University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

People

Grace Baranek PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Grace Baranek PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA ⟩

Associate Dean, Chair, and Mrs. T.H. Chan Professor of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Dr. Grace Baranek’s research focuses on the identification of behavioral and neurophysiological risk markers in young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and related neurodevelopmental disorders, primarily in the domains of sensory reactivity and regulation, motor functions, and social communication. Trained as both an occupational therapist and developmental psychologist, she is an internationally renowned expert on the clinical characterization of sensory features in children with ASD and on the impact of these heterogeneous presentations on child and family outcomes using mixed methods research.  Dr. Baranek has developed numerous assessment tools, including the First Year(s) Inventory and the Sensory Experiences Questionnaire. As a Principal Investigator (PI) of the Parents and Infants Engaged (PIE) project funded by NICHD, she is developing novel intervention to promote caregivers’ awareness and responsiveness to their infant’s sensory reactivity and prelinguistic communication in everyday life. During her career, Dr. Baranek has served as the PI or Co-PI of multiple extramural grants funded by federal agencies and private foundations and is the author of more than 90 peer-reviewed papers. She has been a member of working groups of the National Academy of Science and the National Institutes of Health to establish guidelines for evidence-based practices and served as a technical expert for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Committee on comparative effectiveness of interventions targeting sensory challenges in children with ASD. As the director of the new Innovations in Neurodevelopmental Sensory Processing Research (insp!re) Laboratory, she leads a dynamic multidisciplinary team of investigators, students, and postdoctoral fellows, all of whom are dedicated to promoting optimal engagement and development for young children with neurodevelopmental differences. Dr. Baranek also serves on the executive committee of the Program for Early Autism Research, Leadership, and Service (PEARLS), a multisite, interdisciplinary network of researchers committed to earlier identification and interventions for young children at-risk for ASD and related neurodevelopmental disorders.

Dr. Baranek’s favorite occupations: She enjoys yoga (by herself!) and cooking and hiking with her son and husband in her spare time.

John Sideris PhD

John Sideris PhD ⟩

Professor of Research
Director of Instrument Development and Psychometric/Statistical Analysis

Dr. Sideris is a quantitative psychologist and psychometrician. He has served as the data analyst on many projects ranging from investigations of children with developmental delays — particularly with regard to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and related syndromes — to studies of early childcare programs. His studies of children with delays have focused primarily on children and adolescents with ASD, Down syndrome, and FXS. Much of this research has centered on their sensory features, social engagement, language, neural processes, and developmental trajectories. In early childcare, his work has focused on the measurement of childcare quality generally and as it relates to children with disabilities. Dr. Sideris has particular expertise in longitudinal modeling (e.g., change over time in children with developmental delays) and in latent variable models (e.g. factor analysis of existing and new measures).

Dr. Sideris’s favorite occupation: He is a great lover of comedy and can frequently be found shaking with laughter at one of LA’s great comedy theaters.

Julia Lisle OTD, OTR/L

Julia Lisle OTD, OTR/L ⟩

Assistant Professor of Clinical Occupational Therapy
Dr. Julia Lisle received her Bachelor of Science in Special Education and Rehabilitation from the University of Arizona, and both her Master of Arts and Doctorate of Occupational Therapy degrees from the University of Southern California. Dr. Lisle completed her doctoral residency with the USC Chan Autism Initiative, where she engaged in research, community consultations with local museums, and implementation of the PCORI funded TRUST project. She also has experience using hippotherapy as a treatment tool in pediatrics. Her research interests include sensory processing, autism, and early intervention.

Allison Phillips OTD, OTR/L

Allison Phillips OTD, OTR/L ⟩

Assistant Professor of Clinical Occupational Therapy
Dr. Allison Phillips received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from USC, her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from Tufts University, and her Doctor of Occupational Therapy from USC. Within the Chan division, she works primarily in the Innovations in Neurodevelopmental Sensory Processing Research (insp!re) laboratory. As the lab’s Clinical Assessment Training Coordinator, she trains doctoral and master’s level students and administers early autism screening tools and assessments. Her research interests include early risk signs for autism and early autism screening with high-risk infants and understudied populations abroad. In addition to her role in the insp!re lab, she assists the academic fieldwork team with out of area and out of state level II fieldwork outreach.

Emily Sopkin OTD, OTR/L

Emily Sopkin OTD, OTR/L ⟩

Assistant Professor of Clinical Occupational Therapy
Emily Sopkin received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from California State University, Fullerton, and both her Master of Arts and Doctorate of Occupational Therapy degrees from the University of Southern California. She also completed the USC Chan Sensory Integration Continuing Education Certificate Program in 2017. Dr. Sopkin studied community programming for individuals with autism during her doctoral residency with USC Chan’s autism initiative, and continues to consult with local museums on ways of expanding their access and inclusivity efforts. Additional interests include the role of creative and performing arts in occupational therapy practice. Currently, Dr. Sopkin is facilitating the development, implementation and monitoring of the USC Chan 2019-2023 Strategic Plan.

Katherine Hayes

Katherine Hayes ⟩

Data Management Coordinator
Katherine has a BS in Global Health and a Master of Public Health in Biostatistics and Epidemiology from the University of Southern California. While working towards her Master’s degree, Katherine was a teaching assistant for multiple undergraduate courses in the Health Promotion/Disease Prevention department at USC including “Environmental Impacts on the Brain,” “Behavior and Education Strategies for Nutrition and Fitness,” and “Obesity and Health.” She also worked as a student researcher assisting with qualitative and quantitative data collection, management, and analysis for a study funded by both USC’s Keck School of Medicine and the LA County Department of Public Health that investigated smoke-free policies in multi-unit housing in Los Angeles. She is passionate about making a positive impact on people’s lives through health research.

Katherine’s favorite occupations: traveling, going to concerts, trying new restaurants, and singing.

Emily Campi MA, OTR/L

Emily Campi MA, OTR/L ⟩

PhD Student in Occupational Science
Emily has a BS in biology and psychology from Santa Clara University and clinical and research experience working with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Prior to joining the insp!re lab, Emily worked as a research assistant to Dr. Cathy Lord, where she received training in joint attention, symbolic play, emotion, and regulation-enhanced milieu teaching (JASP-EMT); discrete trial training (DTT); administration and coding of the Brief Observation of Social Communication Change (BOSCC); and clinical training in the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-2 (ADOS-2). She is especially interested in parent-mediated intervention and the caregiver experience, and she plans to pursue a career in academia.

Emily’s favorite occupation: She grew up helping her mom in the kitchen, and she now absolutely loves to try new recipes for meals and dessert!

Elizabeth Choi-Tucci MS, CCC-SLP

Elizabeth Choi-Tucci MS, CCC-SLP ⟩

PhD Student in Occupational Science
Elizabeth is a licensed speech and language pathologist. Her main research interests relate to infant and toddler development and growth. She is particularly interested in the role and trajectory of communication within infants’ and caregivers’ engagement in occupations such as the co-occupation of feeding. She also seeks to explore how caregiver-infant bonding dynamics, especially in terms of caregiver response to infant cues and infant solicitations, can impact infants’ social and communicative development. Elizabeth’s career interests include bridging the knowledge gap between occupational science and speech, language, and hearing sciences with neonatal/infant therapies and practice. Additionally, she is interested in contributing to research involving best methods for evaluation of swallowing in breastfeeding infants and in developing noninvasive measures of swallowing function specifically for the breastfeeding population.

Elizabeth’s favorite occupation: She enjoys playing the lyre — she loves being able to play a piece smoothly after a lot of practice!

Savannah Gluck MOT, OTR/L

Savannah Gluck MOT, OTR/L ⟩

PhD Student in Occupational Science
Savannah received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from St. Ambrose University. She is an occupational therapist with experience in public schools, charter schools, and clinics near the central coast and Bay Area in California. Her research interests are focused on early indicators that may lead to an autism diagnosis, including sensory processing and communication differences. She is particularly interested in strengths-based parent education in relationship to screening, diagnosis, and early-intervention. Additionally, researching the relationships between physiological markers and the aforementioned factors. She plans to pursue a career in academia after her time in the insp!re lab.

Savannah’s favorite occupations: She enjoys dancing (ballet in particular), yoga, rock-climbing, and adventuring outdoors with her pug and fiancé.

Yu Tang

Yu (Tony) Tang ⟩

PhD Student in Occupational Science
Tony is a licensed occupational therapist. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Economics from New York University and his occupational therapy degrees from University of Southern California. After working as a pediatric occupational therapist in China for three years, he decided to pursue his PhD at Chan. His current interests focus on children’s development and the support needed for neurodivergent individuals throughout their life cycles. Some of the specific aspects of his inquiries include: What are protective (predictive) factors that can enhance the developmental outcomes of autistic children? What are the factors that can mediate the risk factors of disadvantaged autistic children? What are factors that can foster autonomy and meaningful occupational engagement among autistic children and youth? How to create culturally attuned sensory and occupation-based assessment tools for different age groups?

Tony’s favorite occupation: he enjoys traveling, trying new foods, and playing tennis and badminton.

Yansong Li

Yansong Li

OTD Resident
I’m one of the members in the China Initiative, admitted to USC Chan as the third Peking University Health Science Center (PKUHSC) student, pursuing the OTD degree. I’ve achieved a Bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation Therapy, as well as a Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy. My area of interest is pediatrics, particularly in sensory integration and sensory processing. I am currently interning as an OTD resident at the Innovations in Neurodevelopmental Sensory Processing Research (insp!re) lab.

Claire Needham

Claire Needham

OTD Resident
Claire completed both her Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience and her Master of Arts in Occupational Therapy from the University of Southern California. Claire’s past experiences in nannying, tutoring children with learning disabilities, and teaching dance lessons to young children led her to focus on pediatric occupational therapy during the master’s program. She is interested in how the mind-body connection plays a pivotal role in everyday occupations. After completing a level II fieldwork in Denver, Colorado at a pediatric outpatient clinic focusing on neurodevelopmental diagnoses, Claire grew even more passionate about working with this population. The Insp!re lab fosters her interests in sensory processing, neurodevelopment, and qualitative research.

Claire’s favorite occupations: running, drawing, reading novels, traveling, listening to crime podcasts, and spending time with her family.

Elizabeth Nye

Elizabeth Nye

OTD Resident
Elizabeth completed her Bachelor of Science in Psychology at the University of Washington, where she focused on development and family adjustment, and her Master of Arts in Occupational Therapy at the University of Southern California, with a curriculum centered on sensory integration. During her second year in the MA program, Elizabeth supported a systematic review to comprehensively define parent responsiveness and gained a deeper appreciation for the importance of family-centered and collaborative practice. She has fieldwork experience working in perinatal mental health and outpatient pediatric contexts and her research interests include social & sensory development, early screening, and parent-child relationships.

Elizabeth’s favorite occupations: hiking, swimming, dancing, spending time with her cat, playing games, and being around loved ones.

Liz Phelps

Liz Phelps

OTD Resident
Liz is an OTD resident in the insp!re lab and the project coordinator for the Sensory Processing and Autism Network. She earned a BA in Child Development from Tufts University and recently graduated from USC with a MA in Occupational Therapy. In the time between her degrees, Liz put her undergraduate degree to excellent use as a nanny. While nannying for a child with sensory processing challenges, she discovered the field of OT and fell in love with the problem solving that is innate to the profession. Liz has a passion for advocacy and plans to be active OT professional organizations to support policy changes throughout her career.

Liz’s favorite occupations: Board games with family and friends, walking her dogs while listening to a great podcast, swimming, Pilates, and sewing — currently making masks!

Cindy Teow

Cindy Teow

OTD Resident
Cindy earned her Diploma in Occupational Therapy from Nanyang Polytechnic Singapore, BSc Occupational Therapy from Singapore Institute of Technology — Trinity College Dublin, and her Master of Arts degree in Occupational Therapy from USC. Cindy has completed the USC Chan Sensory Integration Continuing Education Certificate Program in 2022. Cindy’s main research interests relate to sensory integration, child participation in daily occupations, family centered practice and relationship based approaches.

Cindy considers it a joy working with and serving families of children with developmental disabilities. Having worked in an outpatient pediatric clinic in the largest children’s hospital in Singapore for about eight years, Cindy designed self-regulation group programs for kindergarten children, and held workshops for caregivers on topics like behavior management, handwriting and play skills. Cindy’s research experiences include leading a multi-site RCT to investigate the effects of social skills curriculum on typically developing kindergarten children, and conducting other service evaluation projects within the clinic.

Cindy’s favourite occupations: Brewing and savoring coffee, rock climbing, brush calligraphy, running, hiking and spending quality time with her loved ones.

Kayla Brown

Kayla Brown

Research Assistant
Kayla is a master’s student in the occupational therapy program and a research assistant in the insp!re lab. She has a BS in health promotion and disease prevention and a double minor in occupation science and the dynamics of early childhood from USC. During her undergraduate experience, she gained 4 years of experience in early childhood education as a Head Start preschool aide and 2 years of research experience. Kayla’s professional interests lie in early intervention for children with ASD and feeding therapy.

Kayla’s favorite occupations: engaging in crafts, cooking, exploring new restaurants, hiking, walking her dog, and playing board games with her friends and family.

April Flores

April Flores

Student Worker
April is currently a student in the Entry-Level OTD program at USC and previously received her Bachelor’s of Science in General Biology from the University of California, San Diego. While studying there, she worked on several research projects involving neurodegeneration in Huntington’s disease within Albert La Spada’s lab at Sanford Consortium. She has spent many summers enjoying her time volunteering for the Muscular Dystrophy Association as a camp counselor and unit leader. Here, April discovered her passion for working with children with disabilities, including MD and ASD. She was drawn to the insp!re lab due to her interests in Sensory Integration and early development.

April’s favorite occupations: Home DIY projects, watching TV and movies, tennis, painting, reading, rollerblading, and playing softball and board games with her family.

Stephanie Magana

Stephanie Magana

Student Worker
Stephanie received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara and is currently pursing her Doctorate of Occupational Therapy at USC. Prior to joining the Insp!re lab, she dedicated her work experience to helping to support children with ASD and other neurodevelopmental disorders through various roles, including a school-based ABA therapist and program director for an after-school learning center. Her research interests in early development, sensory processing, and ASD brought her to the Insp!re lab, which she is honored to be a part of. She also holds a deep passion for health equity and aspires to help expand occupational therapy services to underserved communities.

Stephanie’s favorite occupations: Traveling, hiking, going to the beach, making healthy recipies taste delicious, and spending time family, friends and her 3 huskies.