Payal Beam, L.C.S.W., Senior Director of Developmental Services
Payal joins Rady Children’s following her successful tenure at Mental Health Systems in San Diego, where she served as vice president for six years. During her time there, she oversaw multiple service delivery programs for children, youth, adults and older adults, including outpatient, residential treatment programs, employment, and housing for families affected by behavioral health disorders. Additional responsibilities included ensuring the quality of clinical and direct services, adhering to program budgets and collaborating with city and county services, housing agencies, colleges and universities, and other community-based organizations throughout San Diego and San Bernardino counties.
Themba Carr, Ph.D., Manager and Clinical Psychologist
Themba is a clinical psychologist at the Autism Discovery Institute. She earned her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan and completed postdoctoral fellowships at the University of California, Los Angeles Center for Autism Research and Treatment, and Center for Health Services and Society. Themba’s clinical expertise includes the assessment and diagnosis of children with autism spectrum disorders and the implementation of autism-focused caregiver-mediated early intervention models. In addition to working directly with families, she serves as a certified trainer for the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule and the Autism Diagnostic Interview. She is also a UC San Diego assistant clinical professor (non-salaried) and provides teaching and training opportunities in the assessment and diagnosis of autism spectrum and related disorders. Themba’s research interests include implementing community-partnered participatory research methods to decrease healthcare disparities. She is currently serving as a committee member on the Lancet Medical Journal Commission on the Future of Care and Research in Autism.
Lauren Brookman-Frazee, Ph.D., BCBA-D, Research Director
Lauren is an associate professor in the UC San Diego Department of Psychiatry, associate director of the Child and Adolescent Services Research Center and the research director of the Autism Discovery Institute. Her federally funded research involves partnering with mental health and education system leaders, providers and families to develop, test and implement evidence-based interventions in community and school-based settings and reduce disparities in access to quality care. She conducts this research with the specific population of children with (or at risk for) autism spectrum disorders as well as the broader population of children with mental health problems receiving publicly funded mental health services. Additional areas of research include research-community partnerships, clinician training/supervision, early developmental and social-emotional screening and intervention, and parent training and psychotherapy intervention process and outcomes.
Mike Nadolski, M.A., Program Evaluation Specialist
Mike is a program evaluation specialist at the Autism Discovery Institute who joined the team in 2022. He earned his Master of Public Health from San Diego State University with an emphasis in health promotion and behavioral science. Mike provides quality assurance and program improvement using systematic evaluation methods to collect, analyze and disseminate findings. He is passionate about the health and well-being of all children and dedicated to ensuring they grow up with as much opportunity as possible.
Bonnie Corbin, Administrative Associate
Bonnie has been a part of the Autism Discovery Institute since its inception. Then known as the Children’s Autism Intervention Center, Bonnie held roles ranging from scheduling, assisting in the Toddler School and taking care of the daily business transactions. With the expansion to the Autism Discovery Institute, Bonnie now focuses more on the business operations but may still be found interacting with families at the front desk or handling a variety of tasks.
Katie LeFort, Care Coordinator
Katie is a care coordinator at the John M. Sachs Family Clinic for Autism Spectrum Disorders and the Autism Discovery Institute who joined our team in 2022. She earned her master’s degree in criminal justice management from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., and is pursuing her master’s degree in social work. Katie has been working with children and adolescents of all ages in professional settings since 2012. Her experience ranges from providing milieu support at Bradley Children’s Psychiatric Hospital, applied behavior analysis therapy and parent training in Los Angeles, and crisis intervention in south central Los Angeles. Katie has a passion for supporting and empowering both children and their families.
Brian Fritz, M.A., BCBA
Brian Fritz has worked with children with autism spectrum disorders since 2009 and has been at Rady Children’s Hospital since 2012. He earned his master’s degree in education, with an emphasis in applied behavior analysis, from Arizona State University. He is also a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA). Brian provides individual and group services at the Torrey Hills and Kearny Mesa locations and is passionate about making a difference in the lives of children and families affected by autism.
Abbey Hye, M.A., BCBA
Abbey received her Master of Arts in human development and psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles and is a board-certified behavior analyst. She has broad training in the implementation of behavioral and developmental treatments (e.g., PRT, JASPER, ESDM) for children with autism and other developmental delays (e.g. Dup15q, tuberous sclerosis complex). Prior to joining Rady Children’s, she worked as a research assistant on a variety of early intervention studies at UC San Diego and UCLA, provided in home therapy through local agencies and conducted developmental/diagnostic assessments at the UCLA CAN Clinic. She has a passion for parent coaching and is committed to teaching social communication skills to children with autism and helping their families. Abbey has been working in the field of applied behavior analysis since 2008.
Christopher Le, M.A.
Chris earned his master’s degree in applied behavior analysis from California State University, Sacramento in 2020. He has been working with children with autism since 2015 and has provided in-home ABA services for six years. Chris is passionate about helping children with developmental delays integrate into their community while empowering and supporting their families with parent education and coaching.
Colleen McNish, M.S.
Colleen earned her master’s degree in educational counseling from National University. She has been implementing home- and school-based behavioral interventions for children with autism and other developmental disorders since 1999. Her clinical experience includes the implementation and development of early intervention programs for children with autism spectrum disorders in addition to training therapists in a variety of research-based approaches.
Lorena Rivas, M.S., BCBA
Lorena is a board-certified behavior analyst. She received her Master of Science in clinical psychology from Walden University. She works as a behavior specialist at the Autism Discovery Institute providing individual services to children with autism spectrum disorder and their families. Lorena has worked with children with ASD since 2013 in both home and academic settings. She is passionate about behavioral health and is committed to helping children and their families utilizing evidence-based parent coaching programs. In her spare time, Lorena can be seen playing with her dogs.
Liz Bacon, Ph.D., BCBA
Liz is a clinical psychologist at the Autism Discovery Institute. She received her doctoral degree in psychology from UC San Diego, where she studied early intervention techniques for toddlers with autism. She then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the UC San Diego Autism Center of Excellence, where she investigated methods to support community pediatricians to conduct developmental screenings for infants and toddlers and refer for evaluations and treatment to promote early and prompt access to care. Liz is a licensed clinical psychologist and a board-certified behavior analyst and is well-versed conducting diagnostic evaluations and providing naturalistic developmental behavioral interventions for toddlers and children. Her research and clinical interests include improving access to developmental evaluations and treatment, understanding the stability of diagnoses over time and individualizing treatment for children with autism.
Whitney Brown, Ph.D.
Whitney received her doctorate in clinical psychology, with an emphasis in child and adolescent psychology, from Loma Linda University in 2016. She has been a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of California since 2017. She also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the UC Davis MIND Institute (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders), where she received specialty training in neurodevelopmental evaluation and interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders, genetic disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, prematurity and a range of other developmental delays and neurodevelopmental disorders. She has extensive experience in pediatric neuropsychological assessment and developmental evaluations. She also has experience providing therapeutic services to school-aged children, including social skills groups and cognitive behavioral therapy. Whitney is passionate about providing excellent care to children and families impacted by autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities.
Joanna Kennedy, Psy.D.
Joanna is a licensed clinical psychologist at the Autism Discovery Institute. She completed her doctorate in clinical psychology, with an emphasis on child and family psychology, in 2017. While completing her undergraduate degree at UC San Diego, Joanna conducted research on naturalistic behavioral intervention and provided treatment to toddlers at-risk for an autism spectrum disorder. Her doctoral dissertation focused on the experience of mothers of children with ASD in a mindful parenting course. Joanna has experience providing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to children with a range of presenting concerns, as well as using parent-mediated interventions to address behavioral concerns. She is certified in parent-child interaction therapy. Joanna also has provided developmental and psychological assessments in a variety of community mental health settings. At the Autism Discovery Institute, Joanna conducts comprehensive developmental and psychological evaluations, and provides CBT to school-aged children.