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 Director of the Division of Community Outreach and Engagement and Clinical Professor of Psychology and Pediatrics at the University of Miami. Dr. Alessandri has worked with individuals with autism and their families for nearly 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). Recently, he was selected by the Children's Trust as the 2012 David Lawrence Champion for Children, one of South Florida's highest honors for community service.

Selected Publications

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.

Boyd, B.A., Hume, K., McBee, M.T., Alessandri, M., Gutierrez, A., Johnson, L., Sperry, L., and 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.

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.

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

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. Focuson 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

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.

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.

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.

Tuchman, R., Alessandri, M., & Cuccaro, M. (2010). Autism spectrum disorders and epilepsy: Moving towards a comprehensive approach to treatment. Brain Development, 32, 719-730.

Tuchman, R., Cuccaro, M., & Alessandri, M. (2010). Autism and epilepsy: Historical perspective. Brain and Development, 32, 709-718.

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.

Mintz, M., Alessandri, M., & Curatolo, P. (2006). Treatment approaches for the autism spectrum disorders. In R. Tuchman & I. Rapin (Eds.), Autism: A neurological disorder or early brain development (pp.281-307). London: MacKeith Press. International Child Neurology Series. Senior Editor Peter Procopis.

Alessandri, M., Mundy, P., & Tuchman, R.F. (2005). The social deficit in autism: Focus on joint attention. Rev Neurol. Jan 15; 40 Suppl 1:S137-141.

Alessandri, M., Thorp, D., Mundy, P., & Tuchman, R.F. (2005). Can we cure Autism? From outcome to intervention. Rev Neurol. Jan 15:40 Suppl 1:S131-136.

Alessandri, M., Bomba, C., Holmes, A., Van Driesen, D., & Holmes, D.L. (2002). Changes in developmental rates of learning in young children with autistic spectrum disorders. PERSONA, 5, 11-25.

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.

Ball, J., Gerhardt, P.F., Holmes, D.L., & Alessandri, M. (1994). A new world - Facilitating employment opportunities for people with autism and other developmental disabilities: A parents' guide to the Social Security Administration and Social Security Work Incentive Programs (3rd Edition). Princeton, New Jersey: The Eden Press. (1993-Second Edition; 1992-First Edition)

Celiberti, D.A., Alessandri, M., Fong, P.L., & Weiss, M.J. (1993). A history of the behavioral treatment of autism. the Behavior therapist, 16, 127-132.

Celiberti, D.A., Alessandri, M., Fong, P.L., & Weiss, M.J. (1993). Current and future trends in the behavioral treatment of autism. the Behavior therapist, 16, 153-160.

Gerhardt, P.F., Holmes, D.L., Alessandri, M., & Goodman, M. (1991). Social policy on the use of aversive interventions: Empirical, ethical, and legal considerations. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 21, 265-277.

Handleman, J.S., Harris, S.L., Kristoff, B., Fuentes, F., & Alessandri, M. (1991). A specialized program for preschool children with autism. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 22, 107-110.

Harris, S.L., Alessandri, M., & Gill, M.J. (1991). Training parents of developmentally disabled children. In J.L. Matson & J.A. Mulick (Eds.), Handbook of mental retardation (2nd edition) (pp.373-381). Elmsford, NY: Pergamon Press.

Harris, S.L., Alessandri, M., & Nathan, A.M. (1991). Behavior therapy with children. In M. Hersen, A.E. Kazdin, A.S. Bellack (Eds.), The clinical psychology handbook (2nd edition) (pp.567-579). Elmsford, NY: Pergamon Press.

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.

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.

Harris, S.L., Gill, M.J., & Alessandri, M. (1990). The family with an autistic child. In M. Seligman (Ed.), The family with a handicapped child (pp.269-294). MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Harris, S.L., Handleman, J.S., & Alessandri, M. (1990). Teaching youths with autism to offer assistance. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 23, 297-306.


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

Siblings of Children With Autism

Did you know the University of Miami is looking for families to participate in a research study for siblings of children with autism?

The University of Miami is looking for families who have two children between the ages of 7 and 12 (the younger of whom has a diagnosis of ASD) to participate in a research study! In addition, we are recruiting families who have two typically developing children between the ages of 7 and 12 who have no siblings with ASD to participate.

The study is looking at how sibling relationships develop when one sibling has ASD, and comparing these to the relationships between families who have 2 typically developing children.

Your children will be asked to answer questions, to put together a puzzle with their sibling, and to build with blocks. The child with ASD will also participate in a standardized autism assessment. Parents will complete questionnaires on a computer.

Each child will receive an amazon gift card for participating in the study!

To learn more about the study or to see if your family qualifies, please contact Christine Ghilain at 305-284-6894 or cghilain@psy.miami.edu.

Advancing Social-Communication and Play

Would you like to learn how to improve your students' social communication and play skills? The University of Miami is looking for educational teams (teacher, teaching assistant, and related service providers) to participate in a research study that aims to improve social communication and play skills in children identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The specific objective to this study is to examine the efficacy of the Advancing Social-communication And Play (ASAP) intervention program. Classrooms will be randomly assigned to either the intervention (ASAP) group, or the comparison group. Every classroom will be involved in the study for one school year.

Groups that are assigned to the ASAP intervention will receive training at the beginning of the school year, as well as ongoing coaching throughout the year. The ASAP intervention can be easily embedded within your current daily lesson plan and can also provide support when planning specific child goals. The classrooms that are assigned to the comparison group will continue their usual classroom practices. Following the completion of the study, comparison classrooms may receive access to some of the training and intervention material.

In order to be eligible to participate, children must be between 3 and 5 years of age at the beginning of the school year. They must also come from English speaking households, and have minimal language skills. Each participating child must also meet diagnostic criteria on an assessment designed to measure symptoms of autism.

Compensation will be provided to participating educational teams.

To learn more about this study, please contact Cecilia Alvarez-Tabio at 305-284-8396 or c.alvareztabio@miami.edu.