Newsletter Article

Autism: From Science to Sesame Street

Photo: Dr. Wendy Stone and friends
Photo: Dr. Wendy Stone and friends

Dr. Wendy Stone is a behavioral scientist and child clinical psychologist who has been conducting research in the field of autism for over 30 years. She began working in this area when the prevalence of autism was considered to be a rare disorder, estimated at three to four children per 10,000. Her research focuses on identifying the early-emerging features of autism, with the goals of facilitating early detection and improving early access to specialized intervention. Stone has received federal funding for her research since 1993, and has authored numerous scientific papers on the early identification, assessment, treatment, and follow-up of young children with autism. Her research led to the development of the Screening Tool for Autism in Toddlers (STAT) and a book for parents entitled, Does My Child Have Autism? Dr. Stone directs the University of Washington READi Lab, which is involved in research, training, and outreach activities related to early detection and intervention for children with autism. 

Stone has served as an advisor to Sesame Street since 2009, when she was commissioned to write a white paper to describe the state of the science of autism and provide suggestions for unique contributions that Sesame Street could make to the autism community. After six years of planning and consultation with families and experts in the field, Sesame Street’s autism initiative came to fruition in October 2015, with their rollout of “See Amazing in All Children.” Stone is very pleased with the products that have been developed to date, which include multimedia activities and materials for siblings, parents, educators, and other providers. The products are infused with the Sesame Street approach of promoting understanding and acceptance by focusing on the similarities between children with and without autism, rather than their differences.   

Stone’s own work in recent years has become more and more community focused. She currently serves as principal investigator on an NIMH grant that is examining a novel healthcare delivery model for expediting access to specialized services for young children with autism. She is working with primary care providers to promote universal autism screening at 18 months, and with birth-to-three providers to implement evidence-based, autism-specialized interventions with toddlers with, or suspected of having, autism. The goal of this project is not only to improve outcomes for young children, but also to improve caregivers’ well-being and satisfaction with the healthcare system.

Dr. Stone will be discussing her research in The Allen L. Edwards Public Lecture Series, on May 4, 2016 at 7:30 pm in Kane Hall. More information about this free lecture, including RSVP information, will be available at