Fostering the Ability in Disability

Every individual has their own unique strengths and vulnerabilities. Each has their own needs and talents. But a few key factors are critical for success: early detection, accurate assessment, reevaluation at transitional times, and support and interventions well matched to each individual’s specific needs.

Currently, there is no blood test or biomarker for diagnosing autism, and even identification of specific genetic conditions cannot determine a person’s capabilities or needs in the absence of a comprehensive assessment. Best practices for diagnosis rely heavily on the judgment of highly trained and experienced clinicians. That judgment must be well informed by research, well trained in evidence-based methods, and practiced with both compassion and a dedication to accuracy. The consequences of misdiagnoses or missed diagnoses are far too great.

From her earliest days working with children with ASD in an international residential program to her years conducting, supervising, and managing diagnostic evaluations at both Yale and Emory, NACS founder Dr. Celine Saulnier met too many individuals who had previously struggled through multiple misdiagnoses and through assessments that had overlooked areas of key vulnerabilities and strengths. These misdiagnoses and missed diagnoses led to individuals receiving the wrong support, insufficient support, or support far too delayed.

Dr. Saulnier also observed how research that focused on boys with ASD led to diagnostic methods that missed some of the unique ways in which girls typically present signs of the disorder. And she saw how inequitable access to screening and diagnoses led to racial and ethnic disparities in early detection and diagnosis, delaying timely interventions.

“How can we more accurately identify, assess, and diagnose children with or at risk for these disorders?” she wondered. “How can we get people the support they need when it can help them the most?”

NACS is an expression of Dr. Saulnier’s tireless commitment to bring scientific rigor to community clinical diagnoses, and to inform autism research with comprehensive assessments that reveal all facets of each individual’s abilities.

We are striving for a world in which each individual’s neurodevelopmental differences are diagnosed early and accurately, when the appropriate interventions can support the most optimal outcome.

We are working toward a world in which we recognize and support each individual’s complete capacity.

There is so much ability waiting to be discovered in each person’s disability. At NACS, we are empowering individuals with the comprehensive evaluations needed for them to grow toward their fullest potential.


Dr. Celine Saulnier

Dr. Celine Saulnier is a renowned clinician-scientist with over 20 years of experience in clinical and diagnostic evaluations of autism spectrum and related neurodevelopmental disorders for both clinical and research purposes. She has made it her life’s mission to help all individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders flourish and live their fullest lives.

Dr. Saulnier earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Neuropsychology from the University of Connecticut under the mentorship of Dr. Deborah Fein. She then conducted her postdoctoral fellowship at the Yale Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine under the mentorship of Drs. Ami Klin, Sara Sparrow, Fred Volkmar, and Kasia Chawarska. She later became the training director and then clinical director of the Yale Autism Program. At Yale, she conducted over 1000 clinical and diagnostic evaluations on individuals from infancy through adulthood as part of a multidisciplinary team of experts.

In 2011, Dr. Saulnier was recruited to the Marcus Autism Center and Emory University School of Medicine to help build a large-scale clinical research program in one of the nation’s largest clinical care centers for ASD. As an Associate Professor within the Department of Pediatrics, she was an investigator on numerous grants studying aspects of ASD ranging from social neuroscience to genetics, and, as the director of the clinical assessment core, she contributed to the center’s designation in 2012 as one of only three National Institutes of Health Autism Centers of Excellence, a grant that was renewed in 2017. Dr. Saulnier has published in leading journals for autism, has presented at national and international conferences, and she is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Autism Science Foundation, the field’s leading scientific nonprofit organization.

Dr. Saulnier is co-author of the gold-standard Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, Third Edition and two books: Essentials of Autism Spectrum Disorders Evaluation and Assessment and Essentials of Adaptive Behavior Assessment of Neurodevelopmental Disorders. She develops, teaches, practices, and advocates for state-of-the-art neurodevelopmental diagnostic assessments, with a particular expertise in detecting the earliest emerging risk factors in infants and toddlers. And she has taught numerous academic courses, as well as hundreds of lectures, workshops, and continuing education seminars on topics including diagnostic assessment, treatment and intervention, and adaptive behavior.

NACS is the next chapter in Dr. Saulnier’s mission to empower all individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders through accurate and comprehensive diagnoses, and to support them as they grow toward their fullest potential.

Photo by Hannah Jimerson at Rosethorn Studio

Books, Measures, and Recent Publications by Dr. Saulnier

Books, Measures, and Recent Publications by Dr. Saulnier

Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, Third Edition (Vineland-3: Sparrow, Cicchetti, & Saulnier, 2016)
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Essentials of Autism Spectrum Disorders Evaluation and Assessment (Saulnier & Ventola, 2012)
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Essentials of Adaptive Behavior Assessment of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (Saulnier & Klaiman, 2018)
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  1. Rethinking autism spectrum disorder assessment for children during COVID-19 and beyond: Read
  2. Early emergence of discrepancy in adaptive behavior and cognitive skills in toddlers with ASD: Read
  3. Timing of the diagnosis of autism in African American children: Read
  4. Toward innovative, cost-effective, and systematic solutions to improve outcomes and well-being of military families affected by autism spectrum disorder: Read
  5. Assessment of adaptive behavior in autism spectrum disorder: Read

A personal note from our Founder:

My first job out of college was working in a residential program for children with autism where most families were international and unable to see their children for the majority of each year. Heartbroken that this could be a family’s best option for their children that had so much potential, I pursued a doctorate to better research the disorder. Having trained with world-renowned clinicians in top research institutions, I fell in love with conducting comprehensive developmental assessments and how the diagnostic process lays the groundwork for appropriate treatment and intervention. I spent many years as an investigator on national grants, publishing in prestigious journals, and becoming an author, educator, and supervisor, training future generations of leading scientist-practitioners and professionals within the field.

Two decades later, there continues to be so much to learn. Families are still searching for answers, many of which lie within the gap between scientific labs and translation and dissemination of research to community practice. As a clinician-scientist having been immersed within this gap for my entire career, I have the unique expertise to bring state-of-the-art, evidence-based practices to the community setting. I find this to be an extraordinary professional responsibility that motivated me to branch out from my academic world and open NACS, where I can more directly effect change and help all individuals achieve their fullest potential.

I look forward to working with each and every one of you!

 – Dr. Celine Saulnier