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Michael Siller

Ph.D., University of California at Los Angeles, Developmental Psychology


Department of Psychology
Hunter College, Room 634N
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10065
Tel: (212) 772-4477
Fax:(212) 650-5620



Dr. Siller is an Associate Professor in the Psychology Department at Hunter College of the City University of New York (CUNY), and co-directs the Hunter Autism Research, Practice, & Policy (HARPP) Center. 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). Dr. Siller has presented and published internationally, and several of his publications have been recognized for their scientific merit: Siller and Sigman (2002) was translated and reprinted in a Japanese volume entitled Advances in Research on Autism and Developmental Disorders (Takagi, Howlin, & Fombonne, 2004), and Siller and Sigman (2008) was recognized as the best clinical research paper of the year, an honor bestowed to a young investigator by the International Society for Autism Research. Dr. Siller's recent research includes three randomized clinical trials (RCTs) evaluating the efficacy of an parent-mediated intervention to increase the social communication skills of young children with ASD, as well as a group-based intervention to increase the social-pragmatic skills of young adults with ASD. Between 2007 and 2011, Dr. Siller co-directed the Autism Speaks Toddler Treatment Network, a network of leading scientist involved in early intervention research. Further, Dr. Siller collaborated with the NYS Department of Health (DOH) Bureau of Early Intervention on several initiatives, aiming to develop strategies for lowering the age of first diagnosis and increasing access to services for toddlers with ASD, and to update the Early Intervention Program's Clinical Practice Guidelines for children with ASD.


Description of Research

My research program investigates the social, emotional, and communicative development of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) across the lifespan. Before coming to Hunter, my research included a prospective longitudinal study evaluating the development of spoken language in individuals with ASD from preschool to early adulthood (Siller & Sigman, 2002). After joining Hunter in 2007, I published a replication of key findings using an independent sample of preschoolers with ASD followed over 3 years (Siller & Sigman, 2008). Results from both studies reveal that children's rate of language acquisition is independently predicted by baseline measures of (1) children's social comprehension, and (2) responsive parental communication observed during toy play. Based on these early findings, my research has evolved to address three related aims.

AIM 1: To define and measure the deficits in social comprehension that are associated with ASD

To investigate AIM 1 I have completed a series of eye-tracking studies involving typically developing children and adults as well as children with ASD. I collaborated with a recent graduate student (Meghan Swanson) to develop an eye-tracking paradigm that captures individual differences in gaze patterns while viewing social videos. Across all three samples, results reveal consistent associations between the participants' gaze patterns and (sub-)clinical symptoms of ASD. This program of eye-tracking research points towards the possible utility of such measures to (1) inform diagnostic decisions in toddlers, and (2) measure intervention outcomes reflecting improvements in social comprehension and motivation.

AIM 2: To evaluate the efficacy of interventions to improve responsive parental behaviors and child communication.

To investigate AIM 2 I have developed a novel parent-mediated intervention to improve parent-child communication (Focused Playtime Intervention, FPI), and completed two relatively large randomized clinical trials (RCTs) evaluating its efficacy in groups of toddlers and preschoolers with ASD. Results from this research are as follows: (1) Families that were randomly assigned to FPI showed larger gains in responsive parental behaviors than families that were assigned to a control condition. This finding demonstrates that, on average, parents of young children with ASD can be effectively taught to implement intervention strategies, supporting a fundamental assumption shared by all parent-mediated interventions. (2) Results from this research revealed significant treatment effects on proximal child outcomes, most importantly attachment-related behaviors. This finding demonstrates that sensitivity-based interventions can enhance the attachment-related behaviors of children with ASD, a finding that has previously been shown for other high-risk populations (e.g., children of mothers who are in poverty and lack social support). (3) Finally, evidence to suggest a significant treatment effect on distal child outcomes is less clear. Our findings do, however, reveal a conditional treatment effect of FPI on children's expressive language outcomes, suggesting that FPI is particularly effective for preschoolers with significant delays in spoken language. This finding is encouraging because few available interventions have demonstrated efficacy for lower-functioning children with ASD.

AIM 3: To improve access to care for diverse families across the lifespan

To investigate AIM 3 I have completed preliminary research to prepare for a relatively large clinical trial evaluating the effectiveness of an evidence-based learning system to improve the quality of care (i.e., early identification of toddlers with ASD) delivered by primary care providers (i.e., physicians, pediatricians) in ethnically diverse and low resource communities in New York City. In addition, I have collaborated with Lindee Morgan (Florida State University) on a pilot RCT evaluating the efficacy of an innovative Interview Skills Curriculum (ISC) for young adults with ASD. ISC is a manual that provides a 12-week group-delivered intervention to increase social-pragmatic skills essential to a successful job interview. Results reveal a significant treatment effect of ISC on social-pragmatic skills observed during a mock job interview.


Selected Publications

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].

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, 1691-1704. doi:10.1037/a0013771

Hutman, T., Siller, M. & Sigman, M. (2009). Mothers' narratives regarding their child with autism predict maternal synchronous behavior during play. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50, 1255-1263. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2009.02109.x

Swanson, M., Serlin, G., & Siller, M. (2013). Broad autism phenotype in typically developing children predicts performance on an eye-tracking measure of joint attention. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43, 707-718. doi:10.1007/s10803-012-1616-7

Siller, M., Hutman, T., & Sigman, M. (2013). A Parent-mediated intervention to increase responsive parental behaviors and child communication in children with ASD: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43, 540-555. doi:10.1007/s10803-012-1584-y

Swanson, M., & Siller, M. (2013). Patterns of gaze behavior during an eye-tracking measure of joint attention in typically developing children and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorder, 7, 1087-1096. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2013.05.007

Siller, M., Morgan, L., Swanson, M. & Hotez, E. (2013). Promoting early identification of autism in the primary care setting: Bridging the gap between what we know and what we do. In M. Fitzgerald (Ed.), Recent advances in Autism Spectrum Disorders - Volume I (pp. 3-28). Rijeka, Croatia: InTech. Retrieved from: -

Eilam-Stock, T. Xu, P., Cao, M., Gu, Van Dam, N. T., Anagnostou, E., Kolevzon, A., Soorya, L., Park, Y., Siller, M., He, Y., Hof, P.R., & Fan, J. (2014). Abnormal associations between autonomic and brain activity during rest in autism spectrum disorders. Brain, 137, 153-171. doi: 10.1093/brain/awt294

Siller, M., Reyes, N., Hotez, E., Hutman, T. & Sigman, M. (2014). Longitudinal change in the use of services in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Understanding the role of child characteristics, family demographics, and parent cognitions. Autism, 18, 433-446. doi:10.1177/1362361313476766

Swanson, M. & Siller, M. (2014). Brief report: Broad autism phenotype in adults is associated with performance on an eye-tracking measure of joint attention. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44, 694-702. doi:10.1007/s10803-013-1901-0

Erstenyuk, V., Swanson, M., & Siller, M. (2014). Pupillary responses during a joint attention task are associated with the nonverbal cognitive abilities and sub-clinical symptoms of autism. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 8, 644-653. doi: 10.1016/j.rasd.2014.03.003

Siller, M., Swanson, M., Serlin, G., & Teachworth, A. (2014). Internal state language in the storybook narratives of children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder: Investigating relations to theory of mind abilities. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorder, 8, 589-596. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2014.02.002

Siller, M., Swanson, M., Gerber, A., Hutman, T., & Sigman, M. (2014). A parent-mediated intervention that targets responsive parental behaviors increases attachment behaviors in children with ASD: Results from a randomized clinical trial. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44, 1720-1732. doi: 10.1007/s10803-014-2049-2

Morgan, L., Leatzow, A., Clark, S., & Siller, M. (2014). Interview skills for adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A pilot randomized controlled trial. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44, 2290-2300. doi:10.1007/s10803-014-2100-3.

Siller, M., Morgan, L., Turner-Brown, L., Baggett, K.M., Baranek, G., Brian, J., Bryson, S., Carter, A., Crais, E., Estes, A., Kasari, C., Landa, R., Lord, C., Messinger, D., Mundy, P., Odom, S.L., Reznick, S., Roberts, W., Rogers, S., Schertz, H.H., Smith, I., Stone, W., Watson, L., Wetherby, A., Yoder, P., & Zwaigenbaum, L. (2014). Designing studies to evaluate parent-mediated interventions for toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Early Intervention, 35, 355-377. doi: 10.1177/1053815114542507.