Geraldine Dawson

Geraldine Dawson

William Cleland Distinguished Professor

Geraldine Dawson is the William Cleland Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University, where she also is a Professor of Pediatrics and Psychology & Neuroscience.  Dawson also is the Director of the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development, an NIH Autism Center of Excellence, which is an interdisciplinary research program and clinic, aimed to improve the lives of those diagnosed with autism through research, education, clinical services, and policy. She directs the Duke Autism Clinic. Dawson received a Ph.D. in Developmental and Child Clinical Psychology from the University of Washington and completed a clinical internship at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute.

Dawson's work focuses on improving methods for early detection and intervention for autism, understanding brain function in autism, and validation of autism EEG biomarkers. She co-developed the Early Start Denver Model, an empirically-validated early autism intervention that is used worldwide. She collaborates with colleagues in the departments of computer science and engineering, pediatrics, and biostatistics to develop novel digital health approaches to autism screening and outcome monitoring. 

Dawson previously served as Director of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, President of the International Society for Autism Research, and was appointed by the US Secretary of Health as a member of the NIH Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) which develops the federal strategic plan for autism research, services, and policy. Dawson is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was Founding Director of the University of Washington (UW) Autism Center and the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development. Dawson was awarded the American Psychological Association Distinguished Career Award (Div53); Association for Psychological Science Lifetime Achievement Award; Clarivate Top 1% Cited Researcher Across All Scientific Fields; NIH Top Research Advances of the Year Award (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020); Autism Society of America Award for Research Contributions; Autism Society Medical Professional of the Year; and Autism Society Award for Valuable Service. Dawson is a Fellow of the International Society for Autism Research, the American Psychological Society, and the American Psychological Association, and is an Associate Editor on editorial boards of four scientific journals. 

Appointments and Affiliations

  • William Cleland Distinguished Professor
  • Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • Professor in Pediatrics
  • Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Affiliate, Duke Global Health Institute
  • Affiliate of the Center for Child and Family Policy

Contact Information


  • University of California - Los Angeles, 1980
  • Ph.D. University of Washington, 1979

Research Interests

Autism, neuroscience

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • Elected. American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 2020
  • Distinguished Career Award. American Psychological Association. 2019
  • Top 1% Most-Cited Researcher Across All Fields. Clarivate Analytics. 2017
  • President. International Society for Autism Research. 2015
  • James McKeen Cattell Lifetime Achievement Award. Association for Psychological Science. 2012
  • Fellow. Association for Psychological Science. 2006
  • Fellow. Association for Psychological Science. 2006

Courses Taught

  • PSY 203: Practicum
  • PSY 393: Research Independent Study
  • PSY 394: Research Independent Study
  • PSY 493: Research Independent Study
  • PSY 494: Research Independent Study

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Gu, Z; Dawson, G; Engelhard, M, Sex differences in the age of childhood autism diagnosis and the impact of co-occurring conditions., Autism Res (2023) [10.1002/aur.3043] [abs].
  • Herkert, D; Sullivan, C; Zhu, Y; Dawson, G, Prevalence and nature of prior developmental and medical concerns in toddlers who screen positive for autism in primary care., Autism, vol 27 no. 8 (2023), pp. 2361-2371 [10.1177/13623613231162146] [abs].
  • Yuan, A; Sabatos-DeVito, M; Bey, AL; Major, S; Carpenter, KL; Franz, L; Howard, J; Vermeer, S; Simmons, R; Troy, J; Dawson, G, Automated movement tracking of young autistic children during free play is correlated with clinical features associated with autism., Autism, vol 27 no. 8 (2023), pp. 2530-2541 [10.1177/13623613231169546] [abs].
  • Shic, F; Barney, EC; Naples, AJ; Dommer, KJ; Chang, SA; Li, B; McAllister, T; Atyabi, A; Wang, Q; Bernier, R; Dawson, G; Dziura, J; Faja, S; Jeste, SS; Murias, M; Johnson, SP; Sabatos-DeVito, M; Helleman, G; Senturk, D; Sugar, CA; Webb, SJ; McPartland, JC; Chawarska, K; Autism Biomarkers Consortium for Clinical Trials,, The Selective Social Attention task in children with autism spectrum disorder: Results from the Autism Biomarkers Consortium for Clinical Trials (ABC-CT) feasibility study., Autism Res, vol 16 no. 11 (2023), pp. 2150-2159 [10.1002/aur.3026] [abs].
  • Howard, J; Herold, B; Major, S; Leahy, C; Ramseur, K; Franz, L; Deaver, M; Vermeer, S; Carpenter, KL; Murias, M; Huang, WA; Dawson, G, Associations between executive function and attention abilities and language and social communication skills in young autistic children., Autism, vol 27 no. 7 (2023), pp. 2135-2144 [10.1177/13623613231154310] [abs].