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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

Associate Professor


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 Vice 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, playing croquet, holding an annual crawfish boil, co-leading a Brownie 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.

Research Lab: Marquette Autism Project (MAP)

Marquette Interdisciplinary Autism Initiative


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

Courses Taught

Dr. Van Hecke enjoys teaching undergraduate Developmental Psychology: Conception through Adolescence, 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 typical and atypical social development across the lifespan. In particular, Dr. Van Hecke is interested in brain activity, heart rate regulation, and social behavior in infants, and in teenagers and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Her past studies have focused on topics such as the development of eye contact behavior, temperament, and social skills in typically developing infants, and the activation of the brain and regulation of the heart in response to familiar and unfamiliar people in children with high-functioning autism. 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 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.  A secondary focus in Dr. Van Hecke’s lab includes a community collaborative project to ensure access to high-quality autism diagnostic screening and services for underserved, inner-city children in Milwaukee.

Selected Publications

  • 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. In press, Autism Research.
  • 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.  DOI10.1007/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 Disorders44, 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.

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

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