Parenting a Young Child with Autism

with Sarah Knepper, MEd and Cristal Byrne, PhD

Parenting a Young Child with Autism

Episode 18, Season 3 | April 17, 2023

Show Notes

Autism can present in many different ways, but at its core it’s about social communication. Autism is usually suspected at a young age because children aren’t developing language or social skills at the same rate as their peers. Sometimes parents don’t want to have their child screened for autism because they are afraid of labels, stigma and limitations. But while overwhelming, diagnosis can also bring support, services and maybe even relief. 

Don’t miss this special podcast episode with two CHC experts who are also parents of young children with autism: Sarah Knepper, MEd, Educational Services Manager at EBC Schools and Cristal Byrne, PhD, licensed psychologist at CHC’s Catherine T. Harvey Center for Clinical Services. Join us to hear personal and professional advice for finding empathy, understanding and community while raising a child on the spectrum.

Guest Info

Originally from the Midwest, Sarah has been working with adults and children with disabilities since 2002. She began her career in Iowa City, Iowa working with disabled adults and children at a residential facility, and then later as a Rehabilitation Counselor at Goodwill Industries.


Sarah has worked at Esther B. Clark School since 2010. She is passionate about teaching students who have struggled to learn in typical classroom environments.

Cristal Byrne

Dr. Byrne received her PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles in the Human Development and Psychology division of the Department of Education. While at UCLA her program of research focused on early child development and early childhood care and education settings, with an emphasis on the effects of early life exposure to toxic stress/trauma and its impact on the development of the parent-child attachment relationship as well as how the development of secure teacher-child attachment relationships help to buffer the negative effects of early life adversity. Specifically, her dissertation examined the development of the teacher-child attachment relationship in the context of a therapeutic childcare program for maltreated infants and toddlers as well as how teacher practices and the classroom environment promote secure teacher-child attachment relationships.


In addition to her experience as a researcher in the field of early childhood development, she has over ten years of experience working with young children across various settings including intensive inpatient and outpatient mental health programs as well as childcare/education settings. Most recently, Dr. Byrne completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Pediatric Neuropsychology at a medical clinic in LA County, during which time she honed her skills in (and developed a passion for!) evaluating children with neurodevelopmental and learning differences.


When she’s not at CHC, Dr. Byrne enjoys exploring all that the Bay Area has to offer, and spending time outdoors hiking and beaching 🙂