Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health Provides Clinical Services to the Community

Recognizing the need for high quality developmental and mental health services for children and families, Montclair State University recently opened the Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health (CAECMH), which provides clinical support services to the community and post-graduate academic and professional development programs through the College of Education and Human Services.

“The connection between a child and a parent is a dynamic yet vulnerable process that begins in infancy and continues through the toddler, preschool, and early elementary years,” said Ada Beth Cutler, dean of the College of Education and Human Services. “Add to that New Jersey’s high rate of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)—the highest in the nation as reported by the Centers for Disease Control. For Montclair State, the new Center is part of a vitally important progression to offer clinical programs to children and their families.”

CAECMH serves children from birth to age eight and their families to promote emotional, social, and developmental wellbeing around issues of infant and childhood development, early childhood mental health, autism, and other developmental delays. The Center also offers a graduate certificate program in Developmental Models of Autism Intervention for teachers, mental health practitioners, and allied health professionals.

The Center and the academic programs place a unique focus on both the individualized development of a child and his or her relationships with others as they relate to all areas of infant-child-family mental health, including autism and other developmental disorders.  

According to Gerard Costa, director of the Center and an authority on autism and early childhood mental health, each child demands individualized assessments and interventions that take into account the unique neurobiological and developmental reasons for behaviors and how children communicate what they are experiencing and feeling.

“The integration of an infant and early childhood mental health perspective that encompasses all physical and emotional aspects of a child is consistent with the large body of research that has established a link between early childhood mental health and early secure attachment relationships with a host of positive developmental outcomes, including intellectual development,” says Costa.

We’re not only interested in what the behavior is, but why a child behaves that way and what a child’s behavior reveals to us,” he says. “Once we understand the why of behavior, we can start collaborating towards better well-being.”

Working with the staff of Montclair State’s Ben Samuels Children’s Center, the CAECMH has developed training and consultation services for schools and centers on topics including inclusion, supporting autistic or other developmental differences in the classroom, and infant and early childhood mental health. The Center is also the nation’s only authorized provider of Zippy’s Friends, an international mental health promotion curriculum for children aged five to seven. A grant from the Todd Ouida Children’s Foundation fund’s the Center’s training of local educators in this World Health Organization-endorsed program.

The Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health is located at 14 Normal Avenue, Montclair, NJ. For more information on services or referrals, contact Associate Director Kaitlin Mulcahy at 973-655-6692 or, subject line “clinical referral.”

For information on degree programs, call 973-655-6685 or visit the College of Education and Human Services.

Montclair State University
Montclair State University offers a comprehensive array of undergraduate and graduate programs to a highly diverse population of 18,500 students in an expansive university setting combined with an intensive focus on student learning and success. For more information, visit

Media Contact:  Diane Reed, 973-655-4334 or