Leading the Vanguard: Laura Corona

Laura Corona headshot

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) member Laura Corona, Ph.D., is assistant professor of Pediatrics. Her training and professional practice have focused on developmental and child clinical psychology, with a particular emphasis on autism spectrum disorder (ASD). She has specialized training in the assessment and identification of ASD across the lifespan, and she has been involved in the delivery and dissemination of best practice services for individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities, together with their families and educators.

In the interview below, Corona shares what inspires her research in developmental disabilities, what she has learned through her work, and how membership with the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center helps her achieve her goals.

Tell me about your attraction to developmental disabilities research. Do you have a personal connection to disability?

I have been involved in developmental disabilities research and service since college, starting with a semester-long practicum in an elementary school supporting children with developmental differences and mental health needs. My grandmother was a special education teacher, and I have always wanted to support children and families.

What are your current research interests and what problem(s) or challenge(s) does it address?

My current research focuses on using telemedicine to assess for autism (i.e., autism spectrum disorder; ASD) in young children. Many families experience challenges to accessing early evaluation for autism, and early identification is so important, in that it opens doors to interventions and supports that can change the trajectory of children’s social communication skills. Tele-assessment allows families to see a provider more quickly, without traveling long distances, and within their own homes. We are confident that we can accurately identify autism in toddlers via tele-assessment. Our main questions now are related to identifying for whom tele-assessment works well and for whom it might not work well, as well as learning how we can optimize the tele-assessment experience for families.

Do you have a story about a research participant or a breakthrough that illustrates the impact of your work?

In the past few months, several research participants have shared similar stories with me – they, as parents or caregivers, have long noticed differences in their child’s development, and they expressed relief at having the opportunity to have their concerns heard and validated in a way that moved them toward next steps for their child.

What are your reasons for becoming a Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) Member? How does the VKC enhance the work you do?

Being part of the VKC and the Treatment & Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD) has given me the opportunity to work with and learn from so many colleagues who truly care about one another and the work we do and who also share a vision and philosophy centered around supporting all people to be the best versions of themselves.

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