The Early Achievements Team

The Early Achievements team brings diverse skills sets and knowledge that enable us to deliver highly effective professional development and achieve scientific rigor as we evaluate the efficacy of the Early Achievements intervention implemented by teachers in community preschool classrooms. We strive to provide feasible, adoptable, scalable, and effective professional development for teachers, child care providers, instructional assistants, coaches, and administrators. Through these professionals, we aim to improve outcomes for a diverse population of children who need extra support to achieve their potential during a formative period of brain development.

  • Rebecca Landa, Director, Principal Investigator, Developer of Early Achievements, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

    is the developer of Early Achievements (EA), and the Principal Investigator of the Institute of Educational Sciences (IES) grant funding the evaluation of the efficacy of the EA intervention. Her research focuses on early indicators of social and communication delay (including ASD), understanding learning processes in infants and toddlers with social and communication delays as well as those with neurotypical development, developing social and communication screening and assessment tools, developing innovative interventions for children with ASD and other delays, as well as translating effective interventions for feasibility and adoptability by community-based teachers. Her aim is to help children reach their fullest potential and to equip parents and practitioners with high-impact tools for promoting child development and well-being. Dr. Landa has been a leader in the field of developmental disabilities, and has served on many task forces and international consortia aimed at improving education and care of individuals with ASD and other developmental disorders. Dr. Landa is also on the advisory board for Parents Magazine.

  • Emily Baker, EA Coach, M.S.

    is an early intervention specialist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD). Emily received her undergraduate degree at Colgate University in psychology with a minor in educational studies. She obtained her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education from the Johns Hopkins University. She began working at CARD in 2007 and over the years has worked in numerous research studies applying Dr. Landa’s Early Achievements intervention principles in both clinic, home, and community-based settings with parents, teachers, child care providers, and early intervention specialists. Her role on the Early Achievements team is to provide professional development to teachers being trained in the Early Achievements model.

  • Julie Feuerstein, EA Coach, Coordinator, PhD, CCC-SLP

    is a speech language pathologist and post-doctoral research fellow at the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders. Julie obtained her degree in speech-language pathology from Boston University. As an early intervention speech-language pathologist, Julie provided innovative intervention, integrating augmentative and alternative communication support, with young children with autism spectrum disorders who were minimally verbal. Driven by empirical questions about how to best bring research evidence into clinical practice, Julie pursued a doctoral degree in speech and hearing sciences from the University of Washington. She is working with Dr. Rebecca Landa on adapting the Early Achievements intervention model for implementation by teachers in early childhood and education settings. This work is poised to bring the very best in evidence-based instructional practices to teachers who support young children with communication and social language delays in inclusive, community-based child care settings.

  • Alex McKenzie, Database Manager, M.S.

    is the database manager at Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders. He provides technical support to the informatics and data teams related to data flow, input and capture. This work is essential to our ability to organize data for rapid and efficient data summarization and preparation for statistical analysis.

  • Dana Herman, Research Manager, M.S.

    is a research manager at Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders. She completed her Masters in Clinical and Community Counseling at Johns Hopkins University. She has over 15 years of experience in working with children with autism spectrum disorders and their families through a combination of research and clinical practice. Dana has worked on Dr. Landa’s research team since 2005. She was involved in the first randomized clinical trial of the Early Achievements model, and has worked on subsequent intervention studies in public school and childcare settings. Ms. Herman conducts assessments of children participating in Dr. Landa’s Early Achievements research endeavors, and plays a research managerial role.

  • Christine Reiner Hess, Research Psychologist, PhD

    is a research psychologist at Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders. She completed her doctorate in Applied Developmental Psychology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Dr. Hess is a licensed psychologist in Maryland. Her areas of expertise are in child development and assessment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and related disorders in young children. One of her research interests involves developmental processes related to temperament in infants and toddlers at high and low risk for ASD. She has over 17 years of experience in working with children with ASD and/or other neurodevelopmental difficulties and their families through a combination of research and clinical practice. Dr. Hess has worked on Dr. Landa’s research team since 2006. She conducts research assessments of children participating in the Early Achievements intervention research program.

  • Hillary Stalknecht, Research Assistant, B.S.

    is a research assistant at the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders. Hillary received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Psychology and is currently working on her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology at Loyola University Maryland. Since 2014, Hillary has been a part of Dr. Landa’s research team and is mostly involved with community-based research projects. Currently, Hillary collects data in school classrooms for the randomized controlled trial of the Early Achievements model funded by the federal Institute of Educational Sciences. Upon completion of her Master’s degree, Hillary hopes to continue to work with children with autism spectrum disorders and their families in a therapeutic setting.

  • Carrie Roylance, Achievements Supervisor, MS, CCC-SLP

    is a speech-language pathologist and supervisor of the Achievements program at Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders. She received her Master’s degree in speech-language pathology from Vanderbilt University. Carrie came to the Achievements program as a graduate student in 2003 and has now worked in the program for over 13 years, during which time she has been fortunate enough to observe first-hand the relationship between research and clinical practice and the resulting benefits to programming in the implementation of the Achievements intervention in a clinical setting. Carrie enjoys combining her experience with the Early Achievements model with involvement in implementation science in order to impact more children and the educators invested in their future.

  • Anne-Michelle Engelstad, EA Coach, M.Ed.

    is a research coordinator at the Kennedy Krieger Institute's Center for Autism and Related Disorders. Anne-Michelle studied Special Education and Child Studies at Vanderbilt University and obtained her Masters of Education from Harvard University, studying the interdisciplinary field of Mind, Brain, and Education. As an Early Achievements coach, Anne-Michelle helps to bridge the gap between research and practice.

  • Kathryn J.Greenslade, EA Coach, Coordinator, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

    is completing her postdoctoral fellowship in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, with a placement at the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders. Dr. Greenslade obtained her Masters of Science in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences at the University of Arizona, and her Ph.D. in Speech and Hearing Sciences at the University of Washington.

  • Eileen Swanekamp, Coordinator, M.S.

    is the research coordinator for the Early Achievements efficacy trial funded by the IES at the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders. Upon graduating from Washington College, Eileen worked as a clinical researcher with the Psychiatric Neuroimaging Department at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine. She received a Masters of Science from Johns Hopkins University in Early Childhood Special Education, also earning certificates in the Education of Students with Autism and Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders and as an Early Intervention/Preschool Special Education Specialist. After working as an early childhood interventionist and special educator with Baltimore City Public Schools, Eileen is performing research coordination activities, coding data collected in the schools, and supporting the research team in many aspects of data acquisition process.

  • Madiha Tahseen, Data Manager, Ph.D.

    is a research coordinator, focused on data management in Dr. Landa's research laboratory, at the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders. Dr. Tahseen received her doctorate in Applied Developmental Psychology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Although her specialization is in adolescent development with a focus on immigrant cultural contexts, she became acutely aware of the stigma surrounding seeking services for children with developmental delays among these contexts. Thus, she sought out Dr. Landa’s lab to obtain experience and exposure to the study of developmental delays and to learn how to alleviate the stigma that surrounds atypical development among immigrant communities. Dr. Tahseen’s role in Early Achievements is to oversee the data management systems and staff. One of the most fulfilling aspects of being involved in the Early Achievements intervention projects is contributing to a powerful model of translating research into instructional practice that directly serves the community.

  • Jessica Blaker, M.S., CCC-SLP,

    is a speech-language pathologist and supervisor of the Early Achievements program at Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD). She received her master’s degree at Loyola University Maryland and subsequently completed her clinical fellowship year at CARD where she has remained with a specialized focus in early intervention services. In addition to leading and managing the Early Achievements program, Jessie is actively involved in many of CARD’s clinical services such as diagnostic team evaluations, individual treatment, and parent training programs.