Master’s Program Class of 2024

Hailey Byrne

Social Work Student

My name is Hailey Byrne (she/her/hers). I have been a nanny for the past 6 summers. I enjoy exercising, spending time with my dog Harper, and am happiest on the beach! I am currently pursuing a Master of Social Work and plan to graduate in 2024. I graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. My career goal is to provide therapy in an outpatient setting to children and their families. During my undergraduate career, I was appointed as the undergraduate research coordinator of a child and adolescent anxiety lab that I had the privilege of being a research assistant at for 4 semesters. Additionally, I was selected to present a poster as first author at the Eastern Psychological Association Conference in March 2022. During my undergraduate career, I pursued an internship at Community Child Guidance Clinic where I had the opportunity to work with several students who had been diagnosed with autism. I observed therapeutic group sessions as well as created and implemented group activities for the students to complete. For my first graduate field placement, I was an intern at Beman Middle School in Middletown, CT. I worked with several students with an array of intellectual and developmental disabilities including autism. I ran a lunch group for girls with autism where we worked on developing their social skills as well as directed an integrated mentor group that combined general education students with students that were a part of the intensive care management classrooms. Entering the field with experience in assessment and intervention of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder will be a huge advantage to me as a new clinician. I am eager to learn more about evidence-based practice for working with children with autism so that I can make a difference in the lives of my future clients and their families. I strongly believe in the power of interdisciplinary collaboration especially when working with children with disabilities. The opportunity to work closely with other professionals will provide me with a deeper understanding of the support my clients need. I want to provide support to my clients throughout many areas of their lives and to take a holistic approach. Not only will I have the ability to assess and provide intervention to children, but I can also provide invaluable resources to their families. I will advocate on behalf of the children and families I work with to ensure that a child is being supported in their home, at school, and in the community.

Nicole Foster

Social Work Student

My name is Nicole Foster (she/her/hers). I am in the second year of the MSW program at UCONN. My concentration is community organizing. I received my bachelor's degree in psychology from CCSU. I went back to school after 12 years of working as a pediatric nurse. I have also worked in schools as a social emotional learning specialist. These experiences have led me to see the specific challenges for young children with ASD and the issues that arise, since as there are few practitioners who are well versed in diagnosing and supporting them. I hope to be able to advocate for families in the community and promote equity through diagnosis and treatment. My partner Matthieu and I have 3 young daughters, and a dog named Waffles!

Kaitlyn Gorman

Educational Psychology Student

My name is Kaitlyn Gorman and I am graduating the summer of 2024 with a master’s degree in Educational Psychology with a concentration in Special Education. I recently graduated from the University of Connecticut with a degree in Human Development and Family Sciences with a concentration in early childhood. Over the summer after graduation, I worked as a behavioral technician for children with autism. My career goal is to serve children, birth to three, as a developmental specialist. A fun fact about me is I have a twin brother and  both of us received early intervention services as babies. I am excited to be able to become the person that was there to help me grow at such an early age and to have the qualifications to do that for others.

Alexa Grippaldi

Speech and Language Student

My name is Alexa Grippaldi (she/her/hers) and I am from Long Island! I am a second year SLP graduate student here at UConn. Prior to attending UConn for my master's degree, I attended Adelphi University and graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2022 with my B.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders and a minor in Psychology. As of now, it is my goal to become a practicing SLP either in a birth-to-three or school setting! This past summer, I completed my clinical placement at O'Brien Speech, Language and Learning PLLC., in Huntington, NY. During this time, I worked with children with various communication diagnoses in early intervention and CPSE, including those with ASD. I have additional experience working with individuals with ASD and other disabilities through volunteering with a cheerleading team comprised of athletes with disabilities. As a part of the Master's Training Grant, I hope to learn more on collaborating with other professionals and how to best support the families of the children I will be working with in the future! Outside of academics, I love to bake, exercise and cheer on the NY Rangers! A fun fact about me is that I used to be a competitive cheerleader, and I hope to be a "cheerleader" for the families I will work with in the future!

Sadie MacDonald

Social Work Student

My name is Sadie (she/her/hers) and this is my second semester in the master's in Social Work program at UConn. I went to UConn for undergrad as well and majored in Psychology. After graduating with my MSW, I want to work with children, ideally in a Birth23 or school setting. But what I really love about an MSW degree is that there are so many different opportunities to choose from once I graduate. Before I started this program, I went to Northeastern University to get my master's in School Psychology but decided to change degrees when I started working with clients in a social work setting. I worked at Wellmore Behavioral Health for almost two years in a program that helps families who are experiencing domestic violence. Before that, I worked at the Communication and Development Lab at UConn and ran a project on the referential ambiguity of children's picture books to try to figure out how they are so crucial to language development. I have also worked as a behavior technician for about a year with children with ASD. While I was at UConn for my bachelor's I also worked in the Early Detection Lab where we studied how early ASD can be detected in children by their pediatricians with the M-CHAT. One thing that I learned from the Early Detection Lab is how important early intervention is. I am excited to learn more about evidence-based practices that can be implemented with the Birth to 3 population. I have lived and grown up in Hartford and I hope to be able to contribute what I learn from this program into my own community. Fun fact: I grew up in a haunted house.

Ayla Senna

Speech Language Pathology Student

My name is Ayla (she/her/hers). In 2022, I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Connecticut College with a BA in Psychology and Human Development. At Conn Coll, I worked at the school's Child Development Lab School which is a Birth-to-Three and preschool center where I was awarded the Sue Wagner Child Development Award for "working in a caring manner to bring together children with a wide range of abilities in the inclusive environment of the children's program." This experience inspired me to pursue a career as an SLP! Currently, I am entering my second year at UConn's MA Speech Language Pathology program. I love working with young children and am planning to provide therapeutic services for the pediatric population. This past summer, I completed a clinical placement at KidSense Therapy Group in Milford which is a combined speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and mental health facility. I treated patients between the ages 1 to 8 who had a variety of speech and language needs, including fluency, articulation, social/pragmatic, and cognitive disorders. From this program I hope to learn more about treating early language issues as well as the different career opportunities/settings within Birth-to-Three. I am excited to help young children and their families to build and strengthen foundational skills! A fun fact about me is that I have a collection of signed CDs, most of which are Taylor Swift

Emma Sked

Speech Language Pathology Student

My name is Emma Sked (she/her/hers). I am a second year Speech-Language Pathology graduate student and will graduate with my master’s in 2024. I attended UConn for my undergraduate studies where I earned a degree in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences and a degree in Psychological Sciences with minors in Spanish and Human Development and Family Studies. One of my greatest achievements from undergrad is that I individually fundraised almost $15,000 in 4 years for Connecticut Children’s through an organization called HuskyTHON. I am very excited to have been selected to present a poster of research I am conducting with a doctoral student at the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) convention this fall! I’m very passionate about providing high-quality, equitable, and individualized care to all children with a special interest in the bilingual and Autism Spectrum Disorder populations. I have extensive experience working with neurodiverse children. This summer, I  spent my clinical placement at Connecticut Children’s working with many bilingual, English language learning, and/or Autism Spectrum Disorder children and their families from swallowing/feeding with premature babies in the NICU, to early intervention working on language facilitation strategies, to social pragmatic groups for teens. My goal is to become an SLP who works with bilingual families either in the acute care hospital setting or early intervention in the natural environment. I also hope to continue contributing to research regarding high-quality, individualized assessment/treatment for bilingual and neurodiverse children. As a member of the Master’s Training Grant, I cannot wait to work collaboratively with other disciplines and learn about interdisciplinary collaboration/care in the Birth to Three setting. I look forward to working with young children and their families to foster/strengthen their early language skills and a love for learning. Outside of academics/my career, I regularly nanny/babysit for local families with young children—some of the kiddos love to call me “Mama Emma.” In my free time, I love to cook, read, and travel. One fun fact about me is that I know how to scuba dive!