Tanya Paparella, Ph.D.

Work Titles
UCLA Director, Early Childhood Partial Hospitalization Program Health Sciences Clinical Professor, Center for Autism Research and Treatment (CART) Health Sciences Clinical Professor, Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior Member, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Academic Experience:
2000 - University of California, Los Angeles, Fellow
Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles
M.A., Rutgers University, 1996
M.A., Rutgers University, 1992
B.A., University of Cape Town, 1986
Certification Type:
California Board of Psychology, Clinical Psychologist

Contact Information:

Fax Number:


Work Phone Number:


Mailing Address:

Semel Insitute, 760 Westwood Plaza, Room 78-215
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Detailed Biography:

Dr. Tanya Paparella is a specialist in the field of autism with more than 20 years of intervention and research with children on the autism spectrum. She is currently a Clinical Professor in the Division of Child Psychiatry at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), a licensed clinical psychologist, and since 2001 Director of KidsConnect Child Autism Treatment Program (formerly the Early Childhood Partial Hospitalization Program) which is an internationally recognized treatment program for young children with autism.

Dr. Paparella holds separate master’s degrees in Special Education and Counseling Psychology from Rutgers University, New Jersey, and a BA from the University of Cape Town where she majored in Psychology and French. She also holds a higher education teaching diploma from what is now the University of Johannesburg and prior to coming to the US was tenured faculty at the National School of the Arts, Johannesburg where she taught French. Other spoken languages include Italian and Afrikaans.

Dr. Paparella’s formative years in autism intervention were at the Douglas Developmental Disabilities Center at Rutgers University from 1990 to 1996, where she designed, implemented, and evaluated educational programs for children on the autism spectrum. Dr. Paparella received her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from UCLA and completed a two-year National Institute of Mental Health postdoctoral fellowship in the UCLA Division of Child Psychiatry.

Dr. Paparella oversees the daily activities of ECPHP staff and is actively involved in the comprehensive evaluation and treatment of children with autism from 18 months to four years of age. She works closely with parents to support and educate them in all aspects of their child's treatment. Dr. Paparella provides ongoing clinical instruction for students, interns, and M.D. fellows from different specialties. Her clinical and research interests relate to the effectiveness of early intervention, particularly with respect to predictors of best outcome for young children on the autism spectrum. She has authored many scientific publications as well as the book "More Than Hope".

Degrees and Licenses

Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Ph.D.(Educational Psychology), M.Ed. (Counseling), M.Ed. (Special Education), PGD.Ed.

Funding and Grants

Co-Investigator for:
Joint Engagement in Infants at Risk for ASD: Integrating Treatment with Biomarkers. ACE Program Project Grant.
Optimizing Social and Communication Outcomes for Toddlers with Autism.ACE Program Project Grant.
Longitudinal Follow-Up and Extension Of Joint Attention and Symbolic Play Intervention. CPEA Program Project Grant.
First Proposition 10 Initiative.Multimedia and technology for providing instruction, resources,and materials for young children with autism.

In The News


For young children with autism, directing attention boosts language



More Than Hope: For Young Children On The Autism Spectrum

Autism expert's new book empowers parents to get involved in their child's development


A selected list of publications:

Freeman, S. F. N., Paparella, T., Kim, J., Whelan, F., Hellemann, G., & Forness, S.   Brief report: Therapy participation and behavioral, social, and adaptive symptom presentation in children with autism spectrum disorder, Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 2018; 53(4): 428-437.
Jeste, S. S., Kirkham, N., Senturk, D., Hasenstab, K., Sugar, C., Kupelian, C., Baker, E., Sanders, A. J., Shimizu, C., Norona, A., Paparella, T., Freeman, S. F. N., Johnson, S. P.   Electrophysiological evidence of heterogeneity in visual statistical learning in young children with ASD. , Developmental Science, 2015; 18: 90-105.
Paparella, T., & Freeman, S.   Methods to improve joint attention in young children with autism: a review, Pediatric Health, Medicine and Therapeutics, 2015; 6(May19): 65-78.
Kasari, C.; Gulsrud, A.; Paparella,T.; Hellemann, G.; Berry, K.   Randomized Comparative Efficacy Study of Parent-Mediated Interventions for Toddlers With Autism. , Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2015; 554-563.
Paparella, T., & Lavelle, L.   More Than Hope: For Young Children On The Autism Spectrum, [e-book version], 2013; .
Kim, J.; Freeman, S.; Paparella, T. & Forness, S.   Five-Year Follow-up of Preschoolers with Autism and Comorbid Psychiatric Disorders. , Behavioral Disorders, 2012; 38: 57-70.
Scheflen, S., Freeman, S. & Paparella, T.   Using video modeling to teach young children with autism developmentally appropriate play and connected speech. , Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 2012; 47(3): 302-318.
Kasari, C; Gulsrud, A; Freeman, S; Paparella, T. & Hellemann, G.   Longitudinal Follow Up of Children with ASD Receiving Targeted Interventions on Joint Attention and Play Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2012; 51(5): 487-495.
Paparella, T. & Lavelle, L.   More Than Hope for Young Children on the Autism Spectrum QLL, 2012; 1-170.
Forness, S., Freeman, S., Paparella, T., Kauffman, J. & Walker, H. M.   Special education implications of point and cumulative prevalence for children with emotional or behavioral disorders Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 2012; 20(1): 4-18.
Freeman, S., Begum, G., Hayashida, K. and Paparella, T.   Social Skill Activities for Teachers of Young Children with Autism, Other Developmental Disabilities, and Typical Children: An Easy Curriculum for Improving Social Behaviors in the Classroom, DRL Books Inc, 2011; 1-251.
Paparella, T., Stickles Goods , K., Freeman, S. & Kasari, C.   The emergence of joint attention and requesting skills in young children with autism Journal of Communication Disorders, 2011; 44: 569-583.
Hayashida, K., Anderson, B., Freeman, S., Paparella, T., & Forness, S.   Comorbid psychiatric diagnoses in preschoolers with autism spectrum disorders Behavioral Disorders, 2010; 35: 243-254.
Freeman, S. F. N. & Paparella, T.   Autism Intervention Research: From the Reviews to Implications for Practice, In R. M. Hodapp (Ed.), International Review of Research in Mental Retardation, 2009; 38: 195-238.
Kasari, C., Paparella, T. & Freeman, S. F.   Language outcome in autism: Randomized comparison of joint attention and play interventions Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2008; 76(1): 125-137.
Gulsrud, A. C., Kasari, C., Freeman, S., Paparella, T.   Children with autism's response to novel stimuli while participating in interventions targeting joint attention or symbolic play skills Autism, 2007; 6(11): 535-546.
Wong, C., Kasari, C., Freeman, S. F., & Paparella.   The Acquisition and generalization of joint attention and symbolic play skills in young children with autism Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 2007; 32(2): 101-109.
Kasari, C., Freeman, S. F. & Paparella, T.   Joint attention and symbolic play in young children with autism: A randomized controlled intervention study Journal of Psychology and Psychiatry, 2006; 47(6): 611-620.
Forness, S.R., Freeman, S. F. & Paparella, T.   Recent randomized clinical trials comparing behavioral interventions and psychopharmacologic treatments for school children with EBD Behavioral Disorders, 2006; 31(3): 284-296.
Kasari, C., Freeman, S., Paparella, T., Wong, C., Kwon, S. & Gulsrud, A.   Early intervention on core deficits in autism Clinical Neuropsychiatry, 2005; 2(6): 380-388.
Paparella, T & Kasari, C.   Joint attention in special needs populations: A review Infants and Young Children, 2004; 17(3): 269-280.
Kasari, C., Freeman, S. F. N. & Paparella, T.   Early Intervention in Autism: Joint Attention and Symbolic Play In L. M. Glidden (Ed.), Autism: International Review of Research in Mental Retardation, 2001; 23: 207-237.

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