Kari Sassu, Ph.D., NCSP, is the Director of the Center of Excellence on Autism Spectrum
Disorders and an Associate Professor in the Counseling and School Psychology department.
Dr. Sassu has been a faculty member at SCSU since January of 2010, having taught in
the CSP department and served as the Coordinator of School Psychology. Prior to her
appointment as the Center’s Director, Dr. Sassu served as the Coordinator of Development
in the Center for two years, during which time she contributed to the development
of workshops and training modules for school-based personnel who work with students
with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Dr. Sassu has worked with individuals with
ASDs in public schools and private settings, conducting assessments, developing individualized
plans, and providing supports that capitalize on individual strengths. Over the course
of her career, Dr. Sassu has had the opportunity to serve diverse populations in varied
settings. Her professional experience includes service as a public school psychology
practitioner in the K-12 setting, providing in-patient rehabilitation counseling to adult patients with dual diagnoses
in a residential setting, and conducting neuropsychological evaluations of children and young adults within
a practice of clinical psychologists. Dr. Sassu earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Psychological
Services, both from the University of Pennsylvania. She holds a Master’s degree and
Sixth Year Professional Diploma in School Psychology, both from the University of
Connecticut, a Sixth Year Professional Diploma in Educational Leadership from Southern
Connecticut State University, and a doctorate in Educational Psychology from the University
of Connecticut. She is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) and holds
certifications as both a school psychologist and a school administrator in the state
of Connecticut. Beyond her work in academia, Dr. Sassu serves her local community
as a member and the secretary of her town’s Board of Education. She is the mother
of three children, one of whom has an ASD.
Dr. Bean is a research scientist with the Center of Excellence on Autism Spectrum
Disorders at Southern CT State University. Her current research interests focus around
the knowledge and use of evidence-based practices used with students with ASD in our
CT schools. Additionally, she is interested in investigating supports at the college
level for individuals with ASD. She has presented at national conferences on the following
topics related to ASD: supports for families, technology used in classrooms, reading
interventions, and use and knowledge of evidence-based practices. She is also an Assistant
Professor in the Department of Special Education and Reading at SCSU. She is the Graduate
Coordinator and Area Coordinator for the Master’s Special Education Program Concentration
in Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Developmental Disabilities. Before joining
Southern Connecticut State University, she was a special educator in the public school
setting with children with ASD for ten years.
Dr. Meghan Brahm, BCBA, is an Assistant Professor at Southern Connecticut State University
in the Department of Special Education, teaching in the Autism Spectrum Disorders
and Applied Behavior Analysis concentrations, and is a Research Scientist in Center
of Excellence on ASD. Dr. Brahm completed her Ph.D. at the National University of
Ireland, Galway in Psychology and ABA in 2018. Her doctoral work focused on epidemiological
studies of ASD, including the evaluation of weight related maternal risk factors for
the development of ASD in offspring and the application of ABA to manage disordered
eating, pre-pregnancy. Dr. Brahm received her Master’s degree in 2012 from The University
of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut in special education, ASD and ABA after
completing her Bachelors in 2009 at Eastern Connecticut State University in Psychology,
focusing on psychology of childhood and adolescence and ABA. Dr. Brahm is a Board
Certified Behavior Analyst who has worked both domestically and internationally as
a practitioner and consultant across a multitude of settings, supervising evidence-based
interventions to support individuals with ASD and developmental disabilities of varying
ages. At current, Dr. Brahm’s work focuses on researching and delivering effective
training services to school-based personnel, families and community service providers
to increase the integrity with which evidence-based practices are used to support
individuals with ASD.
Barbara Cook, Ed.D., CCC-SLP, is a full time assistant professor in the Department
of Communication Disorders at Southern Connecticut State University. She is the co-advisor
of the Student Autism Awareness and Advocacy Club with Dr. Richard Zipoli and engages
on multiple committees and initiatives, focusing on supporting university students
with social communication challenges. As a member of the Center of Excellence on ASD
team, she supports the development of training and research initiatives with an emphasis
on the development of social communication, primarily in adolescents and adults.
Mark Groskreutz, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Research, is a Board
Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D) who has worked with individuals with ASDs in public
and private school settings, their homes, and vocational and community settings.
His experience has focused primarily on designing individualized social and educational
curricula, interventions for challenging behavior, classroom specific and district
wide professional development programs, and research studies based on the principles
of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).
Karen Meers, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LBA-CT is a Research Associate for the Center of Excellence on Autism
Spectrum Disorders. Dr. Meers brings experience in case management and transition planning. She has assisted individuals
with ASD in achieving independence through the development of self-determination,
goal setting, and both educational and vocational skills. She graduated from the University
of Connecticut with a Ph.D. in Adult and Vocational Education and is certified to
teach Special Education (K-12) in Connecticut. In addition to her work with individuals
with disabilities, Dr. Meers spent several years as a corporate trainer, training and development consultant,
and instructor for the business and higher education fields.
Deborah Puglia, M.S., Sixth Year Professional Certificate, brings to the center 36
years of experience as a special education teacher and administrator. Throughout her
career, Ms. Puglia has been active in the State Department of Education's BEST and TEAM
initiatives a s a mentor trainer, assessor, portfolio scorer and module scorer. Ms.
Puglia has led many professional development trainings for both teachers and paraprofessionals.
Her special area of interest is the transition of individuals with autism spectrum
disorders. Ms. Puglia serves as a trainer in the Center's professional development
Fred R. Volkmar
Fred R. Volkmar, M.D., is the Dorothy W. Goodwin Endowed Chair in Special Education.
He comes to Southern from his position as Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Psychiatry,
Pediatrics, and Psychology at Yale University, Child Study Center where he served
for eight years as Director of the Center. A graduate of the University of Illinois
and Stanford, Dr. Volkmar completed residency training in adult psychiatry and then
a Fellowship in Child Psychiatry at the Yale University's School of Medicine. He has
dedicated his career to understanding and treating children with developmental disorders
and is a leader in the field of autism research. He has served as a teacher and mentor
to many trainees some of whom are now leaders in the field. Dr. Volkmar's grants and
publications run just short of 100 pages in his CV. He is editor of the Journal of
Autism, a gifted clinician and teacher and his contributions have greatly improved
the lives of children suffering from developmental disorders and their families.
Bo Zamfir directs the Center for Educational and Assistive Technology at Southern
Connecticut State University and teaches as an adjunct faculty member in the Special
Education Department. As a member of the Center of Excellence on ASD team, he provides
assistive technology expertise and support. His current research interests focus on
the role of technology in supporting classroom instruction and he is finishing his
Doctorate in Educational Leadership with a dissertation on the role of pedagogy and
content on technology selection by faculty in higher education.
In Memory of James (Jim) Michael Granfield
February 16, 1951-July 28, 2010
Dr. James Granfield, former Co-Director of the Center, passed away in July of 2010.
As interim Dean of the Southern Connecticut State University School of Education,
Jim had the vision and the courage to support the concept of a Center of Excellence
that would serve individuals with autism spectrum disorders. An active member of the
08-5 study group, Jim contributed tremendous effort, knowledge and skill in acquiring
and evaluating the information needed to move ahead with initiatives to support the
ASD population in Connecticut. He enthusiastically embraced the concept of a Center
of Excellence; in fact, Jim would accept nothing short of "excellence" here at Southern.
Once the Center concept was developed into a specific framework with goals and objectives,
Jim worked tirelessly with the team to acquire federal funding to support the Center's
first year initiatives. Jim's presence and influence will remain with the Center for
many years to come.