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2017 Nisonger Center Institute

Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D., is Director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development, a Eunice Kennedy Shriver Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center; and she is Co-Director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. She is Annette Schaffer Eskind Chair and Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University.

Dr. Dykens received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Kansas. She completed a predoctoral internship and a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale University’s School of Medicine, Child Study Center. She served on the junior faculty at the Yale Child Study Center for seven years. In 1995, she joined the faculty of University of California Los Angeles where she was Associate Professor and then Professor-in-Residence at the Neuropsychiatric Institute, and Associate Director for Research and Training at UCLA’s Tarjan Center for Excellence on Developmental Disabilities. She directed the UCLA Lili Claire Family Resource Center and was Co-Director of out-patient clinics for persons with both intellectual disabilities and mental health concerns. She joined the Vanderbilt University faculty in 2003.

Dr. Dykens’s research examines psychopathology and areas of strength in persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, especially those with genetic syndromes. Her studies focus on the development and correlates of psychopathology and behavioral problems in Prader-Willi syndrome, Williams syndrome, and Down syndrome. These include marked obsessive-compulsive behaviors in Prader-Willi syndrome, heightened anxiety in Williams syndrome, and increased withdrawal and depression in Down syndrome. Dykens also examines profiles of neurocognitive and adaptive strengths and weaknesses in these disorders, and how these unusual profiles refine treatment and shed light on typical development. A related area of research is stress, coping, and positive outcomes in families of persons with developmental disabilities.

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