Dr. Bryna Siegel has a Ph.D. in Child Development (1980) from Stanford University. She has spent her career working in the fields of autism diagnosis and treatment bringing a developmental perspective to both a research and clinical understanding of this disorder. Her career at Stanford spanned 14 years as a graduate student, post-doctoral fellow, research associate, and senior research associate.
For 24 years Dr. Siegel served on the faculty at the University of California, San Francisco, as an assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor of child and adolescent psychiatry where she founded and headed its Autism Clinic, taught medical students, and supervised child psychiatry and child neurology fellows in her clinic. During her years at UCSF, she wrote four books, numerous chapters, research abstracts and papers, and normed and published a screening test for autism, and participated in the standardization of the APA’s diagnosis of autism, DSM-III-R and DSM-IV.
In the past five years, she founded and now is Executive Director of the non-profit organization Autism Center of Northern California with the mission of helping families living with autism from diagnosis to adulthood. Practice at the Autism Center follows Dr. Siegel's developmental-behavioral approach.
As a developmentalist, Dr. Siegel has aimed to understand children with autism by recognizing that some aspects of development will follow expected growth trajectories, while others, are constrained by neuropathology.
She sees many problem behaviors in autism as the confluence of specific neuropathology meeting intact abilities which she calls ‘autistic learning disabilities.’
Treatments for these derive from using the strongest abilities to compensate for the weak ones which she calls ‘autistic learning styles.’
This approach is detailed in her seminal book Helping Children with Autism Learn (Oxford University Press, 2004), as well as in a number of her peer-reviewed publications.