Initiative for Girls and Women with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Welcome to the Initiative for Girls and Women with Autism Spectrum Disorders at the Yale Child Study Center, supported by a gift from Marilyn and Jim Simons as well as other donors. We are in the 4th year of the Initiative, working to address the unique needs of girls and women with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Over the last ten years, ASD interventionists and researchers have begun to appreciate that the development of socialization and communication processes for girls and women is quite different from that of boys and men. Unfortunately, the research and intervention implications of these differences have not been systematically addressed for girls and women with ASDs. The Initiative is designed to address these communication and socialization differences through recreational and communal activities. These activities allow our participants to pursue their particular interests and leisure activities in a safe and supportive environment.

The purposes of the Initiative are:

  1. To understand the unique needs of teens and young women with ASDs;
  2. To promote social development through recreational and communal activities and to measure gains in social development, a sense of personal competency and self-worth;
  3. To educate others and inspire research regarding the unique profile and needs of girls with ASDs.

Does your daughter suffer with anxiety?

Dr. Denis Sukhodolsky, Associate Professor in the Child Study Center, is working to understand how anxiety impacts children and teens with ASD.   Dr. Sukhodolsky is conducting a study of the efficacy of treating anxiety with cognitive-behavioral therapy in children with ASD, ages 8 to 14 years.  Dr. Sukhodolsky is an expert with regard to treating aggression and anxiety in children with autism, Tourette's syndrome, ADHD, Disruptive Behavior Disorder and Intellectual Disabilities.   More information about Dr. Sukhodolsky can be found at:  If you believe your daughter is dealing with excessive anxiety, hampering her ability to function in school, in the community or at home, Dr. Sukhodolsky and his team can help. If you have questions about the study, you can contact Ms. Tess Gladstone at 203 737 7662  or Dr. Denis Sukhodolsky at 203 785  6446.     A flyer that describes this research study can be downloaded here.

Intervention research shows that girls benefit....

Dr. Pam Ventola, Assistant Professor at the Yale Child Study Center, is finishing up a study that shows that girls with autism between the ages of four to nine years responded very well, and better than boys with autism of comparable age, to four months of intervention. The intervention is Pivotal Response Therapy, which teaches children with autism to interact with others through the medium of play.   A full description of Dr. Ventola's work can be found at


Play group for Preschoolers

Kelly Powell, Ph.D. will be leading a 6-week play group for girls between the ages of 3.5 and 5 years with ASD. Ideally, the group will include 5 girls, 2 of which will be identified as peer models. Activities such as free play, arts and crafts, snack time, movement activities, and stories will be utilized to promote social communication and play development. The model for intervention is based on Pamela Wolfberg's Integrated Play Groups® model. Please contact Kelly K. Powell, PhD at if interested. 

Photography Class: A visual narrative of your life

Photography offers those who may be challenged with regard to verbal skills an opportunity to express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas as well as create a narrative about their lives--empowering them to view their life experiences as a story.

We anticipate a group of between 6-10 preteens, meeting weekly for about 90 minutes this spring, to learn about photography, take photos, share photos from their lives, and work on creating a visual narrative of their experience.  We plan to do 6-8 sessions and perhaps hold an exhibit at the conclusion of our program. 

The program will be led by Allie Horick, a post graduate fellow in the Child Study Center, and I will be leading the program. Allie is an accomplished photographer who has worked with school age students during 2015-2016 as the Robinson Child and Family Resilience post-baccalaureate fellow at the University of the South.

Girl's Night Out: Promoting self-care, building relationships, and self - advocacy

Girl's Night Out is a program designed by Rene Jamison, Ph.D, who is an Associate Clinical Professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center. The program entails weekly meetings with teens to have fun and learn new skills to help them grow into adulthood with a strong sense of self. In a small group setting we talk about the issues that matter to us, whether it is friendships, intimate relationships, appearance, feeling confident, dealing with school and hopes for the future.  Some speakers come to talk with us, and sometimes we go out, just for fun! Kelly Powell, PhD,  and Kathy Koenig, MSN lead GNO at Yale.  

ArtworXX: Art classes at the Yale Center for British Art

ArtworXX is an art class we designed taught by artist and Assistant Curator for Education Jaime Ursic, M.A. A graduate of Yale University School of Art, she has taught around the country and exhibited throughout the US and Europe. Teens who are interested come together on Saturdays at the Yale Center for British Art to create their own artwork, using different media including pen and ink, charcoal, pencils, acrylics and more. We tour the galleries together and learn about how artists have thought about the world and created their art, and then we create our own! 

Snapp Space: A social networking application for the smartphone

During this past year, we have been developing a social networking application called YaleSNAPP Space, which allows participants (16 and over) to connect to a private community to read about topics such as health and social life and about news and information to help them thrive. Challenges are built into the app; these are opportunities to read or do something healthy and wellness-promoting. After completing the challenges, participants will earn tokens which can be traded for small prizes. For research purposes, we are able to collect information including the frequency and intensity of participants’ use of the application and the degree to which they chat and engage in planning social activities. We are piloting the project with ten women this spring, 2017, and will conduct a large, randomized controlled trial examining the impact of Snapp Space on socialization and mental health. This project is a joint effort of Marilena Mademtzi, Ph.D., Hilibrand Fellow at the Yale Child Study Center, Fred Shic, Ph. D., Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, and Kathy Koenig, MSN, Director of the Initiative for Girls and Women with ASD at the YCSC.  The program was modeled after MomBa, a networking application designed to support mothers and families living in New Haven. The program was created by Dr. Megan Smith, who is an Associate Professor in the Yale School of Medicine and Director of the New Haven Outreach for Moms Partnership.  Dr. Smith and Dr. Linda Mayes, Chair of the Yale Child Study Center, have created the New Haven Mental Health Outreach for Mothers (MomS) Partnership, and have been using MomBa to engage families in healthy living and promoting wellness for all members of the family.  Our team has worked closely with Dr. Smith and Dr. Mayes to learn how to adapt their innovative program to meet the needs of young women with ASD. We look forward to an ongoing and fruitful collaboration. 

Felicity House: A home for women with ASD in NYC


Felicity House is a private community space devoted to women on the autism spectrum -- a place where women can express themselves freely and seek connection and learning that will help them lead successful lives.  Felicity House was conceived by a young woman who has devoted time and thought to the needs of young women with autism spectrum disorders, and realized that women with this set of challenges need a place where they can meet, socialize, create, learn and laugh.... a place where they can thrive.  We are pleased to introduce you to Felicity House, which shares our objective of promoting community through social and recreational activities for our young women. 


Check out Felicity House at


Kathy Koenig


Initiative Leadership

Check the list of the primary members and for information on the advisory board.