Clinical Professor of Psychology
Executive Director, UM Center for Autism & Related Disabilities
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 1992
Dr. Michael Alessandri is the Executive Director of the
University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (UM-NSU CARD). Dr. Alessandri has been a professor at UM for 20 years and has worked with individuals with autism and their families for over 30 years. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Rochester, and obtained his MS and Ph.D. in Psychology from Rutgers University.
Dr. Alessandri has presented, consulted and published internationally on developing appropriate and effective educational programs for students with autism. In addition, he has received numerous research and service grants (totaling over $25 million) and several notable awards within the field including the Autism Society of America’s Wendy F. Miller Autism Professional of the Year Award and National Autism Program of the Year for UM-NSU CARD.
Dr. Alessandri has also received numerous other community service awards, including the March of Dimes Community Excellence in Health Care Award (2007), the Health Services Coalition Outstanding Community Leader Award (2009), and the Parent to Parent Excellence in Family Advocacy Award (2010). He was also named one of the Ronald McDonald House's 12 Good Men (2008) and the Dewar's 12 Man of Distinction (2007). In 2012, he was selected by the Children's Trust as the David Lawrence Champion for Children, one of South Florida’s highest honors for community service. In 2016, he was named the Visionary Leader of the Year by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.
Dr. Alessandri has worked tirelessly to grow UM-NSU CARD from an organization with one office, three staff, and several hundred clients to a multi-site, multi-disciplinary network serving nearly 10,000 clients in South Florida. Recognizing the fact that his clients were quickly moving into adulthood, Dr. Alessandri and his team expanded UM-NSU CARD services to include unique services and programs for teenagers and adults. Included among these initiatives is a newly funded grant aimed at “awakening the autism entrepreneur” which will engage adults with autism, their family members, and the business community in efforts to promote innovative and sustainable business models and work opportunities for adults on the autism spectrum.
Research and Publications
My entire career has been spent in academic settings where I have balanced my interests in research, teaching, and community service with a unique content focus on autism spectrum disorders. My current role as clinical professor of psychology and executive director of the University of Miami Center for Autism and Related Disabilities allows me to maintain that balance of building systems of care for individuals on the autism spectrum and their family members while also contributing as a team member to building the evidence-base that supports such care. In terms of my collaborative scientific contributions, I think they can be broadly conceptualized as belonging to three categories: (1) the evaluation of specific behavior analytic instructional procedures for teaching individual learners with autism; (2) the assessment of more comprehensive school-based and clinic-based treatment packages for individuals with autism; and (3) the exploration of family factors in the study of autism spectrum disorders. Citations exemplifying each of these categories are noted below:
Evaluating Behavior Analytic Instructional Procedures for Autism
Harris, S.L., Handleman, J.S., & Alessandri, M. (1990). Teaching youths with autism to offer assistance. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 23, 297-306.
Handleman, J.S., Harris, S.L., Fong, P., Gill, M.J., & Alessandri, M. (1990). The acquisition of color identification by students with autism. The Learning Consultant Journal, 11, 50-52
Gutierrez, A., Hale, M.N., O'Brien, H.A., Fischer, A.J., Durocher, J.S., & Alessandri, M. (2009). Evaluating the effectiveness of two commonly used discrete trial procedures for teaching receptive discrimination to young children with autism spectrum disorders. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 3, 630-638.
Gutierrez, A., Fischer, A.J., Hale, M.N., Durocher, J.S., & Alessandri, M.(2013). Differential response patterns to the control condition between two procedures to assess social reinforcers for children with autism. Behavioral Interventions, 28 (4), 353-361.
Evaluating Comprehensive Interventions for Autism
Hume, K., Boyd, B., McBee, M., Coman, D., Gutierrez, A., Shaw, E., Sperry, L., Alessandri, M., & Odom, S. (2011). Assessing implementation of comprehensive treatment models for young children with ASD: Reliability and validity of two measures. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 5, 1430-1440.
Coman, D., Alessandri, M., Gutierrez, A., Novotny, S., Boyd, B., Hume, K., Sperry, L., & Odom, S. (2013). Commitment to Classroom Model Philosophy and Burnout Symptoms Among High Fidelity Teachers Implementing Preschool Programs for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43 (2), 345-360.
Boyd, B.A., Hume, K., McBee, M.T., Alessandri, M., Gutierrez, A., Johnson, L., Sperry, L., & Odom, S.L. (2014). Comparative efficacy of LEAP, TEACCH and non-model-specific special education programs for preschoolers with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(2), 366-380.
Ehrenreich-May, J., Storch, E.A., Queen, A.H., Hernandez Rodriguez, J., Ghilain, C., Alessandri, M., Lewin, A.B., Arnold, E.B., Murphy, T.K., Enjey Lin, C., Fujii, C., Renno, P., Piacentini, J.C., Laugeson, E., & Wood, J.J. (2014). An open trial of cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders in adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Focus on Autism and Development Disorders, 29(3), 145-155.
Wood, J.J., Ehrenreich-May, J., Alessandri, M., Fujii, C., Renno, P., Laugeson, E., Piacentini, J.C., De Nadai, A.S., Arnold, E., Lewin, A.B., Murphy, T.K., & Storch, E.A. (2014). Cognitive behavioral therapy for early adolescents with autism spectrum disorders and clinical anxiety: A randomized, controlled trial. Behavior Therapy. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beth.2014.01.002
Family Related Issues in Autism
Handleman, J.S., Harris. S.L., & Alessandri, M. (1990). Mothers, fathers, teachers, and speech therapists as assessors of treatment outcome for children with autism. Education and Treatment of Children, 13, 153-158.
Cuccaro, M.L., Czape, K., Alessandri, M., Lee, J., Rupchock, A., Bendik, E., Dueker, N., Nations, L., Pericak-Vance, M., & Hahn, S. (In press). Genetic testing and services for autism spectrum disorder (ASD): Parent beliefs and experiences. American Journal of Medical Genetics, DOI: 10.1002/ajmg.a.36698
Ekas, N.V., Timmons, L., Pruitt, M., Ghilain, C.S., & Alessandri, M. (2015). The power of positivity: Predictors of relationship satisfaction for parents of children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45, 1997-2007.
Ekas, N.V., Ghilain, C., Pruitt, M.G., Celimli, S, Gutierrez, A., & Alessandri, M. (2016). The role of family cohesion in the psychological adjustment of non-Hispanic White and Hispanic mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 21, 10-24.
Willis, K., Timmons, L., Pruitt, M., Schneider, H.L., Alessandri, M., Ekas, N.V. (2016). The relationship between optimism, coping, and depressive symptoms in Hispanic mothers and fathers of children with ASD. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 46(7), 2427-2440. DOI 10.1007/s10803-016-2776-7
Other Areas of Interest in Autism
Coman, D.C., Bass, M., Ghilain, C.S., Alessandri, M., & Llabre, M. (In press). The effects of equine assisted therapy on social and sensory functioning of children with autism spectrum disorder: A replication. Animals and Society.
Ghilain, C.S., Parlade, M.V., McBee, M.T., Owen, T., Coman, D.C., Gutierrez, M., Boyd, B.A., Odom, S., Alessandri, M. (2016). Validation of the Pictorial Infant Communication Scale for preschool-aged children with autism spectrum disorder. Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice, DOI: 10.1.1177/1362361316636757
Tuchman, R., Alessandri, M., & Cuccaro, M. (2010). Autism spectrum disorders and epilepsy: Moving towards a comprehensive approach to treatment. Brain and Development, 32, 719-730.
Tuchman, R., Cuccaro, M., & Alessandri, M. (2010). Autism and epilepsy: Historical perspective. Brain and Development, 32, 709-718.
Other Non-Autism Areas of Interest
Cullen, J.M., Wright, L.W., & Alessandri, M. (2002). The personality variable openness to experience as it relates to homophobia. The Journal of Homosexuality, 42(4), 119-134.
Keating, L.M., Tomishima, M.A., Foster, S., & Alessandri, M. (2002). The effects of a mentoring program on at-risk youth. Adolescence, 37(148), 717-734.