Dr. Cole specializes in the care of children with complex developmental and behavioral challenges. She has particular expertise in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), developmental trauma, foster care, autism, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, and the health and behavioral challenges these children experience. She provides comprehensive care, looking at the interaction between health, development, child behavior, family and community factors.
Dr. Cole bases her patient care on careful listening to children and families. Families know their child best and she recognizes the importance of working toward family goals for their child. Visits are usually low-pressure for the child, as she works hard to engage children in activities and topics of their interest and ability. She is able to talk with children and families sensitively about difficult topics such as trauma, substance use, different family make-ups, behavioral challenges, and coping with disability.
Dr. Cole has particular experience and expertise in the care of children who have experienced prenatal substance exposure, early childhood adversity, and/or foster care/adoption. She co-leads the FASD diagnostic and treatment program, and provides diagnostic evaluation and ongoing specialty care. She consults to residential treatment programs and county foster care systems on care of children with early adversity or prenatal substance exposure. She engages in advocacy to improve the systems of care serving children she treats and trains community clinicians around the country to improve access to diagnosis and FASD/trauma-informed care.
She also has expertise in the evaluation and treatment of common health & behavioral problems experienced by children with developmental delays and disabilities. She looks carefully at the interaction between physical health, child/family experiences, and child behavior - working to optimize health and quality of life for both her patients and their family.
Dr. Cole has a great deal of experience in helping families who are considering use of medication to treat challenging behavior. She helps families to clearly identify goals for treatment and maximize non-medicine treatments. She helps families think about their own values and preferences and engages families in shared decision making. She was a lead author on two toolkits published by the Autism Treatment Network supporting safe and effective use of medicine in children with autism and other developmental disabilities. "Should My Child Take Medicine for Behavior: A Decision Aid for Parents of Children with Autism," and "Safe And Effective Use of Medicines for Challenging Behavior: a Toolkit for Families."
In addition to patient care, Ms. Cole serves as the Associate Division Chief of the Division of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, and directs the division's clinical services. She teaches in the School of Nursing, and lectures and consults to other departments and institutions on quality improvement, access to care, and optimizing the care of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Ms. Cole conducts research on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorders, psychopharmacology, and strategies for expanding access to care. She is a co-investigator on a project investigating ways to increase access to care for individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. She is a co-investigator in a large project aiming to train nurses to more effectively care for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in emergency department and hospital settings in NYS. She is the Primary Investigator (PI) of the University of Rochester's Autism Care Network, and leads research projects investigating the best treatment of ADHD symptoms in children with ASD, and in identification of potential biomarkers of ASD.
Ms. Cole has research interests in the physical and mental health of children with developmental disabilities, and in increasing access to care for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She serves as PI of the Rochester site of the Autism Speaks - Autism Care Network, which is a clinical registry of youth with ASD, and looks at impact of standardization of diagnosis and medical care on outcomes. She also serves as the site PI on a research study investigating ADHD treatments for children with autism (funded by the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, PCORI) and another investigating potential RNA biologic markers of autism (funded by Autism Speaks). She serves as a co-investigator in Rochester Team of CIFASD (Collaborative Initiative in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders). She has previously been involved in research on diet and nutrition in youth with ASD.
In addition, she has conducted research on strategies for increasing access to diagnosis and care for children with FASD, how parents make treatment decisions for their child with autism spectrum disorder, and on the use of decision aids when considering behavioral medication.