Michael Alessandri

Clinical Professor of Psychology
Executive Director, UM Center for Autism & Related Disabilities

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 1992

Autism/Developmental Disorders


In addition to his role as Executive Director of UM-NSU CARD, Dr. Alessandri is also Assistant Chairman of the Department of Psychology and Clinical Professor of Psychology and Pediatrics at the University of Miami.  Dr. Alessandri 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, where he earned his Bachelor's degree in Psychology. He attended graduate school at Rutgers University, where he obtained both his M.S. (1989) and Ph.D. (1992) in Clinical Psychology.  Dr. Alessandri completed his clinical internship at UNC-Chapel Hill's Center for Development and Learning (CDL). Prior to arriving in South Florida in 1996, Dr. Alessandri was an Assistant Professor of Psychology at San Jose State University (SJSU) and Associate Director of the Stanford University Pervasive Developmental Disorders Clinic.

Dr. Alessandri has presented, consulted and published internationally on developing appropriate and effective educational programs for students with autism spectrum disorders.  In addition, he has received several awards within the field including the Autism Society of America (ASA) Special Recognition Award for Publications (1993), the Outstanding Faculty award by the SJSU Disability Resource Center (1995), and the ASA's Wendy F. Miller Autism Professional of the Year Award (2003).  Under his direction, the University of Miami Center for Autism & Related Disabilities was named ASA's National Autism Program of the Year in 1999.  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.

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

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

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 Factors

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. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 25601217.

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.


Sample Syllabi
PSY 352 Abnormal Psychology
PSY 441 Psychology of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities