Laura Hewitson, PhD

lhewitson Laura Hewitson, PhD is the Director of Research for The Johnson Center for Child Health and Development. Dr. Hewitson graduated with honors in Biology from the University of Essex, UK in 1990, and then earned her PhD in Biological Sciences at the University of York, UK. She relocated to the US in 1994 to pursue post-doctoral training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was a Staff Scientist at Oregon Health Sciences University from 1997-2001, held the position of Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences from 2002-2009; and held an Adjunct faculty position there from 2009-2010. She has also been appointed as an Affiliate Scientist at the Washington National Primate Research Center since 2009. Her research has focused on developing animal models in order to better understand the genetic and environmental influences that lead to infertility and/or adverse pregnancy outcomes. She has published over 60 peer-reviewed scientific papers, invited reviews, and book chapters, and has presented her work at many national and international conferences.

Dr. Hewitson is currently collaborating with scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School to identify blood biomarkers for autism that could potentially predict autism risk, assist in early diagnosis, or even identify potential therapeutic targets. With funding from The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) and the Department of Defense (DoD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP), Hewitson and colleagues are working to identify proteins that are elevated in blood samples of children with autism, using a novel approach - a combinatorial peptoid library - that has been recently developed at the University of Texas Southwestern.

As the Research Director at Johnson Center for Child Health and Development, Dr. Hewitson oversees a diverse research portfolio for children with autism focusing on immune dysfunction, nutrition, and the development of biomarkers as both diagnostic tools and as possible therapeutic targets.

Kelly Barnhill, MBA, CN, CCN

K Barnhill Kelly Barnhill, MBA, CN, CCN, is the Director of the Nutrition Clinic at The Johnson Center for Child Health and Development. She is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist, with over a decade of experience working with nutrition in children with autism and related disorders. At the Johnson Center she directs a team of dieticians and nutritionists that has served over 3000 children through this practice.

In addition to her clinical practice, Kelly also serves as the Johnson Center Clinical Care Director, overseeing management and implementation of multidisciplinary care across the practices within the organization. In 2008, Kelly accepted the position of Nutrition Coordinator for the Autism Research Institute. In this role, she designs and manages curriculum and training for hundreds of nutrition practitioners each year, as well as providing direct training for thousands of parents. Kelly is a sought-after presenter, speaking at several national and international conferences each year.

Her studies and work at JCCHD are the culmination of many years’ effort and expertise, with the last several years devoted to understanding the biological underpinnings of the disorder we know as autism. Her work has raised awareness of the need for these services for children with autism and related disorders. Kelly is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Jana Rundle

Jana Rundle, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist offering professional psychological services at The Johnson Center for Child Health and Development in Austin, Texas.  After completing her doctoral work at California School of Professional Psychology in San Diego, she moved to Austin, Texas, in order to continue to provide psychological services in her home state.  She is trained in psychological and neuropsychological assessment, administering and interpreting tests that provide information about an individual’s cognitive functioning, attention and memory, gross and fine motor development, language and reading skills, visual-spatial functioning, executive functioning, and emotional and personality development. She also has years of training providing individual and group therapy for adults and adolescents, providing play therapy for children, and in facilitating social skills groups for children with neurodevelopmental disorders. 

Dr. Rundle’s therapeutic style is person-centered and insight-oriented. She collaborates with each client to determine the best treatment plan for him/her. She believes that one of the most important agents of change is the alliance that one has with his/her therapist. Her warm and engaging style helps her create a comfortable atmosphere for clients so that they can begin to feel better. Her areas of expertise are depression, anxiety, grief and loss, life transitions, trauma, relationship concerns, play therapy with children, and intellectual and developmental disabilities.