Ami Klin, Ph.D., is the first chief of autism and related disorders at the Marcus Autism Center, a wholly owned subsidiary of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Klin will also be a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar at Emory University and director of the Division of Autism and Related Developmental Disabilities in the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine.
Previously, he was an autism and Asperger syndrome researcher and a Harris Professor of Child Psychology and Psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center. Klin has worked at the Center since 1989. He obtained B.A. degrees in Psychology, and Political Science and History, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel in 1983 and his Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of London in 1988. He is board-certified in Clinical Psychology.
Klin has received numerous professional and academic awards and recognition including Researcher of the Year from Business New Haven in collaboration with Yale, Pearl H. Rieger Award for Excellence in Clinical Science from the Rush Medical Center in Chicago, IL, and the Robert McKenzie Prize for Outstanding Ph.D. Thesis from the University of London.
Klin has published research in numerous medical journals and is the author (or co-author) of the books:
- Asperger Syndrome (2000, ISBN 978-1-57230-534-2)
- Autism Spectrum Disorders in Infants and Toddlers: Diagnosis, Assessment, and Treatment (2008, ASIN 001EHEBBM)
- Handbook of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Diagnosis, Development, Neurobiology, and Behavior (Volume 1) (2005, ISBN 978-0-471-71696-9)
- Handbook of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Assessment, Interventions, and Policy (Volume 2) (2005, ISBN 978-0-471-71697-6)
- The Autistic Spectrum: A Parents' Guide to Understanding and Helping Your Child (2001, ISBN 978-1-56975-257-9)
In the early 1980s, Klin was a politically active college student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Born in Brazil to Holocaust survivors, he was fascinated by the concept of political alienation, particularly how cultural values create a sense of self. As part of a scholarship agreement, he spent weekends working with handicapped children, many of whom had autism.
"This was a ripe marriage," he recalls, because these children didn't have a normal sense of self. "They were like a natural experiment of the very concepts that I was interested in academically."
When Klin began a doctorate program in psychology at the London School of Economics, he lived in an apartment complex for people with mental disabilities in one of London's poorest neighborhoods. "I went to a school that was, as the Brits would say, "very posh.' Then I'd go home and there would be people naked and having seizures," he recalls.
His 1988 thesis ― which won a university prize for outstanding scholarship ― was based on experiments on both autistic and normal toddlers and those with autism, using a two-button toy that Klin had built himself. When one button was pressed, sounds of the child's mother's voice emitted from the toy. When the other button was pressed, the child instead heard non-intelligible speech sounds.
Testing children in their own homes, Klin found that normal toddlers overwhelmingly prefer to hear their mother's voice, whereas toddlers with autism had no such preference2.
"It was a real landmark study, and showed him to be an imaginative, pioneering researcher," says cognitive neuroscientist Uta Frith, who worked with Klin at the UK's Medical Research Council.
Unbeknownst to Klin, rumors of his work trickled over to Donald Cohen, then director of the prestigious Yale Child Study Center who died in 2001. One evening in 1988, unannounced, Cohen called Klin at home and asked if they could meet in London.
"I was giddy," Klin recalls. "I idolized him as a leader in the field, and here he was interested in the conceptual stuff that I was writing about."
Klin met Cohen in a London hotel, feeling underdressed in dirty clothes from his side job as a motorcycle dispatch rider. "But luckily he looked past that," Klin says, joking.
Cohen soon recruited Klin to New Haven, where Klin began formal training in clinical psychology. He also collaborated with the center's other researchers on autism diagnosis and classification. It wasn't until five years later that he learned his title: post-doctoral fellow. Still klin is pioneering and changing the world with his studies at Marcus Autism Center, and at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
- "Ami Klin: Reaching Children With Autism". WebMD.com. 2009-03-30. Archived from the original on 23 January 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-14.
- Hitti, M. "Autism: New Clue to Earlier Detection". WebMD.com. Archived from the original on 31 December 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-08.
- "Ami Klin, Ph.D.". Yale Child Study Center. Retrieved 2010-01-08.
- Hughes, V (2008-05-06). "Ami Klin & Warren Jones: Melding art and science for autism research". Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative. Retrieved 2010-01-14.
- "Curriculum vitae: Ami Klin, Ph.D." (PDF). Yale Child Study Center. January 2009. Retrieved 2008-01-15.
- "People & Blogs: Ami Klin Ph.D.". This Emotional Life. PBS. Retrieved 2010-01-15.