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Shirley Cohen

Special Education



  • Hunter College High School
  • Brooklyn College, elementary education and psychology; Phi Beta Kappa
  • Graduate, Bank Street College of Education, concentration in counseling
  • M. A. and Ph.D. in developmental psychology, Teacher’s College, Columbia University; Walter H. Patterson Scholarship in Developmental Psychology

Description of research:

Shirley Cohen is a Professor in the Department of Special Education at Hunter College. Before arriving at the college she had a variety of experiences as a teacher, including three years at a research and treatment center for children with autism, and two years as a helping teacher and curriculum developer in a program of classes for children with emotional problems. She arrived at Hunter College in 1971 to serve as Director of the Special Education Development Center, a support center for a statewide network of special education training centers, a role she continued for ten years. 

Between 1978 and 2005 Shirley Cohen served in several administrative roles at Hunter College: Program Coordinator and Chairperson of the Department of Special Education, Associate Dean of Programs in Education, Assistant Dean of the School of Education, and Interim Dean of the School of Education. She has directed numerous grant projects with funding from city, state, federal, and private foundation sources. She served as the first director of the Regional Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Hunter, and co-developed the ASD Nest program and the Intensive Kindergarten program for the NYC Department of Education. Dr. Cohen has been directing training programs for new staff of those programs since 2005, and has served as a mentor to numerous teachers and young leaders in the field of autism spectrum disorders.


Professor Cohen’s first journal articles were published in 1976, and she has authored or co-authored numerous articles since then. She is also the author of three books on disability, including Targeting Autism, originally published in 1998 and now in its third edition.