Researchers News and Events


The Westchester Institute for Human Development (WIHD) is a member of a national network of University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD). As a UCEDD, WIHD is authorized under the federal Developmental Disabilities Act to promote the independence, productivity and community inclusion of people with developmental disabilities. This is achieved under four core functions of UCEDDs.


  • Interdisciplinary pre-service preparation and continuing education of students and fellows
  • Community services, including training, technical assistance, and/or demonstration and model activities
  • Research
  • Dissemination of information

Accordingly, WIHD conducts basic and applied research, evaluation, and the analysis of public policy related to individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD), vulnerable children and their families.

Areas of Interest

Below are selected areas of interest among researchers at WIHD. Please email any faculty listed with inquiries.
For other research interests, contact our Director of Research & Dissemination, Patricia A. Patrick, DrPH

Accessibility for Individuals with I/DD
Accessibility for individuals with disabilities is a global best practice. Researchers at WIHD explore ways to improve the accessibility and usability of community resources. Access features may include physical space, furniture, equipment, or materials designed specifically for individuals with I/DD.
Researchers in this area:
Patricia A. Patrick, DrPH
Katie Borras, MS
Karen Edwards, MD, MPH

Assistive Technology Among Individuals with I/DD 
Assistive technology offers the opportunity to aid individuals with I/DD to increase the control of their environment, to enhance their ability to perform daily living activities, to improve their communication and learning skills, to broaden their access to information, and to be active and informed health care consumers.
Researchers in this area:
David M. O’Hara, PhD
Patricia A. Patrick, DrPH

Children in the Child Welfare System Who Have Experienced Trauma
Approximately 400,000 children are placed in out-of-home care each year. These children often have had previous exposures to trauma, which are exacerbated by placement instability and lack of permanency. WIHD faculty are exploring the efficacy of educational workshops that target caregivers to help them learn how to respond to behavioral and emotional challenges of children who have experienced trauma.
Researchers in this area:
Danielle Weisberg, LCSW
Linda Fettmann, LCSW

Children with Autism and Early Diagnosis
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological condition that impacts functioning in two broad areas, including social communication and restricted and repetitive behaviors, and manifests prior to the age of three. Faculty at WIHD are examining the stability of early ASD diagnosis (< 3 years) and the impact of such a diagnosis on functional characteristics at school age (> 7 years).
Researchers in this area:
Patricia Towle, PhD

Chronic Disease Management Among Individuals with I/DD
Individuals with I/DD but are at a greater risk of developing certain chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes given reduced physical activity, poor nutrition and obesity. Optimal management of diabetes requires self-management in terms of dietary selections, glucose monitoring and medication adherence. For many individuals with I/DD, however, optimum disease management is not achieved. Given the tremendous impact on health outcomes, including increased risk of complications and reduced quality of life, it is essential that these individuals and their caregivers learn optimal diabetes care. Researchers at WIHD are exploring educational interventions to improving self-management of diabetes and other diseases among individuals with I/DD.
Researchers in this area:
David M. O’Hara, PhD
Patricia A. Patrick, DrPH

Family Reunification After Foster Care
According to national standards, no more than 8.6% of children discharged from foster care should return to care within one year. Factors associated with foster care re-entry include: limited external support, poor parenting skills, limited knowledge of child development, having children with disabilities or socio-emotional problems, noncompliance with services, and length of stay in foster care. The Every Family Counts (EFC) Aftercare Program at WIHD is designed to support families in addressing these issues. Researchers are evaluating outcomes among families who have participated in EFC since 2009. If shown to be effective at reducing foster care re-entry and improving parenting skills, the program will be disseminated for widespread use.
Researchers in this area:
Jenean Castillo, PhD
Lillian Medina, LCSW, LMSW

Oral Health Among Individuals with I/DD
While over half of people with I/DD are estimated to have some form of periodontal disease, those with specific neurodevelopmental diagnoses such as Down syndrome are estimated to have periodontal disease rates as high as 96%. We are looking to find innovative ways to promote oral health education and self-care interventions to improve oral health outcomes and overall quality of life for adults with I/DD.
Researchers in this area:
David M. O’Hara, PhD
Patricia A. Patrick, DrPH

Promoting Self-Determination and Self-Advocacy Among Young Adults with I/DD
The development of self-determination and self-advocacy skills is essential for individuals with disabilities to lead rewarding and fulfilling lives.  Extensive research indicates that through the use of self-determined behavior, individuals with disabilities improve their outcomes regardless of disability type and demographics.  WIHD faculty are developing and testing ways to effectively promote self-determination and self-advocacy among young adults, including designing and implementing training programs and materials for educators and parents.
Researchers in this area:
Patricia A. Patrick, DrPH
John Maltby, MSW
Nicki Turano, LCSW
Naomi Brickel

Training of Caseworkers and Foster Parents in Caring for Individuals with I/DD
A significant percentage of youth in foster care are diagnosed with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. WIHD faculty are working to increase the training of caseworkers and foster parents to support and understand the specific needs of children and youth with disabilities.  The goal is to improve outcomes among children (increase placement stability and reduce time in child welfare system) as well as among foster parents and caseworkers (reduce everyday stress and job burnout).
Researchers in this area:
Trupti Rao, PsyD
Beth Reiman, PhD, LCSW

Transition Services Among Individuals with I/DD
Transition services focus on promoting independent living among individuals with I/DD. These services assist with securing additional education, employment opportunities, and less restrictive living arrangements. While some individuals qualify for such services, others who would still benefit from such services do not. Faculty at WIHD are working to formulate ways to support a greater number of individuals with I/DD as they plan for adulthood and to encourage necessary policy changes to lawmakers.
Researchers in this area:
Patricia A. Patrick, DrPH
John Maltby, MSW

Resources and Product Library

Westchester Institute for Human Development addresses the needs of the community through professional education programs, technical assistance, research, and dissemination of information. CLICK HERE FOR THE RESOURCE AND PRODUCT LIBRARY

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View past LEND Trainees and Facility Research Team Projects [Click Here]

Peer Reviewed Publications

Carter, E., Asmus, J., Lequia, J., et al. (2016). Randomized evaluation of peer support arrangements to support the inclusion of high school students with severe disabilities. Exceptional Children, 82, 209-233.

Devinsky, O., Asato, M., Camfield. P., Kanner, A., Keller, S., Kerr, M., Kossoff, E., Lau, H., Kothare, S., Singh, B., Wirrell, E. (2015) Delivery of epilepsy care to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. American Academy of Neurology, 85, 1-10.

Edwards, K.S., Towle, P., Levitz, B. (2014). Incorporating Life Course Theory and Social Determinants of Health into the LEND Curriculum. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 18, 431-442.

Hahn, J.E., Fox, S., and Janicki, M.P.(2015) Aging Among Older Adults With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: Setting National Goals to Address Transitions in Health, Retirement, and Late-Life. Inclusion, 3 (4), 250-259.

Schwartz, A., Bacon, A., O’Hara, D., Davies, D., & Stock, S. (2013). Using cognitively accessible survey software to promote self-determination among people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Journal of Human Development, Disability and Social Change, 21(1), 17-28.

Towle, P.O., Patrick, P.A. (2016).  Autism spectrum disorder screening instruments for very young children: a systematic review.  Autism Research and Treatment, 2016.

Towle, P.O., *Vacanti-Shova, K., *Shah, S., & *Higgins-S’alessandro, A. (2013). School-Aged Functioning of Children Diagnosed with ASD Before Age Three: Parent-Reported Diagnostic, Adaptive, Medication, and School Placement Outcomes. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(6), 1357-1372.

Viezel, K.D., Freer, B., *Castillo, J. A. Lowell, A. (2015). Cognitive abilities of maltreated children. Psychology in the Schools, 52(1), 92-106.

White, A., Liberatos, P., O’Hara, D., Davies, D., & *Stock, S. (2013). Promoting self-determination in health for people with intellectual disabilities through accessible surveys of their health care experiences. Journal of Human Development, Disability and Social Change, 21(1), 29-38.

Book Chapters

O’Hara, D. (2016). Trends in using technology to achieve better health outcomes. In Health care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the lifespan. In  Rubin, I. L., Merrick, J., Greydanus. D. E. Patel, D. R. (Eds.) Springer International Publishing, Switzerland.

Web-Based Materials

Edwards, K., Havercamp, S., Cohen, L., O’Hara, D. (2012). Adult Health Case-based Modules: Module 1 Understanding Health and Health Promotion for People with ID.

Vitale, M., Levitz, M., Levitz, B., Borras, K., and Edwards, K. (2014). Taking Charge of My Health: Partners in Health Transition.


Lequia, J. Social acceptance of elementary school students with severe disabilities. TASH Annual Conference: St. Louis, MO, December, 2016.

Levitz, B., Goldfarb, F., Carlsen, A., Hernandez, J., Smith, M., DeMaio, S. Fabric Not Fringe: Weaving Family Involvement Strategies into LENDs and other Professional Disability Related Training Programs.  AUCD Annual Conference, Washington, DC, December, 2016.

Levitz, M., Borras, K. Taking Charge of My Health: Partners in Health Transition. Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered Conference, Oklahoma City, OK, October, 2014.

Rao, T. Providing Intensive, In-Home Supports to Parents with Intellectual Disabilities. The Association for Successful Parenting Innovative Partnership and Practice International Conference, Mystic, CT, October, 2013.

Smith, M., Levitz, M., Levitz, B., Felty, W., Wappett, M., and Brandt, J. Some Strategies on How University Centers Support Self-Advocacy Efforts. AUCD Annual Conference, Washington, DC, November, 2013.

Poster Presentations

*Ampil, A., Bar-Eli, R., *McDuffee, M., *Santos, C., Patrick, P.A.  Health Care Transition for Individuals with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities:  A Policy Brief.  AUCD Annual Conference, Washington, DC, December 2016.

*Anderson, A., *Charney, D., *Currao, L., McKenzie, T., *Torres, Y, Borras, K., Patrick, P.A.  Perspectives of Librarians and Staff on Public Library Accessibility for Individuals with Disabilities.  AUCD Annual Conference, Washington, DC, December 2016.

Davies, D.K., *Stock, S.E., Patrick, P.A., O’Hara, D.  Development and Evaluation of a Universally-Designed App to Support Self-Directed Diabetes Education And Self-Management for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities.  AUCD Annual Conference, Washington, DC, November 2015.

Endrikat, E., Viezel, K.D., & *Castillo, J. Posttraumatic symptomatology profiles of physically neglected children. National Association of School Psychologists Annual Convention, New Orleans, LA, February 2016.

Levitz, B., Vitale, M., Levitz, M., Borras, K and Edwards, K. Taking Charge of My Health: Partners in Health Transition New Website for Teens & Young Adults with I/DD and Families. AUCD Annual Conference, Washington, DC, November 2014.

*Marcus, E.H., Patrick, P.A., Edwards, K.S.  Teachers’ Awareness and Utilization of Existing and New Assistive Listening Technologies within a School Setting.  AUCD Annual Conference, Washington, DC, November 2015.

Towle, P.O., Patrick, P.A., *Hecht, E., *O’Sullivan, C., *Blumenthal, B., Noyes, D.M., Siegenthaler, K.  Autism Screening for the Youngest Children:  Emerging Instruments.  Annual Meeting of Autism CARES, Bethesda, MD, July 2015.

*Rao, T., *Cooney, C., *Kenny, A., *Stupak, N., and *Thai, M. Assistive Technology Applications to Support Parents with Intellectual Disabilities.  AUCD Annual Conference, Washington, DC, November 2014.

*Rao, T., Reiman, B., *Ausikaitis, A., *Blumenthal, B., Griffin, J. Exploring Perspectives and Needs of Child Welfare Caseworkers in their work with Children with Disabilities.  AUCD Annual Conference, Washington, DC, November 2015.

*Rao, T. Reiman, B., *Reynolds, C., *Short, A., *Tiwari, S., Traylor, D., & *To, S. Child Welfare caseworkers’ understanding of children with developmental disabilities.  AUCD Annual Conference, Washington, DC, December 2016.

Towle, P., *Ausikaitis, A., *Barkey, A., *Chlebowski, A., *Halvax, S., *Ho, J., Powers, T., *Srakhao, V.  Community-Based Early Intervention and School-Age Outcome of Children with ASD Early ASD Diagnoses.  AUCD Annual Conference, Washington, DC, December 2015.

Viezel, K. D., Davis, A. S., Miller. G. & *Castillo, J. Evaluating the Relationship between Visual-Motor Integration and Intelligence in Maltreated Children.  American Academy of Pediatric Neuropsychology Annual Conference, Chicago, IL, September, 2014.


Valuation of the Developmental Process of Children 0-3 Years in the Child Development Center
Trainees: Deane Martinez, Nataile Vera
Faculty: Annie Amador Alonso, PsyD, MSW, Maria N. Reyes, MSW
View Abstract       View Poster

Evaluating the Efficacy and Cost Efficiency of a Post-Foster Care Program
Trainees: Polly Appel, Adam Barkey, Kehli Woodruff
Faculty: Jenean Castillo, PhD, Lillian Medina, LCSW, LMSW
View Abstract       View Poster

Library Accessibility for Individuals with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities
Trainees: AJ Anderson, Danielle Charney, Lisa Currao, Yajaira Torres
Faculty: Lauren Kaplan, MSEd, Katie Borras, MS
View Abstract       View Poster

Transition to Adult Health Care: A Policy Brief
Trainees:Antonio Ampil, Rebecca Krauss, Maggie McDuffee, Claudette Santos
Faculty: Tricia Patrick, DrPH
View Abstract     View Poster

Exploring the Perspectives and Needs of Foster Care Caseworkers in their Work with Children with Disabilities
Trainees: Caitlin Reynolds, Alexis Short, Shruti Tiwari, Suvina To
Faculty: Trupti Rao, PsyD, Beth Reiman, PhD, LCSW
View Abstract      View Poster

Longitudinal Study of Children Diagnosed with ASD before Age Three
Trainees: Linda Byron Glucksman, Briana Mosquera, Ann Thomas, Nicole Turygin, Nori Williams
Faculty: Patricia Towle, PhD
View Abstract      View Poster