Research in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Lab

Lab Members

Principal Investigator

Audra Sterling, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Audra is interested in the language and cognitive development of individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders. In particular she is interested in the communication of children with fragile X syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, and Down syndrome. The long-term goals of her research seek to understand the contributions of both biology (as represented by genetic syndromes, e.g., FXS) and environment (as represented in this case by parenting) in the development of language and cognition in children with developmental disabilities. She is also interested how the premutation of FXS impacts language and cognition.

Current Members

Susen Schroeder, MS
Lab Manager

Susen received her master’s degree in communicative disorders from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has been working with families and children with developmental disorders at the Waisman Center for nearly 15 years. Additionally, she oversees various transcribing projects which leads her to ask fellow lab mates off the wall questions like “Do you consider paper plates to be one word or two?”

Nell Maltman
Postdoctoral Fellow

Nell is a T32 postdoctoral fellow with a PhD in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Northwestern University. Her work centers around links between speech and language, cognition, and underlying genetics (e.g., the FMR1 gene) across the lifespan. Additionally, she is interested in speech and language patterns within families of individuals with autism spectrum disorder and fragile X syndrome to better understand clinical variation and how genetic risk for these disorders affects phenotypic profiles.

Laura Friedman
Doctoral Student

Laura is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. She graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.A. in hearing and speech sciences, and completed her M.S. degree in speech-language pathology at UW-Madison. Laura’s research interests include language skills in adolescents and adults with neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder and fragile X syndrome. Specifically, Laura is interested in studying the broader impact of language skills on later outcomes throughout adulthood, including friendship development, employment status, and self-advocacy skills.

Emily Lorang is a PhD student in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department. Her research interests include investigating the complexities of communication profiles in people with developmental disabilities of genetic origins, such as in Down syndrome and fragile X syndrome, with or without comorbid autism spectrum disorders. Currently, Emily is working on a project exploring how both parenting and child behaviors affect language development in Down syndrome. In her free time, Emily enjoys biking, going to the farmer’s market, and spending time with friends and family.

Rebecca Willer
Graduate Student

Rebecca is currently a student in the master’s degree program for speech-language pathology. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee with a BS in Communication Sciences and Disorders and an Autism Spectrum Disorders Certificate. She has a passion for working with children with developmental disabilities, which is why she is excited to be a part of the RIDDL lab. In her free time, Rebecca enjoys hiking, reading, and spending time with friends and family.

Lily Beckers
Graduate Student

Lily is a graduate student in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. She graduated from UW-Madison with a B.A. with honors in Communication Sciences and Disorders with a certificate in Education and Educational Services. Her research interests include the self-perception of emotions in adolescent boys with autism and fragile X syndrome. She is excited to be involved in Project CASTLE, a training program that emphasizes the identification, intervention, and interdisciplinary nature of providing services to individuals with autism spectrum disorder. In her free time, Lily enjoys hiking, spending time with family, and going to brunch.

Kelsey Stimes
Undergraduate Student

Kelsey is an undergraduate student completing her degrees in Communication Sciences and Disorders, and Neurobiology, in December of 2020. Within the RIDDL lab, she is currently helping our doctoral students complete their projects by transcribing speech samples and assisting in data entry and analysis. She is also developing an independent research project that investigates joint attention ability and subsequent language in toddlers with Down Syndrome and possible comorbid autism spectrum disorder during play activities with their parents. After completing undergrad, she intends to complete her Masters of Science in Speech-Language Pathology and work with pediatric clients with speech and language disorders. In her spare time, Kelsey enjoys spending time with her family in Illinois and exploring the city of Madison.

Lab Alumni

  • Elizabeth Hilvert
  • Maureen Burke
  • Kallie Renfus
  • Andrea-Barton Hulsey
  • Mariam El-Amin
  • Holly Erbstoesser
  • Shelby Gunderson
  • Sarah Halls
  • Ama Idun
  • Julia Kennelly
  • Kirsten Larson
  • Erin Miller
  • Courtney Ramczyk
  • Bianca Schroeder
  • Alyssa Stearns
  • Kellie Willis