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.


Head shot of Dr. Laura McGuinn, MD (Professor, Pediatrics - Developmental Pediatrics), 2019.

Welcome to Dr. Laura McGuinn who begins as the
Director of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
on Monday, January 7, 2019.
She will also hold the inaugural
Thomas H. Lowder Endowed Chair
in Developmental and
Behavioral Pediatrics. 

Dr. McGuinn earned her Bachelor of Arts in biology from the University of Texas at Austin, and her medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, where she completed her residency training as Ambulatory Chief Resident. Dr. McGuinn completed her fellowship in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics as a Subspecialty Fellow in both Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. She began her academic medical career as a member of the pediatric faculty of the Children’s Hospital of Austin Medical Residency Program, where she served as director of the Developmental Assessment Program and director of the Developmental and Behavioral Pediatric Clerkship. She joined the staff at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, originally as an assistant professor and then as associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics Section of Developmental – Behavioral Pediatrics.

Dr. McGuinn’s service to developmental and behavioral pediatrics is exemplified by her multiple related roles during her years at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, which included: director of the resident rotation and the ACGME approved and MCHB funded, fellowship program; and leadership roles as director of OK-KIDS Systems Improvement Initiative, co-director of the OK Child Heath Practice Based Research Network, and director of the Sooner SUCCESS Care Coordination Program. Through her leadership roles in medical education, Dr. McGuinn has mentored fellows, residents and students. She has provided service and leadership to Oklahoma Head Start, Oklahoma Children’s Oral Health Coalition and the Oklahoma Autism Workforce Initiative, among many.
One of three Alabama Regional Autism Networks has opened at the UAB Civitan-Sparks Clinics to empower persons of all ages and all levels of functioning who have an autism spectrum disorder, as well as their families.

The UAB Civitan-Sparks Clinics were awarded a $75,000 grant to establish the network at UAB that will serve central Alabama by providing connections to resources for those with ASD, and for their families, technical assistance, and consultation services, as well as ASD-education programs to the general public and professional training. 

These network centers are a key step in developing a system of care for people with ASD and their families throughout Alabama,” said Fred J. Biasini, Ph.D., former Director of the UAB UCEDD and LEND and associate professor in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology. “In working with Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, we will be able to provide additional resources and promote meaningful public awareness for those with ASD.”

Click here for to continue reading the press release on UAB news.