Tanya Paparella

Tanya Paparella


Tanya Paparella

Dr. Tanya Paparella is a specialist in the field of autism with more than 20 years of intervention and research with children on the autism spectrum. She is currently an Associate Clinical Professor in the Division of Child Psychiatry at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), a licensed clinical psychologist, and since 2001 Director of UCLA’s Early Childhood Partial Hospitalization Program (ECPHP) which is an internationally recognized treatment program for young children with autism.

Dr. Paparella holds separate master’s degrees in Special Education and Counseling Psychology from Rutgers University, New Jersey, and a BA from the University of Cape Town where she majored in Psychology and French. She also holds a higher education teaching diploma from what is now the University of Johannesburg and prior to coming to the US was tenured faculty at the National School of the Arts, Johannesburg where she taught French. Other spoken languages include Italian and Afrikaans.

Dr. Paparella’s formative years in autism intervention were at the Douglas Developmental Disabilities Center at Rutgers University from 1990 to 1996, where she designed, implemented, and evaluated educational programs for children on the autism spectrum. Dr. Paparella received her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from UCLA and completed a two-year National Institute of Mental Health postdoctoral fellowship in the UCLA Division of Child Psychiatry.

Dr. Paparella oversees the daily activities of ECPHP staff and is actively involved in the comprehensive evaluation and treatment of children with autism from 18 months to four years of age. She works closely with parents to support and educate them in all aspects of their child’s treatment. Dr. Paparella provides ongoing clinical instruction for students, interns, and M.D. fellows from different specialties. Her clinical and research interests relate to the effectiveness of early intervention – particularly with respect to predictors of best outcome for young children on the autism spectrum. She has authored many scientific publications as well as the book “More Than Hope”.


Symbolic Play: A Targeted Intervention Approach for Young Children with ASD

Young children on the autism spectrum are characterized by significant deficits in symbolic play, a critical area of social development that should emerge in the first two years. Symbolic play involves the representational use of objects – pretending one object represents another as when a block represents a car, or imagining that dolls have personal attributes and abilities. Because these skills are highly representational and abstract they present particular challenges for intervention. This workshop will present an overview and efficacy data on the importance of play in improving crucial developmental outcomes, particularly language. The presentation will cover assessment, how to determine individualized treatment objectives and implementation of individualized goals using a naturalistic developmental behavioral intervention approach. Participants will learn a tested, targeted and systematic approach to teaching functional and symbolic play to young children on the autism spectrum.