Deborah Fein

Distinguished Professor

Psychological Sciences


Ph.D., 1975, Rutgers University

Research Interests

The Early Detection Study looked at the effectiveness of using the M-CHAT-R to screen for ASD and other developmental delays at pediatrician offices between 18 and 36 months. The new and improved Early Detection Project has built on the foundation the Early Detection Study created, and lowered the screening age to 12 and 15 months to test screening effectiveness and accuracy at those ages. Collaborators at Drexel University and Georgia State University are also using the same methods, but are testing using electronic screening methods. This project is also interested in determining how additional training for pediatricians may influence screening and surveillance practices.

Our Albania Project worked with colleagues in Albania to see if the M-CHAT-R could work in Albanian. A total of 2,594 toddlers were screened, finding that 89.5% of children with ASD and 100% of children with developmental delay were accurately identified, so screening has been adopted by many pediatricians there. In collaboration with Vanderbilt University and the University of Washington, we have also looked at how screening for ASD differs in children who have older siblings on the autism spectrum in our Sibling Study. Our results suggest that parents of older children with ASD may be more sensitive to detecting milder delays in their younger children and that therefore they may be detected at a younger age.

Our Optimal Outcome Study has put forth an effort to understand factors that contribute to better outcomes for children with ASD. Our lab has studied children with an early history of ASD who then go on to lose their diagnosis. Our results showed that these children had earlier parent concern, and earlier intervention, especially Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy. MRI findings suggest that they may have reached this state by compensating rather than normalizing brain activity. We hope to follow up with some of these individuals into adulthood in our next phase of research.

The Parent Training Project is a website being constructed for parents of children with ASD to complement intensive behavioral therapy. The website covers many topics in detail and includes video examples, pictures and progress quizzes. It introduces parents to the most effective ways of teaching life skills and communication while modifying problem behaviors. Until the website is readily available, part of the material can be accessed now as a book available on Amazon Activity Kit for Babies and Toddlers at Risk. 


Undergraduate courses

  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

Graduate courses

  • Fundamentals of Neuropsychology
  • Neuropsychological Assessment
  • Practicum in Neuropsychological Assessment



Moulton, E., Barton, M., Robins, D., Abrams, N., and Fein, D. (2016) Early Characteristics of Children with ASD Who Demonstrate Optimal Progress Between Age Two and Four. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, First online: 19 February 2016.Helt, M. and Fein, D. (2015) Facial Feedback and Social Input: Effects on Laughter and Enjoyment in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Online first Aug. 11, 2015

Orinstein, A., Suh, J., Porter, K., De Yoe, K. A., Tyson, K. E., Troyb, E., Barton, M. L., Eigsti, I. M., Stevens, M. C., & Fein, D. A. (March, 2015). Social Function and Communication in Optimal Outcome Children and Adolescents with an Autism History on Structured Test Measures. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 10.1007/s10803-015-2409-6


Orinstein, A., Tyson, K. E., Suh, J., Troyb, E., Helt, M., Rosenthal, M., Barton, M. L., Eigsti, I. M., Kelley, E., Naigles, L., Schultz, R. T., Stevens, M. C., & Fein, D. A. (2014) Psychiatric symptoms in youth with a history of autism and optimal outcome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Hardy, S., Haisley, L., Manning, C., & Fein, D. (2015). Can Screening with the Ages and Stages Questionnaire Detect Autism?. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 36(7), 536-543.

Brennan, L., Barton, M., Chen, C. M., Green, J., & Fein, D. (2014). Detecting Subgroups in Children Diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 1-16.

Robins, D.L., Casagrande, K., Barton, M.L., Chen, C., Dumont-Mathieu, T., & Fein, D. (2014). Validation of the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers-Revised with Follow-up (M-CHAT-R/F). Pediatrics. 133: 37 -45

Orinstein, A. J., Helt, M., Troyb, E., Tyson, K. E., Barton, M. L., Eigsti, I. M., … & Fein, D. A. (2014). Intervention for optimal outcome in children and adolescents with a history of autism. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 35(4), 247-256.

Herlihy, L, Knoch, K., Vibert, B., and Fein, D. (2013). Parents’ first concerns about toddlers with autism spectrum disorder: Effect of sibling status. Autism: The International Journal.10.1177/1362361313509731 published online 11 November

Fein, D., Barton, M., Eigsti, I., Kelley, E., Naigles, L., Schultz, R.T., Stevens, M., Helt, M., Orinstein, A., Mosenthal, M., Troyb, E. and Tyson, K. (2013) Optimal Outcome in Individuals with a History of Autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 54:2 pp 195205.

Honors and Awards

  • Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor
  • Faculty Excellence Award in Graduate Teaching from the University of Connecticut Alumni Association, 1999.
  • University of Connecticut Convocation Keynote Speaker, August 22, 2003
  • Board of Directors, American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology, 2004-2009
  • Member, NIH study section Childhood Psychopathology and Developmental Disorders, 2005-2009
  • Associate Editor, Neuropsychology, 2007-2013
  • Secretary, International Society for Autism Research, 2009-2012
  • Edith Kaplan Award for Outstanding Contributions to Neuropsychology, 2012
  • Member of International Neuropsychological Society (INS), American Psychological Association (APA), American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology (AACN) and International Society for Autism Research (INSAR)
  • Research has been grant supported almost continuously since 1977.
Deborah Fein
Contact Information
Mailing AddressUnit 1020
Office LocationBousfield 143