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Gizem Tanol2013 Rising Alumni

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Through Autism Friendly Spaces, Gizem Tanol enhances the quality of life for people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and their families by enabling communities to become more inclusive, such as ASD friendly theater performances and museum exhibits. At NYU, she runs a program in public schools to provide a therapeutic environment to help children with ASD learn how to function well academically, behaviorally, and socially, both in-and-outside of the classroom.


Co-Founder, Autism Friendly Spaces
Director of Program Quality and Evaluation,
ASD Nest Support Project, New York University

CEHD Degree

M.A., Ph.D., Educational Psychology;
P.B.C., Autism Spectrum Disorders

What professor was most influential during your time in CEHD?

My advisor Jennifer McComas was a mentor and role model from the first day in the master's program. She supported me throughout and convinced me that I could always do better. I'm proud to be Jennifer’s student and hope to have a similar impact in my students one day.

What is a fun fact about you?

I am an India Pale Ale beer enthusiast!

What skills are important to succeed as a young professional today?

Interdisciplinary collaboration is extremely important. I believe that quality of life is a right to individuals with disabilities, not a privilege. After partnering with experts from different fields in the community, such as theaters and museums, I see this is coming to life in ways that I would have never imagined.

If you could have coffee with anyone from history, who would it be?

Sidney W. Bijou, a pioneer in behavioral and developmental psychology, and early childhood education.

What gets you excited about work?

For families affected by autism, situations that parents of typically developing children might take for granted are often very challenging (such as taking your family to a restaurant, a museum, or even spending an afternoon at the playground). Through these autism-friendly events, it’s extremely gratifying to talk to a father whose family was able to take in a Broadway show together, or a mother whose family could enjoy a restaurant brunch without fear of a child’s meltdown. Getting overwhelmingly positive feedback from families makes me excited about what I do.