Amy Vaughan Van Hecke, Ph.D.

Van Hecke headshot
Amy Vaughan Van Hecke, Ph.D.Marquette University

Cramer Hall, 328A

MilwaukeeWI53201United States of America
(414) 288-7258



Dr. Van Hecke is originally from Canton, Mississippi. She received her undergraduate degree in psychology from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. After a research internship at the University of Portsmouth, England, Dr. Van Hecke completed her doctoral work in Developmental Psychology with Peter C. Mundy at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. Dr. Van Hecke then received a Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) from the National Institute of Mental Health to complete a three-year postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Dr. Van Hecke currently serves as President of the Executive Board of the Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin, a member of the steering team of the statewide Community of Practice on Autism and Developmental Disabilities, and a member of the Treatment and Intervention Advisory Committee at the Wisconsin Department of Health, Children’s Services Division.

Dr. Van Hecke enjoys reading, traveling, holding an annual crawfish boil, co-leading a Girl Scouts troop, and cooking Southern food for her husband, her daughters, friends, and students in her spare time. Her undergraduate students particularly enjoy her brown-sugar baked bacon.

Dr. Van Hecke will NOT be taking a new clinical psychology graduate student for matriculation in 2021.

Research Lab: Marquette Autism Project (MAP)

Marquette Interdisciplinary Autism Initiative

Next Step Clinic


Ph.D., University of Miami 
B.A., Smith College

Courses Taught

Dr. Van Hecke enjoys teaching undergraduate Developmental Psychology: Conception through Adolescence; Graduate Developmental Psychology; graduate and undergraduate Introduction to Statistics, and undergraduate Autism for the Professions (co-taught with Mary Carlson in Education and Wendy Krueger in Speech Pathology and Audiology).

Research Interests

Dr. Van Hecke’s specialty is developmental psychology and neuroscience, with an emphasis on social development across the lifespan. Dr. Van Hecke is interested in brain activity, heart rate regulation, and social behavior in infants, preschoolers, teenagers, and young adults with and without autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Her past studies have focused on topics such as the development of eye contact behavior, temperament, and social skills in infancy, and the activation of the brain and regulation of the heart in response to familiar and unfamiliar people in children on the autism spectrum. Dr. Van Hecke currently utilizes high-density electroencephalogram (EEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI, fMRI, and DTI) to record brain activity and structure in preschoolers, adolescents, and young adults with autism spectrum disorder. Her current work involves understanding how randomized controlled trials of friendship/relationship development interventions, such as the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®: Laugeson & Frankel, 2010), affects brain structure, brain activity, anxiety, and social behavior in preschoolers, adolescents, and young adults with autism. She is particularly interested in how remediating social isolation enhances or changes neural activity and structure. She also examines how session-to-session psychophysiological measures (heart rate, Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia, and electrodermal activity) predict treatment outcomes in ASD.  Dr. Van Hecke has also recently initiated a new series of studies examining how the pandemic is affecting social interactions, and how online social interaction is related to mental health and loneliness in autistic and non-autistic adults. Finally, Dr. Van Hecke’s lab has recently begun a new randomized controlled trial of the telehealth version of PEERS® for adolescents and young adults.

An additional focus of Dr. Van Hecke’s work includes a community collaborative project to ensure access to high-quality autism diagnostic screening, autism medical diagnosis, therapies, and services for underserved, inner-city children of color in Milwaukee. This project has resulted in the creation of the Next Step Clinic, a family-centered approach to improving access to autism diagnosis and care, and healing-centered therapeutic care,  The Clinic is a collaboration with Mental Health of America of WI, Next Door Foundation, UWM, Alverno College, the General Baptist State Convention, True Love Missionary Baptist Church and Outreach Center, the MIRACLE Network, MATC, Children’s Hospital of WI, and the Medical College of WI.  Dr. Van Hecke is Co-Executive Director of the Clinic alongside Leah Jepson, MSW, from Mental Health America of WI.  Funding for the Clinic has been supplied from Marquette University, Johnson Controls Foundation, the Greater Milwaukee Funders’ Collaborative, and the Medical College of Wisconsin.  The Clinic is located at Next Door Foundation in the Metcalfe Park neighborhood of Milwaukee, and focuses on a Family Navigation/Family Empowerment model of service delivery and coordination.  Services include family navigation, autism screening, autism medical diagnosis, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, and Compassion and Resilience training for caregivers.  Children ages 15 months-10 years old, and their families, who experience systemic racial/ethnic, geographic, or economic barriers to care, are the focus population.  A Community Advisory Board consisting of parents, who have lived experiences in challenges in accessing autism and therapeutic care for their children, steers the mission, services, and operations of the Clinic.  It is also a community training practicum site for area graduate students in clinical psychology, school psychology, and nursing.  The Clinic transitioned to a telehealth model during the pandemic, continuously serving families and training student clinicians throughout the pandemic.  For more information, email

Selected Publications

  • Schiltz, H., Magnus, B., McVey, A., Haendel, A., Dolan, B., Stanley, R., Willar, K., Pleiss, S., Carson, A., Murphy, C., Vogt, E., Yund, B, & Van Hecke, A.V. (2019). A psychometric analysis of the Social Anxiety Scale for adolescents in youth with autism spectrum disorder: caregiver-adolescent agreement, factor structure, and validity. Assessment: DOI: 10.1177/1073191119851563
  • Schiltz, H.K., McVey, A.J., Barrington, A., Haendel, A.D., Dolan, B.K., Willar, K.S., Pleiss, S., Karst, J.S., Vogt, E., Murphy, C.C., Gonring, K., & Van Hecke, A.V. (2018). Behavioral inhibition and activation as a modifier process in autism spectrum disorder: Examination of self-reported BIS/BAS and alpha EEG asymmetry. Autism Research: DOI: 10.1002/aur.2016
  • McVey, A.J., Schiltz, H., Haendel, A., Dolan, B., Willar, K., Pleiss, S., Karst, J., Carlson, M.,Krueger, W., Murphy, C.C., Casnar, C., Yund, B., & Van Hecke, A. (2018).  Social difficulties in youth with autism with and without anxiety and ADHD symptoms. Autism Research, 11(12), pp.1679-1689.
  • Schiltz, H., McVey, A., Magnus, B., Dolan, B., Willar, K., Pleiss, S., Karst, J., Carson, A., Vogt, E., & Van Hecke, A. (2017). Examining the links between challenging behaviors in youth with ASD and parental stress, mental health, and involvement: Applying an adaptation of the family stress model to families of youth with ASD. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. doi:10.1007/s10803-017-3446-0
  • Johnson, N., Salowitz, N., Van Abel, M., Dolan, B., Van Hecke, A., & Ahamed, S. (2017). Autism and research using magnetic resonance imaging. Journal of Radiology Nursing, doi:10.1016/j.jradnu.2017.08.005.
  • Schiltz, H., McVey, A., Dolan, B., Willar, K., Pleiss, S., Karst, J., Carson, A., Caiozzo, C., Vogt, E., Potts, S., Young, B., & Van Hecke, A.V. (2017). Changes in depressive symptoms among adolescents with ASD completing the PEERS® social skills intervention. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, doi:10.1007/s10803-017-3396-6
  • South, M., Rodgers, J., & Van Hecke, A.V. (2017). Anxiety and ASD: Current progress and ongoing challenges. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, doi:10.1007/s10803-017-3322-y.
  • Magiati, I., Lerh, J. W., Hollocks, M., Uljarevic, M., Rodgers, J., McConachie, H., Ozsivadjian, A., South, M., Van Hecke, A., Hardan, A., Libove, R., Leekam, S., & Simonoff, E. (2017). The measurement properties of the Spence Children’s Anxiety Scale- Parent version in a large international pooled sample of young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism Research, 10 (10), 1629-1652. doi: 10.1002/aur.1809
  • McVey, A. J., Schiltz, H., Haendel, A., Dolan, B. K., Willar, K. S., Pleiss, S., Karst, J. S., Carson, A.M., Caiozzo, C., Vogt, E., Vaughan Van Hecke, A. (2017). Does gender matter in intervention for ASD?: Examining the impact of the PEERS® social skills intervention on social behavior among females with ASD.  Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47, 2282-2289. doi:10.1007/s10803-017-3121-5.
  • McVey, A. J., Dolan, B. K., Willar, K. S., Pleiss, S., Karst, J. S., Casnar, C. L., Caiozzo, C.,Vogt, E. M., Gordon, N. S., Vaughan Van Hecke, A. (2016). A replication and extension of the PEERS® for Young Adults intervention: Examining effects on social skills and social anxiety in young adults with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46 (12), 3739-3754. doi:10.1007/s10803-016-2911-5.
  • Dolan, B., Stevens, S., Carson, A.M., Karst, J., Schohl, K., Linneman, N., Hummel, E., & Vaughan Van Hecke, A. (2016). Brief Report: Assessment of Intervention Effects on In Vivo Peer Interactions in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46, 2251-2259.
  • Vaughan Van Hecke, A., Mundy, P., & Oswald, T. (2016).  Joint attention, social competence, and developmental psychopathology. D. Cicchetti and D. Cohen (Eds.), Developmental Psychopathology, 3rd Edition.  New Jersey: Wiley.
  • Johnson, N. & Van Hecke, A. (2015). Increasing autism awareness in inner-city churches: a brief report. The Journal of Pediatric Nursing. DOI:10.1016/j.pedn.2015.04.008
  • Karst, J., Vaughan Van Hecke, A., Carson, A., Stevens, S., Schohl, K., & Dolan, B.(2015).  Parent and family outcomes of PEERS: A social skills intervention for adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45, 752-765.  DOI: 10.1007/s10803-014-2231-6
  • Vaughan Van Hecke, A., Stevens, S., Carson, A.M., Dolan, B., Karst, J., Schohl, K.,McKindles, R., Remmel, R., & Brockman, S. (2015).  Measuring the plasticity of social approach: A randomized controlled trial of the effects of the PEERS intervention on EEG asymmetry in adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45, 316-335. DOI 10.1007/s10803-013-1883-y
  • Salowitz, N.M.G., Dolan, B., Remmel, R., Vaughan Van Hecke, A., Mosier, K., Simo, L., & Scheidt, R. (2014).  Simultaneous robotic manipulation and functional magnetic resonance imaging: Feasibility in children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Systemics, Cybernetics, and Informatics, 12(2), 67-73.
  • Carson, A.M., Gregor, N., Scheidt, R., & Vaughan Van Hecke, A. (2014).  EEG Coherence in children with and without autism spectrum disorders: Decreased inter-hemispheric connectivity in autism. Autism Research, 7, 334-343.
  • Schohl, K., Karst, J., Dolan, B., Stevens, S., Carson, A.M., & Vaughan Van Hecke, A. (2014). A replication and extension of the PEERS intervention: Examining effects on social skills and social anxiety in adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44, 532-545. DOI: 10.1007/s10803-013-1900-1
  • Salowitz, N., Karst, J., Meyer, A., Schohl, K., Stevens, S., Vaughan Van Hecke, A., & Scheidt, R. (2012). Visuo-spatial guidance of movement during gesture imitation and mirror drawing in children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, DOI: 10.1007/s10803-012-1631-8
  • Karst, J., & Vaughan Van Hecke, A. (2012).  Parent and family impact of autism spectrum disorders: A review and proposed model for intervention evaluation.  Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, DOI: 10.1007/s10567-012-0119-6
  • Vaughan Van Hecke, A., Mundy, P. C., Block, J., Delgado, C., Parlade, M.V., Pomares, Y., & Hobson, J. (2012). Infant responding to joint attention, executive processes, and attention regulation in preschool children. Infant Behavior and Development, 35, 303-311. DOI: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2011.12.001
  • Bal, E., Harden, E., Lamb, D., Vaughan Van Hecke, A., Denver, J., & Porges, S.W. (2009). Emotion recognition in children with autism spectrum disorders: Relations to eye gaze and autonomic state. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40, 358-370
  • Vaughan Van Hecke, A., Lebow, J., Bal, E., Lamb, D. Harden, E., Kramer, A., Denver, J., Bazhenova, O., & Porges, S. (2009). EEG and heart rate regulation to familiar and unfamiliar people in children with autism spectrum disorders. Child Development, 80, 1118-33
  • Mundy, P., Block, J., Delgado, C.,Van Hecke, A.V., Pomares, Y., & Parlade, M.V. (2007). Individual differences and the development of joint attention in infancy. Child Development, 78, 938-954.
  • Vaughan Van Hecke, A., Mundy, P. C., Acra, C. F., Block, J., Gomez, Y., Delgado, C.,Venezia, M., Meyer, J., Neal, R., & Pomares, Y. (2007). Infant joint attention, temperament, and social competence in preschool children. Child Development, 78, 53-69.
  • Meyer, J. A., Mundy, P., Van Hecke, A.V., & Durocher, J. S. (2006). Social-attribution processes and comorbid psychiatric symptoms in children with Asperger syndrome. Autism, 10, 383-402.
  • Vaughan, A., Mundy, P., Block, J., Burnette, C., Delgado, C., Gomez, Y., Meyer, J., Neal, R., & Pomares, Y. (2003). Child, caregiver, and temperament contributions to infant joint attention. Infancy, 4, 603-616.
  • Sutton, S., Burnette, C., Mundy, P., Meyer, J., Vaughan, A., Sanders, C., & Yale, M. (2005). Resting cortical brain activity, social impairments, and comorbidity in high functioning children with autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 46, 211-222. 

In press:

  • Bal, E., Harden, E., Lamb, D., Vaughan Van Hecke, A., Denver, J., & Porges, S.W. (2009). Emotion recognition in children with autism spectrum disorders: Relations to eye gaze and autonomic state. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Faculty & Staff Directory


Department of Psychology
Cramer Hall, 317
604 N. 16th St.
Milwaukee, WI 53233
(414) 288-7218

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