Dr Liliana Ruta


In my clinical and research training as child neuropsychiatrist and Ph.D I have developed an extensive experience on neurodevelopmental conditions with a particular focus on autism, from biology to clinical implications. The research period spent at the Autism Research Centre (Cambridge University, UK), from 2007 to 2012 (as visiting Ph.D student and research associate respectively), under the supervision of Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, has given me the invaluable opportunity to consolidate a sound expertise in early behavioural and neurocognitive markers of autism and early diagnosis as well as the required leadership experience in the management of longitudinal studies on early detection of autism. As PI of a Ministry of Health (Giovani Ricercatori) - funded grant (GR-2010-2319668) I have been successfully coordinating and administering all the aspects (research, staff and budget related) of a multicentric study on early screening for autism in the paediatric setting (about 2500 toddlers in the population have been screened during the 18 months routine health-visits) through web-based technology platforms. Furthermore, the close collaboration with the MIND Institute (Sacramento, USA) since 2012 and the direct mentoring and training from Professor Sally Rogers have allowed me to develop a specific know-how in early developmental behavioural intervention for autism, becoming an international trainer in the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM). In my role as ESDM trainer, I am delivering regular Introductory and Advanced ESDM Workshops and coaching therapists throughout the ESDM certification program, nationally and internationally. In my current research position at the CNR, I am leading a research group of 4 research fellows and 2 research assistants - The Early Change Lab - developing and carrying out novel experimental paradigms using gaze-tracking technologies to examine visual social attention and social motivation in young children with autism and in relation to the ESDM intervention and tracking child development in all the developmental domains focusing on inter- and intra individual differences over time, to explore autism heterogeneity at group and individual levels as well as variability in change over time, response to treatment and long-term outcomes. As part of the longitudinal early intervention program, I’m supervising a clinical staff of about 10 therapists delivering the ESDM at both the CNR facilities and the local territorial health services. In the last few years, we have started a new research line aimed to explore the efficacy and feasibility of an early parent-mediated intervention based on ESDM, implemented through the use of tech-enabled remote monitoring (telehealth), looking at individual child’s developmental trajectories in relation to parental characteristics and parent-child interactions.