and the field.
Scholarship and Clinical Services
We aim to advance the mission of MSU as a public research institution of enhancing both its national and international research impact and reputation, driving innovation and relevant solutions for the diverse communities of New Jersey and the region by conducting integrative projects and services that capitalize on the diverse expertise throughout Montclair State University. In addition, the collaboration being sought via this group is in line with the mission of the College in strengthening the research.
This group aims to periodically bring together researchers at MSU from various departments who focus on autism aimed at following outcomes:
- Strengthening multi-departmental collaboration in autism research
- Fostering research and clinical networks beyond the university
- Engaging the community to embrace the complexity associated with autism.
An important goal will be to foster a sense of community, inclusion, and acceptance for autistic individuals and their families on campus and in the broader community through strategic partnerships, collaborations, and providing resources and services.
All of the above initiatives will simultaneously provide knowledge-building educational experiences for undergraduate and graduate students at MSU, consistent with the University-wide intention of maximizing student success, defined both within the Montclair State University experience and following graduation in their diverse and multiple careers. Students at all levels will be welcomed to participate in all meetings, workshops, and events.
Dr. Erin Kang (she/her/hers) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Montclair State University. Dr. Kang received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Stony Brook University in 2020 with an advanced graduate certificate in Quantitative Methods. She has received several awards including the President’s Award to Distinguished Doctoral Students and the JCCAP Future Directions Launch Award. Her research focuses on integrating science and practice by understanding processes that shape clinical presentations in youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), investigating neural mechanisms of clinical phenotypes and plasticity in ASD, and applying these insights to evidence-based interventions for social functioning. Her research incorporates contemporary analytic methodologies including advanced quantitative methods and neuroscience.
Mary Isaac Cargill (she/her/hers) is a second-year student in Montclair State University’s Clinical Psychology PhD program. Mary Isaac received her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Virginia in 2021. Her research interests include identifying differences in the presentation of autism spectrum disorder across different genders, sexualities, and cultures, as well as developing diagnostic materials that reflect those differences. She is also interested in understanding perceptions of autism in order to reduce stigma surrounding the condition. She plans to utilize these findings to develop specialized, evidence-based interventions to improve the quality of life of autistic people.
Dr. Brian Abrams has been a music therapist since 1995, with experience across a wide range of clinical contexts, including in support of life experiences and potentials of neurodivergent children and adults. He has published and presented internationally on numerous topics, including humanistic music therapy and health humanities. He has also served on the editorial boards of numerous journals, such as Music Therapy Perspectives, the Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, and Voices. Brian has served as music therapy faculty at the John J. Cali School of Music, Montclair State University, since 2008.
Corinne Catalano is the Assistant Director for Consultation Services at Montclair State University’s Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health. She is the project manager for the NJ Inclusive Education Technical Assistance (NJIETA) project funded by the NJ Department of Education. Dr. Catalano is a member of the NJ State Interagency Coordinating Council (SICC) for Early Intervention and serves as Chair of the SICC Personnel Preparation Committee. She is also serving on the NJ Autism Advisory Panel charged with revising the NJ Department of Education Autism Program Quality Indicators. Corinne developed and validated the Teacher Self-Efficacy for Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Inclusive Early Childhood Classrooms Scale (TSE-ASD/EC) and published this work in the Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education (2022).
Dr. Laura Lakusta is a cognitive developmental psychologist. The ‘big’ question of nature and nurture motivates many of her research questions, such as: 1) How do children learn language, specifically prepositions and verbs that refer to spatial configurations and specific mechanisms (stick on, glue to)? 2) How do infants represent spatial configurations in the world (the cup is ON the table) 3) How may cognition (perception and Theory of Mind) explain servant leader development? Together with her students, she explores/hopes to explore these topics in neurotypical populations as well as in individuals with ASD.
Eileen McKeating is currently the Research Associate at the Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health at Montclair State University. She is responsible for research initiatives and program evaluation for the Center’s many federal, state and foundation funded projects. Dr. McKeating teaches a graduate course on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) focused on recent developments in science that emphasize neurobiological factors and stress systems in children with ASD. Through the course, professional development opportunities and writing, she is interested in bridging the gap between research and practice. Publications include articles on preschool expulsion, clinical judgment, and topics related to ASD.
For information on the Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health, please use this link CAECMH for the Montclair State University website.
Dane Wagner began his work with people with autism in 2012 providing support in the classroom, home and advocacy settings. As a music therapist, Dane uses an individualized developmental approach which considers the uniqueness of each individual he works with. Dane uses this approach as a music therapist at the Ben Samuels Children’s Center at Montclair State University as well as through his own work as a music therapist and DIR Floortime facilitator.
Yingying (Jennifer) Yang is currently an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Montclair State University. She studies cognitive development in typically developing children and people with intellectual/developmental disabilities.
Autism Interdisciplinary Group
Autism Interdisciplinary Group Hosts its Second Annual Symposium
Friday, April 28, 2023, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Dickson Hall – Brantl Lecture Hall – Rm 177
The Autism Interdisciplinary Group (AIG) is hosting its second annual symposium, titled “Neuro-inclusive praxis: Imagining the possibilities from multiple perspectives” in celebration of Autism Acceptance Month.
Rethinking Social Competence Across the Spectrum and the Lifespan
October 20, 2022, 10:45 am – 11:45 am
Dickson Hall – Cohen Lounge – Rm 178
The Psychology Department’s invited talk by Dr. Matthew D. Lerner, titled “Rethinking Social Competence Across the Spectrum and the Lifespan.”
Autism Interdisciplinary Group (AIG) Hosts Its Inaugural Symposium
1-4PM on Friday, 4/29
Dickson Hall’s Cohen Lounge.
The Autism Interdisciplinary Group (AIG) is hosting its inaugural symposium from This is an opportunity to hear from folks from different disciplines and perspectives who share an interest in autism-related work.