Register today for Session 2: A focus on college students and adults on the autism spectrum
TUESDAY, JANUARY 26, 2021 | Noon - 1:00 p.m. CT

An Interdisciplinary Approach to Autism and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Two-part Series

Learn more about the groundbreaking autism research, services and educational training happening across campus and the community grounded in Marquette’s mission as a Catholic and Jesuit institution.

Learn more about Autism initiatives at Marquette University:


This session will focus on preschool and school-age children on the autism spectrum. Drs. Sheehan and Millard, from the Department of Occupational Therapy, will discuss strategies to engage preschool children with autism, including how to handle sensory sensitivities at home using therapeutic tactics.


Presented by Dr. Mary Carlson, Clinical Associate Professor, Educational Policy, Marquette University; Ann E. Millard, Clinical Assistant Professor, College of Health Sciences Department of Occupational Therapy, Marquette University; Michele Sheehan, Clinical Assistant Professor, Occupational Therapy, and Doctoral Capstone Coordinator, Marquette University; and Elyse Adler, Clinical Psychology Graduate student, Marquette University. Moderated by Dr. Amy Vaughan Van Hecke, Professor, Psychology, Marquette University

Drs. Sheehan and Millard from the Department of Occupational Therapy will discuss strategies to engage preschool children with autism, including how to handle sensory sensitivities at home using therapeutic tactics. Dr. Carlson from the Department of Educational Policy and Leadership will discuss how to adjust a child’s Individualized education plan to reflect the needs of children on the autism spectrum during this pandemic and how to improve virtual and at-home learning. Ms. Adler, a graduate student in Clinical Psychology, will provide some research findings and tips about helping school-age children and adolescents on the autism spectrum engage socially and safely over the internet.


Dr. Mary Carlson, Clinical Associate Professor, Educational Policy, Marquette University, considers herself to be a special education teacher, first and foremost. Before coming to Marquette in 2007, she taught students in every grade from K-12 in a wide variety of schools. She received her B.S. in Exceptional Education and her M.S. in Educational Psychology from UW-Milwaukee. She received her Ph.D. in Theology, Philosophy and Special Education from MU in 2016, with a dissertation titled “Special Education as a Moral Mandate in Catholic Schools,” and is a member of the USCCB Working Group on Special Education in Catholic Schools. She teaches in the College of Education, focusing on children with exceptional needs. Her publications center on marginalized groups in churches, schools and society.

Along with Amy Van Hecke and Wendy Krueger, Mary has been a recipient of the Way-Klingler Teaching Award and the Explorer Challenge and the President’s Challenge awards. The trio also created a support program for MU students with autism, On Your Marq, with a $450,000 gift. Along with others from the Challenge Awards, including Doris Walker-Dalhouse and Norah Johnson, Mary is a co-founder of the Interdisciplinary Autism Initiative and the MUSCLES summer camp for children on the autism spectrum. She is also a member of the Next Step Clinic for young children with developmental disabilities in central Milwaukee, and is active in the PEERS (trademarked) social skills program as part of the Autism Initiative.

Ann E. Millard is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Marquette University College of Health Sciences Department of Occupational Therapy. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychobiology from the University of California at Riverside in 2000 and graduated from Loma Linda University with a Master of Occupational Therapy degree in 2003. She completed her post-professional Occupational Therapy Doctoral degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2019. She holds a specialty certification from the American Occupational Therapy Association in School Systems. Ann has over 15 years of experience working as a full-time Occupational Therapist with ages 3 to 21 in a public school setting. Her clinical expertise is in the evaluation and treatment of children with developmental disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder, sensory processing concerns and multiple physical disabilities. She also has a strong background in early intervention, assistive technology, interprofessional practice, program and procedure development, behavioral intervention techniques and distance education.

Michele Sheehan graduated from Mount Mary University with a bachelor's degree in Occupational Therapy in 1994 and her post-professional Occupational Therapy Doctoral degree in 2018. She holds advanced certification in Sensory Integration and Praxis testing from the University of Southern California and Western Psychological Services. Michele has over 25 years' experience with the pediatric population ranging from clinic-based interventions focusing on sensory processing disorders, neurological disorders, autism, and developmental delays to school based occupational therapy practice. In the school setting, Michele has spent many years providing professional development to teachers and staff as well as presenting at the Early Childhood Today conference held at Lewis University in Romeoville, IL. Michele joined Marquette University in 2020 as a Clinical Assistant Professor and Doctoral Capstone Coordinator. For fun, Michele enjoys spending time with her husband and children, watching softball games, and cuddling with her fur babies, Maggie (Great Dane), Bailey (Irish Setter), and Nomar (cat).

Elyse Adler is originally from San Mateo, California. She received her undergraduate degree in psychology from Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania in 2016. After graduation, she worked for two years as a Junior Specialist at the UC Davis MIND Insititute in Sacramento, California where she was involved in the Autism Phenome Project, Higher Cognition, Emotional Development, and Language Processing Study, and Cognitive Control in Autism Study, working with children and young adults with autism. Elyse also worked with the MIND Institute's Social Skills program as a co-leader for the middle childhood and teen groups. Elyse currently is a graduate student in the Clinical Psychology PhD program at Marquette University. Her research focuses on adolescents and young adults with autism. She is currently involved in projects studying the telehealth version of the PEERS program for both adolescents and young adults, as well as the Broad Autism Phenotype and mental health outcomes in young adults. Elyse is currently completing a clinical externship in neuropsychology at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

Dr. Amy Vaughan Van Hecke, Professor, Psychology, is originally from Canton, Mississippi. She received her undergraduate degree in psychology from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. After a research internship at the University of Portsmouth, England, Dr. Van Hecke completed her doctoral work in Developmental Psychology with Peter C. Mundy at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. Dr. Van Hecke then received a Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) from the National Institute of Mental Health to complete a three-year postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Dr. Van Hecke currently serves as President of the Executive Board of the Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin, a member of the steering team of the statewide Community of Practice on Autism and Developmental Disabilities, and a member of the Treatment and Intervention Advisory Committee at the Wisconsin Department of Health, Children’s Services Division. Dr. Van Hecke enjoys reading, traveling, holding an annual crawfish boil, co-leading a Girl Scouts troop, and cooking Southern food for her husband, her daughters, friends, and students in her spare time. Her undergraduate students particularly enjoy her brown-sugar baked bacon.



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