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Sarah O'Kelley, PhD.Sarah O'Kelley, Ph.D. The UAB Civitan-Sparks Clinics continue the commitment to provide excellent interdisciplinary services to children with
developmental disorders and their families, despite tough economic times that have developed both university- and community-wide. Our mission continues to involve three key principles: clinical services, training, and research. 

UAB UCEDD and LEND Programs Announce New Project Director

Sarah O’Kelley, Ph.D., recently assumed leadership of Alabama’s University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service (UCEDD) and the UAB Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) training programs. These programs are a collaborative effort within the UAB Department of Psychology, Department of Pediatrics, and Civitan International Research Center, with clinical operations at the Civitan-Sparks Clinics. Dr. O’Kelley has been an active and vital part of the UCEDD and LEND’s function in the last decade and succeeds Fred J. Biasini, Ph.D., who helped build and then directed these programs for over 30 years before unexpectedly passing away in September.  

Dr. O’Kelley is a clinical associate professor in the UAB Departments of Psychology and Pediatrics and has served as director of the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Clinic at UAB Civitan-Sparks Clinics. Dr. O'Kelley has been involved in research and clinical activities with individuals with ASD and their families for over 20 years. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and master’s and doctoral degrees in Clinical Child Psychology at the University of Alabama. Dr. O’Kelley completed her predoctoral internship at the UAB Psychology Internship Training Consortium as a LEND trainee and was a LEND postdoctoral fellow at UAB Civitan-Sparks Clinics. From 2006 to 2008, a portion of her postdoctoral fellowship included a position of program coordinator for the University of Alabama Autism Spectrum Disorders College Transition and Support program (UA-ACTS), a program she helped develop and implement.

Dr. O'Kelley's research interests include cognitive and behavioral phenotypes of individuals with ASD and related neurodevelopmental disabilities, screening and early identification, sibling and family functioning, group social skills interventions, and issues across the lifespan for individuals with ASD. She collaborates in multiple research endeavors across campus, the state, and nationally and is an active participant and leader in activities of the Alabama Interagency Autism Coordinating Council.

The Alabama UCEDD employs a comprehensive and broad-based approach to addressing the needs and expanding the resources and services available to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families in a responsible, responsive, and culturally competent manner. There are 67 UCEDDs, with at least one in every US state and territory, funded through the Administration for Community Living with a mission of providing training, technical assistance, service, research, and information dissemination. The UAB Maternal and Child Health LEND is one of 52 LEND programs in 44 US states, with a mission of improving the well-being and quality of life of individuals and families affected by neurodevelopmental disabilities by training future leaders across disciplines, providing exemplary clinical services, and engaging in translational research and information dissemination.

“I am grateful for the confidence and support that our faculty, staff, and trainees have shown as we work together to continue the critically important work that was Dr. Biasini’s passion, and I look forward to the evolution of our programs to respond to the needs and input of stakeholders throughout the state,” Dr. O’Kelley stated. Both the UCEDD and LEND have remained active throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, continuing the work supporting families and training future leaders that these projects have provided for nearly 40 years.

Our committed Faculty and staff experienced a heartbreaking loss in the unexpected passing of Dr. Fred J. Biasini on September 23, 2020. We really do have a ’work’ family and this event has been deeply felt among every one of us.


To honor Dr. Biasini’s legacy, the UAB Department of Psychology established the Fred J. Biasini Award in Developmental Disabilities memorial fund, which will support trainees conducting research and service in developmental disabilities.

Clinically, several of our services are both unique and innovative. The Sparks Dental Clinic, under the direction of Drs. John Thornton and Janice Jackson, provides more dental services to adults with special needs than anywhere else in Alabama. Our Autism team continues to provide not only thorough and extensive diagnostic evaluations, but also school consultations and social skills training.

We continue our dedication to train graduate students, medical students, and residents. As Director of Training, Dr. Sarah O'Kelley has worked tirelessly in making Civitan-Sparks Clinics an excellent training experience in various disciplines including psychology, audiology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, nutrition, and social work. Our Sparks Pediatrics clinic, led by Developmental Pediatrician Dr. Snehal Khatri, is an integral training site for pediatric residents and medical students.

Understanding the importance of research and increasing knowledge in the field of developmental disabilities, we continue to be a sponsor of the Simpson-Ramsey Lecture each spring. The Simpson-Ramsey Lecture is a day-long lecture series that hosts experts in neurodevelopmental disorders research and occurs in conjunction with the Glenwood Endowed Lecture.

As we continue to flourish and improve our services, the goal for the UAB Civitan-Sparks Clinics is to be a leader at the state and national levels in the field of developmental disabilities. Our commitment remains strong.