A naturalistic early communication intervention

KidTalk intervention procedures are based on more than 50 research studies demonstrating that naturalistic, conversation-based language teaching implemented by parents and teachers is effective for teaching young children functional communication skills.

Children taught using KidTalk procedures typically learn new vocabulary, talk in longer sentences, and develop strong, positive relationships with their parents, teachers and peers.



Our Team

KidTalk has a staff of about 20 people. About one-third of these are masters or doctoral students, and most of the rest are full-time staff. KidTalk also regularly employs a handful of undergraduate students part-time.

Ann Kaiser

Ann Kaiser, Ph.D. – Director, KidTalk Projects

Ann is the Director of KidTalk and the Susan W. Gray Professor of Education and Human Development at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. She serves as the principal investigator for the research and demonstration grants at KidTalk.  She has published more than 100 articles and chapters on early language interventions for children with language delays and developmental disabilities, and for children at risk due to poverty. She has received numerous awards for her research and mentoring including the Harvey Branscomb Distinguished Professorship at Vanderbilt University, and the prestigious J. E. Wallace Wallin Lifetime Achievement Award of the Council for Exceptional Children. Dr. Kaiser received her PhD in Developmental and Child Psychology from the University of Kansas. 

Ann Kaiser

Jennifer Nietfeld, M.A. – Project Director, ACE -

Jen obtained an undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education and a Masters in Developmental and Child Psychology, Behavior Analysis, both at University of Kansas. She worked with Dr. Kaiser as a parent trainer for four years, which moved her to become the director and founder of SAIL Inc, an early intervention group providing ABA to children with autism. In addition to her work with SAIL, she is the Project Director for the KidTalk ACE project, a four-site grant funded by Autism Center for Excellence. The ACE project serves minimally verbal children with Autism.

Courtney Wright Courtney Wright, Ph.D., CCC-SLP – Project Director –

Courtney graduated from the Early Childhood Special Education Doctoral program at Vanderbilt University in 2013 and has since been working as an instructor and research associate at Vanderbilt Peabody College in the Special Education Department. She is currently directing the Merck Foundation grant serving preschoolers with Down syndrome while also performing assessments and providing intervention to children on this project and other projects. Courtney is a certified Speech-Language Pathologist specializing in children 0-8 and augmentative and alternative communication.

Ann Kaiser

Lauren Hampton, M.A. – Project Director, HRSA –

Lauren Hampton is a doctoral student in Early Childhood Special Education and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. After completing her Master's at Vanderbilt University in 2010, Lauren worked at the Brown Center for Autism, and returned to pursue her doctorate in 2012. Lauren currently works on the Kidtalk ACE and HRSA projects. The HRSA project serves minimally verbal, preschool aged children with Autism, while the ACE project serves school-aged children with Autism.


Our Team

Ann Kaiser

Kimberly McCulla, B.S. – Data Manager –

Kim works as the data manager for the ACE and HRSA projects. She graduated in 2008 from Lipscomb University, where she studied psychology and english. She became acquainted with the Kennedy Center during her senior practicum, where she assisted at the Kennedy Center and TRIAD, and worked on projects dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorder detection and intervention. Kim has worked with children in various corporate and private settings for the last five years, and plans on continuing her education at the graduate level in developmental psychology.

Ann Kaiser

Tatiana Peredo, M.Ed. – Interventionist –

Tatiana works as an interventionist on all of our projects at KidTalk, and performs assessments on the Down syndrome project. She earned her Master's degree in Human Development Counseling from Vanderbilt University in 2010. Tatiana is currently finishing her Doctorate degree in Developmental Psychology from the University of Texas at Dallas, and plans to continue working with children who have developmental disabilities upon finishing her Ph.D.

Kalynn Kennon

Stephanie Jordan, M.S., CCC-SLP – Interventionist –

Stephanie Jordan is a licensed speech-language pathologist who completed her Master’s degree from the University Of California, Northridge. Prior to moving to TN, Stephanie worked as an SLPA for a non-profit clinic in California.  For the past 5 years she has worked on several of Dr. Kaiser’s projects as an interventionist, parent trainer and assessor. Stephanie enjoys studying an effective language intervention that helps to support and mentor strong relationships and language development. Stephanie works on the KidTalk ACE project for minimally verbal children with Autism.

Ann Kaiser

Kalynn Kennon, B.S. – Data Manager –

Kalynn Kennon currently works as a data manager for the Working on Rapid Language Development project (WORLD), investigating the effects of a parent-implemented language intervention on the language development of toddlers with language delays. Kalynn coordinates recruitment, data collection and scheduling for the WORLD team. Before working in the Special Education department Kalynn worked in Vanderbilt's Epidemiology Center for a breast cancer research study.

Ann KaiserTara Hixson, LMSW – Research Analyst –

Tara is a Research Analyst for the Down syndrome project. She graduated with her Master's degree from Baylor University's School of Social Work with a concentration in children and families and a specialization in military families. Prior to graduate school, Tara received a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Developmental Psychology. Tara has worked as a research assistant in the Infant and Child Development Lab at Wayne State University, as well as on the Military Family Coping Project at Baylor University. She has several years of experience working with children and families in a variety of settings. 

Ann KaiserMorgan Lueck, M.Ed., MMFT – Project Coordinator –

Morgan is the Project Coordinator for all of the KidTalk programs and performs various duties across all projects. She earned her Master's degree from Vanderbilt's Special Education program, specializing in high-incidence disabilities, and earned a second Master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Trevecca Nazarene University. Morgan taught middle school children for four years in the public school setting before joining the KidTalk team.

Ann Kaiser

Suzanne Thompson, M.Ed., BCBA – Interventionist, Assessor -
Suzanne Thompson is an Educational Consultant for Kidtalk working across projects as both an interventionist and an assessor. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Disorders, a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Special Education, and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Suzanne has been with Kidtalk since October 2009 and enjoys working in an environment where she is able to directly apply research to the clinic and home settings. Suzanne works on the KidTalk project for children with Down syndrome, as well as the KidTalk ACE project for minimally verbal children with Autism.

Ann Kaiser

Lauren Ray, B.S. – Research Analyst –

Lauren began working as a Research Analyst on the KidTalk ACE project for minimally verbal children with Autism after graduating in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. Prior experience before joining the KidTalk team was gained through multiple internships and volunteer work with children who have intellectual disabilities, including autism. Lauren's extensive involvement with children has developed a stronger interest in this field, and she plans to continue pursuing Special Education at the graduate level.

Ann Kaiser

Jodi Heidlage, B.S.W. – Interventionist –

Jodi obtained her Bachelor's degree in Social Work from Lipscomb University in 2010. She has worked for the past five years as a therapist, consultant, and parent trainer for children with autism. She is currently working on her Doctorate degree in Early Childhood Special Education at Vanderbilt University, and has been working for over a year as an interventionist on the KidTalk ACE project for minimally verbal children with Autism.

Ann KaiserEmma Morgan, B.A. – Research Analyst –

Emma works as a research analyst for the KidTalk ACE project for minimally verbal children with Autism. She graduated with a bachelor's degree from The Ohio State University, where she studied Psychology and Sociology. While at OSU, she was a Research Assistant in the Psychopathology and Affective Sciences Lab where she researched emotion regulation, and worked in the Depression Lab as well. Emma has also worked with children in various other settings for many years. She hopes to obtain a Master's degree in social work in the near future.

Ann KaiserEmily Dayle Quinn, M.S., CCC-SLP – Interventionist –

Emily received her bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders from Penn State University and her master’s degree at the University of Nebraska specializing in traumatic brain injury and augmentative and alternative communication.  Prior to moving to Tennessee she worked as a speech- language pathologist at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Portland, Oregon and as a research associate at Oregon Health & Science University. Emily enjoys working with children with multiple disabilities. She recently began a doctoral program at Vanderbilt University in Early Childhood Special Education.

Ann KaiserLizzy Fuller, B.A. – Interventionist –

Lizzy obtained her Bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2011. She worked for the five years in the Kasari Lab as a research analyst, interventionist, assessor, and parent trainer for children with autism. She is currently working on her Doctorate degree in Early Childhood Special Education at Vanderbilt University, and has been working for over a year as an interventionist on the KidTalk ACE project for minimally verbal children with Autism.