Nisonger Autism Institute 2013 Bios
Autism Across the Lifespan
Biographical Profiles of Presenters
Marsha R. Mailick, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Marsha R. Mailick is the Principal Investigator of the Waisman Center’s Core Grant from the NICHD, which currently is in its 46th year of funding. The focus of her research is on the life course impacts of developmental disabilities on the family. She is interested in how lifelong caregiving affects the well-being of parents and siblings of individuals with disabilities, including autism, Down syndrome, schizophrenia, and fragile X syndrome. In addition, she has studied how the family environment affects the development of individuals with disabilities during adolescence and adulthood.
Mailick’s research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1990. She is currently Principal Investigator of five grants: a 12-year longitudinal study of families of autism during adolescence and adulthood (funded by the NIA), research on a demographically representative sample of parents of individuals with developmental disabilities (funded by the NIA), a study of quality of life of adults with autism (funded by Autism Speaks), a study of family adaptation to fragile X syndrome (FXS; funded by the NICHD), an epidemiological study of the premutation of FXS (funded by the Centers for Disease Control). She is also collaborating on a 20-year follow up of families of older adults with Down syndrome.
Together, these studies offer specific insights about parenting a child with a disability, revealing both the stresses of this challenge and the resiliency of parents who cope successfully. In addition, her studies more generally address child effects on parents, revealing the bi-directional and reciprocal influences of parents and children on their unfolding and intersecting development across the life course.
Tamar Heller, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago
Tamar Heller is professor and head of the Department of Disability and Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and director of its University Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities for the State of Illinois. She also directs the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging with Developmental Disabilities: Lifespan Health and Function and the Institute’s Family Clinics, and the TAP autism training program. She has active projects on family support and health promotion interventions for individuals with disabilities. Dr. Heller has written over 200 publications and presented numerous papers at major conferences on family support interventions and policies, self-determination, health promotion, and aging of people with disabilities.
Heller has written or co-edited five books and has edited special issues of Technology and Disability, American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, and Family Relations. She is past president of the board of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities. In 2005 she was Senator Obama’s delegate to the White House Conference on Aging. As a co-founder of the national Sibling Leadership Network, she is a member of its executive board. Her awards include the 2009 Autism Ally for Public Policy Award of The Arc/The Autism Program of Illinois; the 2008 Lifetime Research Achievement Award, International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual Disabilities, Special Interest Group on Aging and Intellectual Disabilities; the 2009 Community Partner Award of Community Support Services, the 2010 Outstanding Researcher Award in the UIC College of Applied Health Sciences, and the 2012 International Award of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities.
Jessica A. Hellings, MD, The Ohio State University
Jessica A. Hellings a medical doctor’s degree in 1978 from Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, South Africa, followed by a residency and master’s degree in psychiatry (M.Med.Psych.S.A.) in 1988. Dr. Hellings completed the child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship training at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Since then, she was director of Neuropsychiatry for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. In 2012 Hellings was hired as director of the Dual Diagnosis Program at Nisonger Center and associate professor of psychiatry at The Ohio State University. Hellings has been recognized with many honors and awards, including Jayhawk Resident of the Year, KUMC, and a K08 Award from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). She has also been a reviewer on the study section of NIMH.
Hellings has earned many grants exploring the effects of antipsychotics and other psychotropic medications on aggression in children, adolescents and adults diagnosed with intellectual/developmental disabilities and autism. Her primary research interests include the biology, phenomenology, psychopharmacology and behavioral pharmacology of aggressive and destructive behavior, and mood disorders in persons diagnosed with intellectual/developmental disabilities and autism. In addition, she is interested in promoting improved standards of care and mental health parity for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Together with her considerable interests and involvement with research and publication and presentation of results, Dr. Hellings maintains clinical and teaching activities. She is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a member of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She is also an active member of the American Association of University Women, most recently as a fundraising chair, and is interested in women’s issues in general as well as in academia.
Tom Fish, PhD, LISW, The Ohio State University, and sibling panel
Tom Fish is the Nisonger Center director of Social Work and Family Support Services including community inclusion, adult literacy, social support, and transition for adolescents and young adults with disabilities and their families. Fish is a board member of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio. He is the founder of the Next Chapter Book Club, a community literacy and friendship program with over 80 clubs throughout the country. Dr. Fish was a recipient of a Mary Switzer Research Fellowship from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research for his work on attitudes of families of youth with disabilities toward transition from school to adult life.