(215) 746 1950

View NCBI link


Melanie Pellecchia, PhD, BCBA, NCSP
Assistant Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry

Dr. Pellecchia’s clinical and research interests lie in improving the implementation of evidence-based treatments for children with autism spectrum disorders in under-served communities. She is an expert in delivering, and training others to deliver, high quality treatments for young children with autism. Dr. Pellecchia has extensive experience developing and evaluating publicly-funded education programs for children with autism spectrum disorder, and working with teachers, staff, and administrators to improve their implementation of evidence-based practices.

Dr. Pellecchia co-founded the Center for Mental Health’s School Psychology Doctoral Internship program, and is passionate about providing clinical training to pre-and post-doctoral clinicians. She also leads the parent training program in the Center for Mental Health’s Autism Clinic.

Dr. Pellecchia’s research is focused on partnering with community-stakeholders to develop implementation strategies that are feasible, sustainable, and appropriate for use in community settings. She is the recent recipient of an Early Career Development and Mentoring Research Training Program Award from the Institute of Education Sciences titled: Partnering with Early Intervention Providers to Increase Implementation of Parent Coaching for Families of Children with ASD. Through this award, Dr. Pellecchia which will partner with community stakeholders in early intervention to develop strategies to improve the use of parent coaching for families of young children with autism spectrum disorders in Philadelphia.


Parent Empowerment and Coaching in Early Intervention (PEACE)

This four-year early career development award will use community-partnered research methods to iteratively develop and pilot test a toolkit of implementation strategies to increase early intervention providers’ use of parent coaching for families of young children with, or at risk for, autism spectrum disorder. The project will involve four phases: 1) observations of the use of parent coaching during usual practice; 2) interviews with providers, agency leaders, and parents to gather information about factors that influence their decisions to use parent coaching; 3) a community-partnered iterative development process to develop a toolkit of implementation strategies based on the findings from Phases 1 and 2; and 4) a pilot test of the toolkit’s feasibility and promise. The findings will inform a randomized field trial of the toolkit’s effectiveness in improving the use of parent coaching within early intervention.

Role: Principle Investigator
Funder: Institute of Education Sciences

Learn more:

Autism Intervention Research for Behavioral Health:III - Mind the Gap Project

This study aims to address the critical need to increase access to care for under-resourced children with ASD and their families. Focus groups and interviews with parents of low-income, minority children with ASD across four different sites (UCLA, UC Davis, U Penn, and U Rochester) were used to better understand the challenges, barriers, and needs related to accessing services for children with ASD in the community. These data, paired with a Community-Partnered Participatory Research approach, led to the development of an intervention to help families initiate services, increase engagement and advocate for their child. The intervention is currently being evaluated through a randomized trial across all four sites. Dr. Pellecchia leads the Mind the Gap study for the University of Pennsylvania site.

Role: Co-Investigator
Funder: Health Resources and Services Administration

Learn more:

Hall Mercer Community Mental Health Center Early Childhood Program

The Early Childhood Program at Hall Mercer Community Mental Health Center is a joint venture between the Center for Mental Health and Hall Mercer aimed at delivering high quality treatment to preschool-aged children with autism spectrum and related disorders. The Early Childhood program uses applied behavior analysis techniques to address the core deficits of autism spectrum disorder. Intervention is delivered in a small group format and emphasizes developing functional and social communication skills, play skills, and participation in classroom routines and activities. Each child’s interests and motivation serve as the platform for intervention delivered in an environment rich with opportunities for engagement.

Role: Psychologist

Penn Autism Clinic: Parent Training Program

The parent training program at the Penn Autism Clinic is a 12-week parent training program focused on helping parents of young children with autism spectrum disorder learn strategies to improve their child’s social engagement, play, and language skills. A skilled coach works with each parent to collaboratively develop goals and implement evidence-based strategies to support their child’s development.

Role: Psychologist