Susan Ellis Weismer, PhD, CCC-SLP
Principal Investigator

Professor Susan Ellis Weismer investigates the developmental course and nature of language processing in atypical language learners compared to those with typical language development. Populations of interest include late talkers, children with specific language impairment, and young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). One line of research is focused on examining linguistic processing abilities of toddlers with late onset of language development compared to those with typical patterns of language acquisition. Another area of research is directed at studying language development patterns in young children with ASD. To learn more about Professor Ellis Weismer’s research, visit her Language Processes Lab website!


Jenny SaffranJenny Saffran, PhD
Principal Investigator

How do children acquire their native language? Professor Jenny Saffran’s research focuses on the kinds of learning abilities required to master the complexities of language. Three broad issues characterize her work. One line of research asks what kinds of learning emerge in infancy. A second line of research probes the biases that shape human learning abilities, and the relationship between these biases and the structure of human languages. A third issue concerns the extent to which the learning abilities underlying this process are specifically tailored for language acquisition. To learn more about Professor Saffran’s research, visit her Infant Learning Lab website!


Martha Walter, PhD

Martha Walter, PhD, is a licensed psychologist at the Waisman Center. She received her PhD in school psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and completed a clinical fellowship in developmental disabilities at Boston Children’s Hospital. Her clinical interests include diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, and other developmental and/or psychiatric concerns; treatment of anxiety and co-occurring behavioral difficulties for children with developmental disabilities; and consultation with families, schools, and providers. Dr. Walter’s research interests have most recently focused on school services and supports for children with intellectual disability and/or autism. She is also interested in exploring the use of telehealth to improve access to services for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Tracy Reuter
Research Associate

Tracy is a Research Associate, working with Dr. Jenny Saffran and Dr. Susan Ellis Weismer. She earned her B.A. in Psychology from UW-Madison and her PhD in Psychology from Princeton. Her work broadly investigates how infants, children, and adults process and learn language. In particular, her research explores how learners connect their past, present, and future language experiences – for example, by making predictions about upcoming information.


Caroline Larson, M.Ed., CCC-SLP
Graduate Student

Caroline is a PhD candidate in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department under the mentorship of Dr. Susan Ellis Weismer. She earned her B.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Eastern Illinois University and her M.Ed. in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Virginia. Caroline is a certified speech-language pathologist with experience in private practice, early intervention, and school settings. Her research interests include investigating relationships between language and other cognitive processes in children with language impairments and causal factors in atypical language development.


Janine Mathee, MS, CCC-SLP
Graduate Student

Janine is a graduate student in the MS/PhD program in Speech-Language Pathology working with Dr. Ellis Weismer. Janine first became interested in developmental and cognitive research through working in Dr. Saffran’s Infant Learning Lab, where she completed an undergraduate senior thesis project investigating the effects of visual salience on infants’ lexical processing. Her research interests are centered around what mechanisms drive the vast differences in language outcomes observed among individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and how these mechanisms can be applied clinically in order to facilitate language growth for children with ASD. Janine is passionate about “bridging the gap” between research and clinical work.


Kathryn Prescott
Graduate Student

Kathryn is a PhD student under the mentorship of Dr. Susan Ellis Weismer in the department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. She graduated with her B.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Northwestern University and her M.A. in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Kathryn is a certified speech-language pathologist with clinical experience in early intervention and school settings. Her research interests include investigating the mechanisms underlying early language learning in clinical populations in order to inform intervention practices among speech-language pathologists serving these populations. She is passionate about evidence-based practice and bridging the gap between research and clinical speech-language pathology.

Heidi Sindberg
Speech-Language Pathologist

Heidi received both her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Communicative Disorders from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has been a lifetime resident of the Madison area. Her lengthy career as a speech-language pathologist has been split between clinical and research positions. Heidi has worked on three previous research projects in the Language Processes Lab and has extensive experience evaluating communication skills in young children.


Kristine Millard
Data Manager

Kristine joined our team after several years in public libraries. She has a post-baccalaureate certificate in Family Literacy. Her professional interests focus on early literacy foundations, including the impact of language development on later reading abilities and school success.  She emphasizes the importance of diversity and inclusive environments, experiences, and literature in lifelong learning opportunities.



Faith Engelmann
Research Assistant

Faith is currently a sophomore majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders. She spent the summer working as an ABA therapist and became passionate in learning more about speech development and processing in children, especially children with ASD. She is excited to pursue this through spending time in this lab and learning more about how autism can affect language development in children. She plans on pursuing a Masters in Speech Pathology.


Louisa Forrest
Research Assistant
Louisa earned a bachelor’s degree from UW-Madison this past spring. She studied linguistics, Spanish, and Latin American studies in her undergrad and is currently working on a post-baccalaureate certificate in communication sciences and disorders with the hopes of getting into a master’s program in speech and language pathology in the coming year. When she’s not studying or working in lab, you can find her supervising a wonderful team of House Fellows!


Morgan Kuckkahn
Research Assistant

Morgan is an undergraduate student in her sophomore year majoring in Communication Sciences & Disorders. She has a strong passion for helping others and working with children. Morgan is excited to learn more about how autism affects language development and processing in comparison to typically developing children. After graduating, she plans to obtain a Masters degree in Speech-Language Pathology in hopes of becoming a pediatric speech-language pathologist in a school or clinic setting.


River Steen
Research Assistant

River is in her junior year as an undergraduate double majoring in Communication Sciences & Disorders and Psychology. Combining her passion for working with children and interest in psychology, River is excited to learn more about language development and processes in children. After graduating she plans on earning her Masters in Speech-Language Pathology to pursue a career as a pediatric speech-language pathologist.


Maria Seubert
Research Assistant

Maria is an undergraduate student in her junior year majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders with a certificate in Education and Educational Services. She loves working with kids and is excited to be learning more about language development in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). After graduation, Maria plans on going to graduate school and earning her Masters degree to become a speech-language pathologist in a school setting.


Hannah Toohey
Research Assistant

Hannah is a Communication Sciences and Disorders post-baccalaureate student. She is excited to shift her focus from data analytics in the business world to a lab setting focusing on language processing and development. After completing this leveling coursework, Hannah plans to obtain a master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology and hopes to work in a school setting with young children.

Julia Zacher
Research Assistant
Julia is an undergraduate student in her junior year majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders, with certificates in Education and Educational Services, and Disability Rights and Services. She is very passionate and excited to learn more about children with ASD as she hopes to work in a pediatric setting in the future. After graduation, Julia has plans to attend grad school to pursue a Master’s in speech language pathology.