Dr. Siller is an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department at Hunter College of the City University of New York (CUNY). He attended graduate school at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he obtained both his M.A. (2001) and Ph.D. (2006) in Developmental Psychology. His doctoral work was acknowledged with the Millard Madsen Distinguished Dissertation Award. Dr. Siller also attended the Free University of Berlin in Germany where he gained an M.A. degree (Diplom Psychologe) with an emphasis in Clinical Psychology (1999). He has presented and published internationally on the development of social and communication skills in young children. Dr. Siller is particularly interested in how parent-child play interactions contribute to the social, emotional, and communication development of young children with autism spectrum disorders. Currently, he collaborates with Dr. Sally Rogers (M.I.N.D. Institute, UC Davis), co-directing the Autism Speaks Toddler Treatment Network.
Description of research:
The initial aim of Dr. Siller's research was to develop a novel measure of parental communication that captures responsive parental behaviors, and also takes into account the unique challenges that parents of young children with autism face during interactions with their children. He first used this measure in a cross-sectional study comparing parental communication patterns across different diagnostic groups (Siller and Sigman, 2002). Contrary to previous findings, this research showed that mothers of children with autism were as responsive to their children's focus of attention and ongoing activity as mothers of typically developing children or children with mixed developmental delays. In light of this finding, Dr. Siller conducted two prospective longitudinal studies to evaluate the link between individual differences in parental communication and children's subsequent gains in communication skills (Siller and Sigman, 2002, 2008). This research provided the first pair of studies to show that responsive parental behaviors reliably predict the long-term (16-year) language outcomes of children with autism.
His recent research has progressed from naturalistic to experimental designs where subjects are randomly assigned to different treatment conditions. Dr. Siller initiated two intervention studies designed to provide an experimental test of the direction of effects linking responsive parental behaviors with the development of communication skills in children with autism. The first randomized trial involved 70 pre-verbal children with autism between 2½ and 6½ years of age (Siller, Hutman and Sigman, 2007). Early results show that his experimental parent education program is efficacious for increasing responsive behaviors among parents of young children with autism. In addition, he is currently collaborating with Dr. Connie Kasari (Department of Education, UCLA) to evaluate whether the same parent education program can also be effective for promoting the communicative behaviors of toddlers (18 to 30 months) who are at “high risk” for Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Hutman, T., Siller, M. & Sigman, M. (2009). Mothers' narratives regarding their child with autism predict maternal synchronous behavior during play. Manuscript in press: Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
Siller, M. & Sigman, M. (2008). Modeling longitudinal change in the language abilities of children with autism: Investigating the role of parent behaviors and child characteristics as predictors of change. Developmental Psychology, 44(6), 1691-1704.
Siller, M. & Sigman, M. (2004). From neonatal imitation to social cognition: Social and cognitive pathways to developmental continuity. In L. A. Leavitt & D. M. B. Hall (Eds.), Social and moral development: Emerging evidence on the toddler years, pp. 143-164, New Brunswick, NJ: Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute.
Siller, M. & Sigman, M. (2002). The behaviors of parents of children with autism predict the subsequent development of their children’s communication. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32, 77-89. (Translated and reprinted in R. Takagi, P. Howlin, & E. Fombonne (Eds.), Advances in Research on Autism and Developmental Disorders, pp. 104-117, 2004, Japan: Seiwa Shoten)