Rhiannon J. Luyster



On Leave

B.A. Wesleyan University
M.Ed. Boston College
Ph.D. University of Michigan


Contact Information

Office: Ubank 907
Phone: 617-824-3503
rhiannon_luyster [at] emerson.edu (E-Mail »)

Dr. Luyster is a developmental psychologist who studies social communication and language in young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). She is interested in identifying early features of ASD using standardized behavioral measures as well as exploratory methods like infra-red eye tracking and electrophysiology.

Her research, which has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation and the Organization for Autism Research, focuses on diagnostic assessment, language and nonverbal communication in toddlers with ASD, and patterns of early development. Dr. Luyster has published her work in several peer-reviewed journals, including Developmental Psychology, Journal of Child Language, Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, and Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Dr. Luyster offers undergraduate and graduate courses on language acquisition, and she also leads a course on research methods. Her research activities, which are conducted at Emerson as well as at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital, are open to Emerson students interested in learning more about clinical research with young children and toddlers with ASD.


  • 2008
  • Luyster, R., Kadlec, M. B., Carter, A., & Tager-Flusberg, H. (2008). Language assessment and development in toddlers with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 38(8), 1426-1438.

  • 2009
  • Luyster, R., et al. (2009). The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule -- Toddler Module: A new module of a standardized diagnostic measure for ASD. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 39(9), 1305-1320.

  • 2009
  • Luyster, R. & Lord, C. (2009). Word learning in children with autism spectrum disorders. Developmental Psychology, 45(6), 1774-86.

  • 2011
  • Luyster, R., Wagner, J.B., Vogel-Farley, V., Tager-Flusberg, H., & Nelson, C.A. (2011). Neural correlates of familiar and unfamiliar face processing in infants at risk for autism. Brain Topography, 24(3), 220-228.

  • 2011
  • Luyster, R., et al. (2011). The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) in extremely low gestational age newborns: Individual items associated with motor, cognitive, vision and hearing limitations. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 25(4), 366-376.

  • 2012
  • Lord, C., et al. (2012). A multi-site study of the clinical diagnosis of different autism spectrum disorders. Archives of General Psychiatry, 69(3), 306-313.

  • 2012
  • Lord, C., Luyster, R., Guthrie, W., & Pickles, A. (2012). Patterns of developmental trajectories in toddlers with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 80(3), 477-489.

  • 2012
  • Wall, D., Dally, R., Jung, J-Y., DeLuca, T., & Luyster, R. (2012). Use of artificial intelligence to shorten the behavioral diagnosis of autism. PLoS ONE, 7(8), e43855

  • 2013
  • Wagner, J.B., Luyster, R., Yim, J-Y., Tager-Flusberg, H., & Nelson, C.A. (2013). The role of early visual attention in social development. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 37(2), 118-124.

  • 2013
  • Luyster, R., Seery, A., Talbott, M., & Tager-Flusberg, H. (2013). Identifying early risk markers and developmental trajectories for language impairment in neurodevelopmental disorders. Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews, 17(2), 151-159. 

  • 2013
  • Luyster, R., Powell, C., Tager-Flusberg, H., & Nelson, C. (2013). Neural measures of social attention across the first years of life: Characterizing typical development and markers of autism risk. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience [epub].

  • 2014
  • Grzadzinski, R., Luyster, R., Spencer, A., & Lord, C. (2014). Attachment in young children with autism spectrum disorders. Autism: International Journal of Research and Practice, 18(2), 85-96.


  • 2005
  • “Word learning in children with autism spectrum disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health, National Research Service Award. Direct costs: $19,673. Role: PI.

  • 2011
  • “Behavioral and neural responses to emotional faces in individuals with ASD.” Brain and Behavior Research Fund, NARSAD Young Investigator Award. Direct costs: $59,741. Role: PI.

  • 2013
  • “Equipping a child research laboratory.” Emerson College, Faculty Advancement Fund Grant. Direct costs: $4,392. Role: PI.

  • 2013
  • “Laboratory experience using SMI eye trackers to study child development.” Marion & Jasper Whiting Foundation. Direct costs: $2,990. Role: PI.

  • 2013
  • “Development of a new autism screening tool for traditionally underserved families.” NJ Governor's Council for Research and Treatment of Autism. Total costs: $2,250,000. Role: Consultant.

  • 2013
  • “MRI: Acquisition of an Infrared Eye Tracker to Study the Emergence, Use, Loss and Reacquisition of Communication Skills.” National Science Foundation. Direct costs: $41,575. Role: PI.

Awards & Honors

  • 2000
  • Thorndike Prize (for excellence in Psychology), Wesleyan University

  • 2002
  • Regent’s Fellowship (for academic excellence), University of Michigan

  • 2006
  • Rackham Graduate Student Research Grant, University of Michigan

  • 2007
  • Dissertation Grant, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan

  • 2007
  • Organization for Autism Research, Graduate Research Grant

  • 2009
  • National Institutes of Health, Clinical Research Loan Repayment Program

  • 2010
  • International Meeting for Autism Research Young Investigator Award, First Runner-Up

  • 2011
  • Member, Harvard College Neurobiology Board of Tutors


Communication Disorders