University of Wisconsin–Madison
Research in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Lab

Lab Members

Principal Investigator

Audra Sterling, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Audra is interested in the language and cognitive development of individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders. In particular she is interested in the communication of children with fragile X syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, and Down syndrome. The long-term goals of her research seek to understand the contributions of both biology (as represented by genetic syndromes, e.g., FXS) and environment (as represented in this case by parenting) in the development of language and cognition in children with developmental disabilities. She is also interested how the premutation of FXS impacts language and cognition.

Current Members

Susen Schroeder, MS – Lab Manager

Susen received her Master’s degree in Communicative Disorders from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has been working with families and children with developmental disorders at the Waisman Center for nearly 15 years. Additionally, she oversees various transcribing projects which leads her to ask fellow lab mates off the wall questions like “Do you consider paper plates to be one word or two?”

Postdoctoral Fellow

Andrea is a Postdoctoral fellow at the Waisman Center and received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Georgia State University. Her research aims to extend our knowledge of the role of speech and language comprehension in reading development in individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who may also use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems. Her dissertation research examined the relationship between speech ability, receptive language, cognitive skills and phonological awareness in children between 4 and 5 years of age with developmental disabilities. As a postdoctoral trainee, Andrea will further investigate the relationship between language comprehension and production in children with Fragile X, Autism, and Down Syndrome. The goal of her research is to inform reading and language interventions for children with IDD.

Graduate Student

Laura is an Ph.D. student in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.  She graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.A. in Hearing and Speech Sciences, and completed her M.S. degree in Speech-Language Pathology at UW-Madison.  Laura has been working with individuals with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities for many years as an ABA technician and direct support specialist.  Her research interests include language processing and development in individuals with ASD and fragile X syndrome, along with how ASD affects the fragile x phenotype.  In her free time, Laura enjoys completing jigsaw puzzles, spending time outdoors, and exploring Madison’s restaurants.

Capstone Student

Kallie Renfus is a Capstone student studying Communication Sciences and Disorders. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a B.A. in Psychology. Kallie is excited to be working on projects involving the language and communication skills of children with developmental disabilities. In her free time, Kallie enjoys running, drawing, and reading!

Graduate Student

Emily Lorang is a Ph.D. student in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department. Her research interests include investigating the complexities of communication profiles in people with developmental disabilities of genetic origins, such as in Down syndrome and fragile X syndrome, with or without comorbid autism spectrum disorders. Currently, Emily is working on a project exploring how both parenting and child behaviors affect language development in Down syndrome. In her free time, Emily enjoys biking, going to the farmer’s market, and spending time with friends and family.

Undergraduate Student

Kellie is an undergraduate student majoring in communication sciences & disorders, with a minor in French. She has been a part of the RIDDLL lab since August 2015 and hopes to apply her knowledge from lab into her future lab at graduate school. Kellie is passionate about working with individuals with intellectual disabilities, and her goal is to continue working and researching this population. Outside of the lab, Kellie likes traveling, coffee, and spending time with her friends, family and pets.

Lab Alumni

  • Holly Erbstoesser
  • Shelby Gunderson
  • Julia Kennelly
  • Erin Miller
  • Courtney Ramczyk
  • Bianca Schroeder
  • Alyssa Stearns
  • Sarah Halls
  • Kirsten Larson