Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism Appoints New Director

Cynthia Johnson, Ph.D., takes the helm after a national search

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Highly regarded autism researcher and University of Florida professor Cynthia Johnson, Ph.D., has been named the new director of Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism, effective June 1. With more than 20 years of experience in the field, she replaces Thomas Frazier, Ph.D., who left in 2017 to become Chief Science Officer at Autism Speaks.

In her new capacity, Johnson will oversee 125 staff members and provide strategic leadership to expand clinical, education and research programs at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism.

Cynthia Johnson, Ph.D., director of Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism. (Photo courtesy of the University of Florida)

Prior to her appointment at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism, Johnson also served as director of the Autism Center at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine.

“We are honored to welcome Dr. Johnson as our new director of Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism,” said Rita Pappas, M.D., interim chair of Cleveland Clinic Children’s. “Dr. Johnson has been at the forefront of advancing innovative research to improve therapies for autism spectrum disorders. We look forward to the fresh vision and leadership she brings to our autism research program and the center as a whole.”

Johnson earned her doctoral degree from the University of South Carolina. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in child psychology from John Hopkins School of Medicine. She is a licensed psychologist and a board-certified behavior analyst-doctoral level.

Johnson has been awarded numerous grants. In her research, she focuses on evaluating behavioral and medication treatments for children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disorders. She has led studies funded by National Institute of Mental Health, Health Services and Resources Administration, Autism Speaks, and private foundations.  She was recently awarded a large grant funded by the Department of Defense to conduct a clinical trial on a sleep intervention.

“It is a privilege to join the strong team at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism,” Johnson said. “I look forward to continuing the advancement of the clinical, education and research mission of the center.”

Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism has been a national leader in autism care, education and research for nearly 20 years. The center is one of a few autism programs in the nation which are uniquely integrated into a top-ranked healthcare system. The therapies Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism provides rely on current autism findings, with a strong focus on applied behavior analysis (ABA). Services include Cleveland Clinic Children’s Lerner School for Autism, a non-public charter school offering individualized education; a full service multidisciplinary diagnostic clinic; a community-integrated outreach program; outpatient therapies and a research program focused on applied and clinical research in the study of autism and autism spectrum-related disorders.

For more information, please visit Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism.

About Cleveland Clinic Children’s
Cleveland Clinic Children’s is a part of the Cleveland Clinic health system and offers full medical, surgical and rehabilitative care for infants, children and adolescents. Cleveland Clinic Children’s supports 389 beds in four acute care hospitals and one post-acute specialty hospital. In addition, pediatric services are available at more than 50 outpatient clinic locations across Northeast Ohio. A staff of more than 300 full-time pediatricians and sub-specialists see 750,000 pediatric visits each year and provide hospital care for 13,000 children per year. Cleveland Clinic Children’s is a non-profit, multi-specialty academic medical center integrating clinical care, research and education. Cleveland Clinic Children’s consistently ranks among the “Best Children’s Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report. Visit us online at and on Facebook at

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