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Social Communication for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Lab

Ciara Ousley Assistant Professor

Ph.D., Special Education, Pennsylvania State University, 2022
M.S., Special Education, Saint Joseph's University, 2017
B.S., Elementary Education & Special Education (K-6), University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2015

Ciara Ousley joined the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders as an assistant professor in August 2022. Ousley is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst – Doctoral (BCBA-D) and a former special educator in the states of Ohio and Nebraska. She returned to Nebraska after completing her doctorate in special education at Pennsylvania State University in the spring of 2022. 

Ousley’s research and publications have focused on supporting the social communication skills of young children with autism and other developmental disabilities who have limited to no vocal speech, including those who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) to communicate. Ousley supports and coaches families and practitioners (e.g., educators, SLPs, behavior analysts) in the use of naturalistic developmental behavioral interventions (NDBIs), which blends the sciences of applied behavior analysis (ABA) and developmental psychology. 

During her doctorate program, Ousley studied AAC and ABA. While pursuing her Ph.D., she also gained experience as an instructor for the undergraduate special education program at Penn State for two years, as well as a graduate-level adjunct faculty in the ABA program for Niagara University in the spring of 2022. Ousley earned her master’s degree in special education with an endorsement in Autism Spectrum Disorders from Saint Joseph’s University while teaching elementary special education in Athens, Ohio, and Elkhorn, Nebraska. 

She graduated from Nebraska-Lincoln in 2015 with a dual bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Special Education (K-6). Ousley was also a student-athlete for the Husker Swimming and Diving team as an undergraduate, earning Distinguished Scholar, Academic All-Conference and Sportsmanship Awards from the Big Ten Conference during her career.

Areas of Expertise:

    social communication
    parent/family implemented interventions
    naturalistic developmental behavioral interventions

Professional Highlights

Honors and Recognition
2023 - 23, Grant Writing for Grand Visions Program, College of Education and Human Sciences2022-23, Research Development Fellows Program, Office of Research and Economic Development, University of Nebraska-Lincoln2022, Best Student Paper of 2021, "Centering the family in their system: a framework to promote family-centered AAC services," Augmentative and Alternative Communication2020-22, Lavanda P. Muller Graduate Fellowship in Education, College of Education, Pennsylvania State University2014-15, Distinguished Scholar, Big Ten Conference2013-15, Academic All-Conference, Big Ten Conference2015, Sportsmanship Award, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Big Ten Conference2014, Franco's List of Integrity and Character Award, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
2022-present, Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln2023-present, Research Affiliate, Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families, and SchoolsSpring 2022, Adjunct Faculty, Niagara University2020-22, Instructor, Pennsylvania State University2016-18, Intervention Specialist, Ohio2015-16, Special Education Teacher, Nebraska
Association for Applied Behavior Analysis InternationalCouncil for Exceptional Children