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.

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Claire Schutte, PsyD, BCBA-D

(formerly Claire Blankemeier, PsyD, BCBA-D)

Claire Schutte, PsyD, BCBA-D, is Staff Psychologist at The Johnson Center for Child Health and Development. She graduated with honors from the University of Florida with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in General Education. She completed graduate training at Florida Institute of Technology, completing a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology and a master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

Dr. Schutte has treated a diverse population of children, adolescents, and adults in a variety of clinical settings, including community clinics, college counseling centers, psychiatric hospitals, private practice, and private treatment programs. She has extensive experience in the area of child and adult psychological evaluation and assessment, and recently completed a postdoctoral residency in psychological evaluation.

Her graduate training led Dr. Schutte to discover an interest in helping individuals with autism and developmental disorders. She has provided individual therapy, group therapy, and social skills training to individuals on the autism spectrum, and is excited to continue helping those with autism and related disorders by providing psychological evaluations at JCCHD.

Wendy Richardson

WR Staff Photo


After graduating from Washington State University with a degree in communications, Wendy Richardson worked in advertising at Lintas Muir Cornelius Moore and PS Ltd. in New York. She left to coordinate the production and art departments on feature films, such as The Hudsucker Proxy, Forrest Gump, The Jungle Book, Indian in the Cupboard, The Fast and The Furious and We Were Soldiers. Prior to joining The Johnson Center, Wendy was a staff film accountant at Warner Brothers, where she worked on Happy Feet, The Good German, The Ant Bully, and August Rush. While living in California, she was a devoted volunteer at the Pasadena AIDS Service Center, making films for mothers with AIDS to leave to their children; she also assisted in art classes for children affected by AIDS. In addition, she produced a yearlong program, Digital Groove, through the Los Angeles School System, bringing together digital artists to mentor at-risk high school seniors. Wendy raised money for The AIDS Foundation by completing The AIDS Ride, a seven-hundred-mile annual bike ride from San Francisco to LA.

Wendy Richardson brings this same commitment and dedication to JCCHD, helping to coordinate our research efforts. Wendy works directly with families to ensure their research participation is a positive experience, as well as coordinating the logistics of data collection for clinical research studies. Often a study requires that many elements be put in place for patients sprinkled across the country - a logistical challenge and Wendy’s favorite part of her work. She shares her considerable talents and passion for Excel spreadsheets in her role as Research Coordinator.

Nikki Roatch, M.A.

Nikki Roatch recently graduated from Texas A&M University, where she completed a master’s degree in biological anthropology. After working in academia, Nikki joined the research team at The Johnson Center in the Fall of 2013. 

As a research assistant at The Johnson Center, Nikki facilitates clinical studies, working to serve our community in effective and meaningful ways. She is enjoying the transition into clinical research, where she has the opportunity to personally work with families in order to improve patients’ lives at an individual level.

Specifically, she is involved in our ongoing study aimed at identifying biomarkers in children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) using genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic profiling that may be useful for targeting therapeutic interventions. This development of biomarker profiles may form a diagnostic tool, which may improve the clinical well-being of children with developmental disorders.