About Cheryl Ostryn

Talk to Cheryl Ostryn for even a short time and you get a clear sense of her philosophy of education: learning happens in small steps, over time.

And, good teachers pay close attention, noting where their students take steps forward and where they get stuck, in order to make adjustments to their teaching methods.

Following this formula, Professor Ostryn has been part of many success stories over the years, working with those diagnosed with autism. She’s also sharing her insights these days with her students in the Master’s of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis and Autism program at Sage.

But it should be noted that the process of learning that got Professor Ostryn on her own career path began with a giant first step.

She came to America at age 18, from her home in England, to work as an au pair in a home with a child who had autism.

There, she observed a behavior therapist helping this child to learn to read. Professor Ostryn couldn’t have articulated this at the time, but she saw a systematic approach being followed that produced impressive results.

She would go on to get a degree in psychology, get a master’s, a Ph.D., and then complete post-doctoral work in the field of autism and ABA.

The degree program in which she teaches at Sage is designed to advance the skills of professionals who work to improve the lives of those with autism. It’s a licensure-qualifying program that prepares students to apply for a Behavior Analyst license in New York, and to sit for the National Board Exam for Behavior Analysts.

This license qualification is something Professor Ostryn took a lead role in making happen, and she’s particularly proud to have done so. In part, because she thinks the program is truly outstanding.

“We’re a great program,” she says. “The faculty is carefully hand-picked. We make sure everyone has demonstrated excellence in working in the field. We’ve done the hands-on research, completed editorial work, and reviewed for professional journals. We’re all well-rounded people, which is critical, because this is a field that’s constantly changing.”

The program’s classes are delivered entirely online, with an optional supervision track, and serves students from around the country.

These students, according to Professor Ostryn, are prepared to take on careers that offer profound rewards. Rewards that she has witnessed up close. “Seeing families with children with autism and developmental disabilities in tears as they say, ‘Thank you so much. He couldn’t do that for himself, but now he can.’”

Before the rewards, however, it’s necessary to do the work. The Applied Behavior Analysis and Autism program is challenging. But as in their professional work, Professor Ostryn says, she and her colleagues have carefully and methodically created a program designed to succeed. They’ve developed a first-semester class on how to be a better online student. They invite students to engage with them fully at every step along the way, by email, phone, or whatever it takes.

“All the time I’m thinking, as I prepare the course work, ‘What will my students do to demonstrate that they understand this,’” she says. Because she wants to be sure there’s a direct connection being made between what she’s sharing and what they’re hearing and understanding, and what they will essentially be doing in their careers.

In other words, she’s trying to make sure all the right steps are taken.

Recent Courses Taught

ABA 510 Clinical Practicum in Applied Behavior Analysis
ABA 525 Core Skills in Autism I
ABA 526 Core Skills in Autism II
ABA 616 Assessment
ABA 698 Capstone in Autism

Research Interests

wh-question asking
verbal behavior
spinal muscular atrophy
special education

Distinctions & Awards

Recipient of the 2018 Schacht Grant, $3,000
UTPA Stronger Together Grant for Inclusive Classrooms
Recipient of research funds for autism research from Mattel Inc., $15,000
Recipient of the Organization for Autism Research’s 5th Annual Graduate Research Grant $3,000
Recipient of The Robert M. Eisman Fund for the Study of Autism Scholarship $3,000
Transition Bridges Online: Thematic Innovation Fund for Education Grant $15,000

“We’re a great program. The faculty is carefully hand-picked. We make sure everyone has demonstrated excellence in working in the field.”

Cheryl Ostryn, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Associate Professor

Selected Publications

Ostryn, C. (in press). Teaching children with SMA 1 to expressively communicate using augmentative and alternative communication systems: Extending functional communication teaching using a model of verbal behavior. Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professionals.

Ostryn, C. (2021). Text-only communications may offer a research springboard for learning more complex communications and literacy skills for individuals with autism spectrum disorders utilizing AAC. Evidence-based Communication Assessment and Intervention, 15:1, 13-18

Ostryn, C. (2016). Research on the effectiveness of teaching individuals with autism spectrum disorder to ask questions demonstrates clear methodology of intervention, but further research is required to promote generalization of these skills. Evidence-Based Communication Assessment and Intervention, 10(2), 74-78. https://doi.org/10.1080/17489539.2016.1204770.

Ostryn, C. (2016). Using the “ASKED” model to contrive motivations and teach individuals with ASD to ask wh-questions in natural settings. Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professionals, 11(2), 100-114.

Ostryn, C. (2014, March 20). Autism and errorless teaching. The Express Newspaper.

Ostryn, C. (date unavailable). Autism and task analysis. The Express Newspaper.

Ostryn, C. (date unavailable). Autism and prompting. The Express Newspaper.

Ostryn, C. (2013, December 5). Autism and challenging behaviors. The Express Newspaper.

Ostryn, C. (date unavailable). Autism and teaching functional communication. The Express Newspaper.

Ostryn, C. (2013, October 24). Autism and communication. The Express Newspaper.

Ostryn, C. (date unavailable). Let’s talk about autism. The Express Newspaper.

Ostryn, C. (2013, October 10). What is autism? The Express Newspaper.

Wolfe, P. S., & Ostryn, C. (2012). Functional academics. In P. Wehman & J. Kregel (Eds.), Functional curriculum for elementary and secondary students with special needs. (3rd ed., pp. 159-210). PRO- ED.

Ostryn, C. (2011). Book review: The beyond access model: Promoting membership, participation, and learning for students with disabilities in the general education classroom. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 36(3-4), 162-163. https://doi.org/10.2511/027494811800824543

Ostryn, C. & Wolfe, P. S. (2011). Teaching preschool children with autism spectrum disorders to expressively discriminate between “what’s that?” and “where is it?” Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 26(4), 195-205. https://doi.org/10.1177/1088357611421504

Ostryn, C. & Wolfe, P. S. (2011). Teaching children with autism to ask “what’s that?” using a picture communication with vocal results. Infants & Young Children, 24(2), 174-192. https://doi.org/10.1097/IYC.0b013e31820d95ff

Dunlap, G. & Ostryn, C. & Fox, L. (2011). Preventing the use of restraint and seclusion with young children: The role of effective, positive practices. Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention for Young Children. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED526387.pdf

Dunlap, G., Strain, P., & Ostryn, C. (2010). Addressing challenging behaviors of young children with autism spectrum disorders. In H. H. Schertz, C., Wong, & S. L. Odom (Eds.), Young exceptional children monograph series no. 12: Supporting children with autism spectrum disorders and their families (pp. 54-65). The Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children.

Ostryn, C. (2010, Fall). What? Where? Who? Teaching young children with autism to ask wh-questions. The Autism Advocate, 60(3), 16-20.

Strain, P., Bovery, T., & Ostryn, C. (2010). Autism spectrum disorders: An academy for developmental intervention assistant: Instructor’s manual. The PAR2A Center, University of Colorado Denver, & Early Intervention Colorado, Colorado Department of Human Services.

Wolfe, P. S., Tarnai, B., & Ostryn, C. (2009). Defining severe disabilities: Implications for research and practice. International Journal of Special Education, 24(2), 19-28.

Ostryn, C. (2008). Book review: Autism spectrum disorders and AAC. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 34(1), 273-274. https://doi.org/10.2511/rpsd.33.4.273

Ostryn, C., Wolfe, P. S., & Rusch, F. R. (2008). A review and analysis of the picture exchange communication system (PECS) for individuals with autism spectrum disorders using a paradigm of communication competence. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 33(1-2), 13-24. https://doi.org/10.2511/rpsd.33.1-2.13

Stansbery, S. D., Casey, S. D., Vostal, B. R., & Ostryn, C. (2008). The effects of simplified habit reversal on thumb sucking. European Journal of Behavior Analysis, 9(1), 73-79. https://doi.org/10.1080/15021149.2008.11434296

Educational Background

University of Denver Colorado
Post-Doctorate, Early Childhood Autism & Leadership
The Pennsylvania State University
Ph.D. Special Education & Autism
Middlesex University, London, United Kingdom
M.S. Psychology
Middlesex University, London, United Kingdom
B.S. Psychology