Our team is committed and dedicated to the missions of the SMart Center and the Selective Mutism Research Institute (SMRI).
Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum DO, is the President & Director of the Selective Mutism, Anxiety and Related Disorders Treatment Center (SMART Center) located in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. She is the Founder of the Selective Mutism Group (SMG) and a Director of the Selective Mutism Research Institute (SMRI) a foundation established to study her theories and treatment methodologies on Selective Mutism. In addition, Dr. Shipon-Blum is Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychology & Family Medicine at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is a board certified physician who specializes in Selective Mutism.
Dr Shipon-Blum practices in Jenkintown, PA, and has developed the evidenced-based Social Communication Anxiety Treatment (S-CAT)®from her years studying and researching individuals with Selective Mutism. She consults worldwide with families, treating professionals, and educators, and has helped over four thousand children from around the world overcome Selective Mutism.
Dr. Shipon-Blum lectures throughout the country on the topic of Selective Mutism, performs school evaluations and trainings for treating professionals, educators, and parents, and is considered one of the worlds leading experts in the treatment and understanding of Selective Mutism. She has been a featured expert on national television programs such as 20/20, CNN, Inside Edition, and Good Morning America, as well as other local, national, and international television and radio broadcasts. In addition, she has been featured in TIME Magazine, People Magazine and has interviewed with newspapers such as the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, San Diego Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Palm Beach Post.
Dr. Shipon-Blum is presently involved in multiple collaborative research projects with top researchers and clinicians. In addition to her research she has written numerous articles and books on Selective Mutism and anxiety including ‘Easing School Jitters for the Selectively Mute Child,’ ‘The Ideal Classroom Setting for the Selectively Mute Child,’ ‘Understanding Katie,’ ‘Supplement Treatment Guide Book to Understanding Katie‘ and ‘ Selective Mutism and Social Anxiety Disorder in School .’ She has also produced numerous DVDs on the topics of treatment and assessment of Selective Mutism, and the development of school accommodations and interventions for mute children.
Dr. Shipon-Blum (or Dr. E as her patients refer to her) prides herself on being ‘down to earth’ and ‘easy to speak to’, and resides with her family in the northeast suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Notably, she is also the mother of a child, Sophie, who suffered from and overcame Selective Mutism and is the inspiration for the work she does each day.
Financial Disclosure: Dr. Shipon-Blum is the President and Director of the SMart Center. She is a Director of the Selective Mutism Research Institute (SMRI). She is also a Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine and Psychology at PCOM. She has written many books on Selective Mutism for which she receives royalties. Dr. Shipon-Blum sells and distributes books and materials associated with Selective Mutism through the SMart Center website.
Non-Financial Disclosure: Dr. Shipon-Blum is the founder and Director Emeritus of SMG-CAN.
Jennifer Brittingham is a Professional Counselor who completed her Masters degree in the Clinical Counseling Psychology Program at Arcadia University. Jennifer is working under the supervision of Dr. Shipon-Blum to conduct S-CAT Program evaluations and treatment to families. Jennifer also provides support counseling, school trainings, and both on-site and web workshops and support groups. Jennifer graduated from Arcadia University with her M.A. in Clinical Counseling Psychology in 2008 and was a Pennsylvania Counseling Association Graduate Leader from 2007 to 2008. Prior to her work at the SMart Center, Jennifer has worked as a case manager for children with mental retardation, elementary school special education resource assistant, as well as a college drug and alcohol counselor and support group leader.
Jennifer Brittingham is a salaried employee of the SMart Center who provides treatment and support to patients and their families.
Non-Financial Disclosure: None
Ms. Brittingham will be discussing Dr. Shipon-Blums Social Communication Anxiety Treatment® (S-CAT®).
Dr. William La Valle earned an MA in Psychology from West Chester University, and an MS and Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. He is a licensed clinical psychologist in Pennsylvania.
Dr. La Valle works as the Director of Clinical Training at the SMart center and SMRI. He is also the Director or Clinical Training and Psychological Services at Intercommunity Action, Inc., a non-profit community mental health agency in Philadelphia. Dr. La Valle oversees the doctoral internship/externship and Master’s training programs. He also oversees the assessment/testing department to conduct Autism assessments (using the ADOS-2), ADHD evaluation, and full-battery psycho-educational assessments. He also supervises and conducts assessments for school-aged children and teenagers to help provide diagnostic clarity and determine medical necessarily of treatment services. His specialties include assessing and treating Autism Spectrum Disorder & ADHD, CBT for anxiety/depression, and trauma- focused interventions. He is formally trained in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Motivational interviewing.
Dr. La Valle also teaches in the clinical psychology doctoral program at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine as well as in the Master’ s psychology program at Southern New Hampshire University.
Dr. La Valle serves on multiple mental health boards in the tri-state area and regularly conducts presentations, advocating for the psychology profession. He has been the receipt of PCOM’s Provost Award and APA’s Honorable Mention for Early Career Psychologist.
Leah Bowden graduated from the University of Rochester, earning a B.A. in Psychology and Brain & Cognitive Sciences. During her time at the University of Rochester, Leah expanded her clinical experience working at in-patient facilities for children with a variety of mental health concerns located in Rochester, NY and London, England. She has also worked to treat children with Selective Mutism in New York City where she facilitated in treatment sessions and led therapy groups. From that experience, Leah developed her passion for working with the population of children with selective mutism along with other child and adolescent anxiety disorders.
Currently, Leah is a masters level clinician and a doctoral student in La Salle University’s Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology Program. Since beginning this program, she has completed two practicum externship placements. Her first externship took place at a community mental health setting where Leah gained experience in providing individual therapy to children and adolescents with a variety of mental health diagnoses (e.g., ADHD, ODD, Depression, Anxiety, DMDD). Her second externship focused on delivering efficacious treatments to children and adolescents with anxiety disorders including but not limited to obsessive compulsive disorder, tic disorders, and body-focused repetitive behaviors (e.g., Trichotillomania, skin-picking). Leah is currently taking part in her final externship placement where she conducts neuropsychological evaluations aimed at evaluating individuals of all ages with varying concerns (e.g., ADHD, intellectual disabilities, sensory processing concerns, autism).
In addition to her practicum externships, Leah has been a valuable member to the Weight & Eating and Health-focused teams at La Salle’s community mental health clinic by conducting intakes and facilitating treatment to various individuals. As a fourth year student, Leah currently holds the prestigious role of Chief Extern within the doctoral psychology department, a supervisory position in which Leah holds the responsibility of supervising 20 students in their clinical work. Within the scope of her research interests, Leah’s clinical dissertation project will focus on the specific thoughts of children with selective mutism.
Leah has demonstrated her ongoing dedication to the research and treatment of children with selective mutism through her role as the Supervisor of CommuniCamp™ Counselors, as well as being the co-creator and Head Counselor of the teen group at the SMart Center’s CommuniCamp™.
Adriana Pennacchi graduated with honors from Rider University, earning a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Sociology. After graduating, Adriana served as a volunteer at a day program serving individuals with intellectual disabilities and started her master’s in clinical Mental Health Counseling at Rowan University. During her master’s program Adriana completed her practicum placement at a community-based mental health program in South Jersey. At this placement, Adriana worked predominantly with children and families whom presented with a variety of concerns. Upon completion of her Master’s level practicum placement Adriana worked as a substitute counselor in youth partial care programs, where she served youth and teens with a variety of behavioral and emotional concerns.
Currently, Adriana is a masters level clinician and a doctoral student in Immaculata University’s Psy.D. in clinical Psychology Program. During her first year at Immaculata Adriana became involved with research involving body image, and body positivity. Furthermore, Adriana served as a CommuniCamp™ counselor where she became increasingly passionate about serving individuals with selective mutism. Due to this passion Adriana began her practicum placement at the Smart Center in July of 2018. Since this time Adriana has served as a Head Counselor at five CommuniCamps™. Adriana also serves SMart Center patients through seeing clients and providing individual therapy, intakes, Goal reviews and Exposure Based Practice (EBP’s) for children and teenagers. Adriana enjoys her placement at the Smart Center as she is has a strong passion for serving individuals with selective mutism and their families!
Tera is a doctoral student in school psychology at Temple University. Prior to her current program, she earned her undergraduate degree from Daemen College (B.A., ’07) and graduate degrees from SUNY Buffalo (M.A., ’09) and Temple University (M.Ed., ’11). She has worked as a paraprofessional in Emotional Support at South Philadelphia High School, a school counselor in Chester County, and an adjunct instructor in the College of Lifelong Learning at Immaculata University. As a student clinician at the Temple University Psychoeducational Clinic, she has conducted full psychoeducational evaluations for school-aged students and has experience assessing specific learning disabilities as well as social, emotional, and attentional difficulties. She is trained to use solution-focused, cognitive-behavioral, and acceptance and commitment therapeutic strategies. Throughout her education, her research interests have included exploring facilitators and barriers to healthy behavior change, using inquiry-based strategies to facilitate science learning for middle school teachers and students, and, currently, how executive skills influence math achievement in middle school students.
Jenna graduated with honors from Muhlenberg College where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree and majored in Psychology and minored in Creative Writing. Jenna was a member of the Psychology National Honor Society (Psi Chi). Jenna is continuing her education by pursuing a doctorate in the field of Clinical Psychology at Chestnut Hill College. Jenna has years of experience working at the SMart Center. Over the years, she has developed a passion for this community. She explained that her favorite part about working at the SMart Center is the rewarding feeling that she gets every time she reads a story from a patient located anywhere in the world who has found a voice from the comfort and confidence that they have gained at the center.
Jenna is currently a Research Assistant, Clinical Support Staff, and a lead CommuniCamp™ Counselor. She also works with patients under our licensed clinicians and performs Exposure Based Treatment (EBPs) for families who attend consultations at the SMart Center. Jenna has been a Lead counselor at CommuniCamp™ since the camp originated and enjoys meeting families from all over the world. Her favorite part of CommuniCamp™ is watching children and teens from various sides of the world come together for one weekend to find their voices together. She explained that it is so powerful to watch children act as leaders and helpers to other campers. She stated, “Every child walks out of CommuniCamp™ as a new, confident, and inspired young individual and feels encouraged and proud of the person that they have become.”
Paige Martin graduated from Cornell University, earning a B.S. in Human Development. She is currently pursuing her Psy.D. degree in Clinical Psychology at La Salle University, and plans to concentrate in Child Clinical Psychology. Paige has her Masters Degree and has has provided neuropsychological evaluations and intervention groups for children at various sites including the NYU Child Study Center. Her research interests involve the socio-emotional and executive functioning of children with a variety of anxiety disorders. Paige’s clinical interests include children and adolescents with anxiety disorders, ADHD, and Selective Mutism, in addition to her primary interest in pediatric neuropsychology.
Paige has been a lead Counselor at CommuniCamp™ since its inception.
Faith Logan graduated summa cum laude from University of Richmond in 2018 earning a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Creative Writing. She moved to Philadelphia from Washington D.C. to attend La Salle University’s Clinical Psychology Doctoral program and is currently in her second year. In addition to her work as a practicum student at the SMart Center, Faith currently works at the La Salle Community Psychological Services, where she completes diagnostic intakes with individuals who have depression, anxiety and related concerns. Her clinical and research interests include anxiety and trauma in children and adolescents, and she is interested in providing better access to mental health care for youth and families from underserved communities. She is excited to be working as a part of the SMart Center Family!
Naomi is currently pursuing her Psy.D. in psychology at Widener’s Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology where she is in her third year. As part of her education, she is pursing the school psychology track and a child and adolescent concentration. Naomi has previously worked as a lead nursery care provider working with children aged 6 months to 6 years old, and has clinical experience working individually and in groups with children, adolescents, and young adults in outpatient mental health settings. She came to the SMart Center as a Communicamp™ counselor due to her interest in working with our population, and works in the SMart Center helping children and families cross the bridge together. She is interested in working in the area of early intervention working with children with anxiety disorders such as selective mutism, as well as mood disorders.
Samantha Algauer earned a MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Montclair State University. She is currently a doctoral student in her fourth year of the Clinical Psychology PsyD program at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Samantha holds licensure in New Jersey as a Licensed Associate Counselor (LAC) and is also a National Certified Counselor. Samantha currently works with a psychiatrist conducting forensic evaluations with adolescents at a juvenile detention center in Philadelphia and also works alongside a psychologist conducting evaluations for the Division of Child Protection and Permanency in New Jersey. Samantha assists with the production of forensic evaluation reports within both positions. Samantha also serves as a doctoral extern at the Philadelphia Family Court, where she conducts psychoeducational evaluations with children and adolescents. Samantha has also held prior positions conducting therapy with adults with various diagnoses, as well as psychoeducational/neuropsychological testing with a diverse population ranging from children to adults presenting with autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, intellectual disabilities, learning disorders, and other mood and trauma-related disorders at Intercommunity Action, Inc. During her master’s level clinical experience, she also worked in an outpatient setting engaging in individual and group therapy with individuals who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, selective mutism, intellectual disabilities, mood disorders, and impulse control disorders. Samantha is also a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and many other subdivisions within APA. She is currently in the process of developing her dissertation on the topic of “Religiosity and Psychological Inflexibility on Grief Outcomes of the Suicide Bereaved.
Julia Gomes earned a M.S. in Mental Health Counseling from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is currently a fourth year doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology Psy.D. program at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Julia works as a part-time adjunct professor at Cabrini University, teaching Abnormal Psychology and Theories of Personality courses to undergraduate students. She also works as a psychology social media coordinator for a private practice located in King of Prussia and Philadelphia. Julia currently serves as a doctoral student extern at Cooper Hospital and Cooper Learning Center where she works alongside of health professionals to provide brief interventions and services to their patients. In addition to providing therapeutic services at Cooper Hospital, Julia conducts psychoeducational evaluations at Cooper Learning Center with children and adolescents. She has held prior positions conducting therapy with adults and children who have a variety of diagnoses and has utilized evidence-based practices to alleviate client’s psychological distress. Julia previously was a doctoral student extern at Intercommunity Action Incorporated where she conducted comprehensive behavioral evaluations, psychoeducational and neuropsychological testing with children and adolescents who may have learning difficulties, intellectual disabilities, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorders, and other mood and trauma-related disorders. Julia also co-led a psychoeducational Depression group at Intercommunity Action Incorporated, for clients who endorsed experiencing symptoms of depression. Within the group Julia provided psychoeducation about depression and taught the client’s evidence-based techniques and strategies to help decrease their depressive symptoms. During her master’s level clinical experience, she worked in Belmont Behavioral Hospital’s outpatient department, providing therapy to children, adolescents, adults, and older adults with a number of diagnoses. Julia is a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) as well as other subdivisions within APA. She is currently in the process of developing her dissertation on the topic of “The Prosocial Behaviors, Gross Motor Abilities, and Soccer Skill Acquisition of Young Children after Participating in an Organized Soccer Program.”
Rosemarie Manfredi, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania and Delaware and a certified school psychologist in Pennsylvania. Dr. Manfredi completed her doctorate in clinical psychology at Widener University, with concentrations in school psychology and neuropsychology. She completed an APA-accredited internship through Widener University, with rotations in a private practice in neuropsychology and St. Christophers Hospital for Children, Department of Neurology. Dr. Manfredi then went on to complete a 2-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Autism Research at the Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). During her fellowship, Dr. Manfredi completed the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disorders (LEND) training program. Prior to joining the team at the Selective Mutism Research Institute (SMRI) and the SMart Center, Dr. Manfredi served as the Training Director for the Chestnut Hill College Internship Consortium, where she was responsible for the oversight of an internship for doctoral students in psychology, and as an Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Psy.D. program at Chestnut Hill College. She also provided psychological evaluations and consultations to local public and charter schools, diagnostic evaluations for military families and families receiving wraparound behavioral health services, and private psychoeducational and neuropsychological evaluations. Currently, Dr. Manfredi serves as the Neuropsychologist Consultant to the SMart Center. Dr. Manfredi’s areas of expertise include neuropsychological and psychoeducational assessment for a range of neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorders, social communication disorders, developmental delays and intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, traumatic and acquired brain injuries, and other genetic or neurological disorders.
Dr. Rosemarie Manfredi is a paid consultant of the Smart Center
Dr. Manfredi is a member of the Selective Mutism Association (SMA) and various Psychology and Neuropsychology Associations.
Ami Van Dine, MS, CCC-SLP is a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist who received her Masters of Science at La Salle University in 2009. She received extensive training in typical and atypical child development, and now specializes in the pediatric population. She is currently employed by Goldstar Rehabilitation, where she treats the birth-to-three population through early intervention. She also works in a private practice servicing school-aged children at Goldman and Axelman. Ami is a consultant with the Selective Mutism Anxiety Research and Treatment Center (SMART Center), where she conducts comprehensive evaluations of the speech and language of children diagnosed with selective mutism. Past work experience includes Moss Rehab Hospital, where she evaluated and treated the pediatric population. She additionally was part of a multidisciplinary team headed by developmental pediatrician Wendy Ross, MD FAAP, where she was involved with the Autism Inclusion Resources (AIR) Travel Program. Her undergraduate research with Dr. Paul Evitts about listener perceptions of alaryngeal speakers was presented at two American Speech Language Hearing conventions, and she is published as co-author in the International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology and the Journal of Communication Disorders.
Alexis Trakhtorchuk graduated from New York University, earning a B.A. in Psychology. She is currently pursuing her Psy.D. degree in Clinical Psychology at La Salle University, and plans to concentrate in Child Clinical Psychology. Prior to beginning her doctoral program, she worked as a head clinical coordinator at the NYU Child Study Center, where she worked on psychological assessments and treatment group facilitation. Her research interests involve emotional regulation difficulties of children with a variety of anxiety disorders, as well as emotion regulation in children with eating disorders which she currently studies in the Timko Lab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Alexis’s clinical interests include children and adolescents with anxiety disorders, depression, and ADHD. She is particularly passionate about early intervention and pediatric primary care.
Laura Bansemer is a valuable member of the SMart Center Support and the Selective Mutism Research Institute (SMRI) Team. Laura earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Muhlenberg College graduating magna cum laude and phi beta kappa. With over 10 years of customer service experience, Laura was previously a weight loss counselor and then a call center director.
Alex Talarico recently moved to Philadelphia from West Chester, PA where she received her B.A. in Marketing and Communication Studies. After graduation, she quickly moved into a Marketing Coordinator position. In her new role at the SMart Center, Alex oversees all inbound marketing initiatives and forefronts our clinical outreach program. She is grateful for the opportunity to leverage her professional skills to spread awareness and understanding of Selective Mutism and other social communication disorders. Alex looks forward to contributing to healing and positivity for a community of children suffering in silence.
Beth Levy graduated with Honors from Franklin & Marshall College with a B.A. degree in Accounting. She worked for Ernst & Young accounting firm for five years before leaving the workforce to stay home with her four young children. Beth has a 22 year old daughter who had Selective Mutism, so she chose to join our team in hopes of helping other parents of children with Selective Mutism.
Michelle Debski graduated from Rider University in 2013 earning a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She then went on to pursue her master’s degree in Clinical Psychology at Columbia University and graduated in 2015. She is currently in the third year of her Psy.D. program at La Salle University. Michelle has a variety of diverse experiences working with children, adolescents and families and is currently completing her second externship at a boarding school in West Chester, PA. Michelle’s clinical interests are centered around children and families with a specific interest in childhood anxiety disorders such as Selective Mutism. Michelle looks forward to being a part of the amazing work that is being done at the SMart Center!
Selective Mutism Research Institute (SMRI) Research Consultants
Sharon Lee Armstrong, PhD, is Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of PsyD Research and Dissertations at La Salle University. She is also Associate Faculty Member at Rutgers University Center for Cognitive Science, Adjunct Scientist at Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, and Principle Investigator at the Selective Mutism Research Institute. Her specializations within Cognitive Science are psycholinguistics, concepts/categorization, reasoning, and metacognition. Her research has investigated these topics in typical and special populations (e.g., children and adults with schizophrenia, ASD, selective mutism, ADHD, aphasia, depression). She is a member of the Psychonomic Society, APS, APA (Experimental Psychology Division), ADAA, and has been on the Executive Committee of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology. She is a consulting editor for The Journal of General Psychology.
Dr. Armstrong is the research coordinator for the Selective Mutism Research Institute (SMRI). She is a paid research consultant at the SMart Center and SMRI. She is a professor of Psychology and Director of PsyD Research and Dissertations at La Salle University
Dr. Armstrong is a member of the Selective Mutism Group (SMG-CAN) and she is a consulting editor for the Journal of General Psychology.
Dr. Armstrong has been a researcher regarding assessment as well as outcome studies examining Dr. Shipon-Blums Social Communication Anxiety Treatment® (S-CAT®).
Evelyn R. Klein, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, BCS-CL is Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at La Salle University. She is a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist and licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania with post-doctoral training in neuropsychology. She holds Board Certification in Child Language from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) where she is an ASHA Fellow. Her specializations include evaluation and treatment in the areas of selective mutism, autism spectrum disorders, developmental disabilities, language-learning disabilities, and acquired language disorders. She is an author of Focus On Function I & II, Hear It-Say It-Learn It, The Association Memory Test, and the textbook, Acquired Language Disorders: A Case-Based Approach. With more than 25 years experience as a clinician and educator, Dr. Klein conducts evaluations and supervises students at La Salle Universitys Communication Sciences and Disorders Clinic. In addition to being a PA State Coordinator with the Selective Mutism Group – Childhood Anxiety Network, she conducts research on assessment and treatment practices for children with communication-based anxiety disorders. She is the 2018 winner of La Salle University’s Faculty Distinguished Scholar award.
Dr. Klein is a consultant with the SMart Center and Selective Mutism Research Institute, where she is a principal investigator studying assessment and treatment methods for children.
SMart Center Therapy Dogs, Our Mascots, and Best Friends
Mr. B is Dr. E’s first therapy dog. He accompanied Dr. E to various conferences and SM retreats and has touched the lives of our families for 14+ years! It is with heavy hearts we announce the passing of this beloved ‘O.G.’ pug. He played an instrumental role in the lives of so many families affected by Selective Mutism. He was known to knock on the doors (with his paw!) when he wanted to join a session. He would either sit on a child/teens lap ‘n snuggle or sit by their feet. He instinctively knew who was comfortable and who needed more TLC. Mr. B was a true blessing to so many children who have suffered in silence.
Lil’ Girl (pictured left) or “SMall Lady of Love” joined the SMart Center team in 2014.She’s small and cuddly and our families adore her!
She often disguises herself as a stuffed animal to help kids (and parents) who may be afraid to realize she’s just like a stuffed animal but can move around and play!
Lil’ Girl attends CommuniCamp™ and will go from classroom to classroom helping children/teens feel comfortable.