Melissa  Spence

Melissa Spence, Ed.D.

Assistant Professor of Education
(805) 493-3087
Spies-Bornemann Education Cntr 227


Dr. Mel Spence is an Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Professional Development for the Autism and Communication Center at Cal Lutheran.  Her research interest is in promoting academic achievement and communicative instruction of non-verbal students with autism.  Mel spent 10 years working for the Los Angeles Unified School District as both a special education teacher for students with autism and as part of the Autism Support Team where she supported school staff in creating classrooms that utilized evidence-based and inclusive practices to best serve their students with autism.

  • Ed.D. in Educational Leadership (K-12) from California Lutheran University
  • M.Ed. in Severe Special Needs from Boston College
  • B.A. in Psychology from Occidental College


Journal Articles

Spence, M. & Tseng, A. (2018).  Integrating social and emotional learning instruction into core academic instruction for students with ASD. Manuscript submitted for publication. 

Spence, M. (2017). Instructional strategies for promoting reading comprehension in non-verbal students with autism spectrum disorders. DADD Express, 28(2), 1-6. 

Book Chapters 

Spence, M. & Peña, E.V. (2015). Intersections of autism, race, and class: A social justice agenda for inclusive leadership practices.  In A. Normore & K. Esposito (Eds.), Inclusive practices for special populations in urban settings: The moral imperative for social justice leadership. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing INC. 

Spence, M. (2010). Using a communication game to improve the expressive language skills of a boy with autism.  In S.M. Bruce & G.J. Pine (Eds.), Action research in special education: An inquiry approach for effective teaching and learning (pp.80-97).  New York, NY: Teachers College Press.




Grant Funding

PAGES (2017): Project for Advancement of Gifted and Exceptional Students ($736,802 over 5 years) 

     Principal Investigator

     Department of Education-Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program


Hewlett Grant (2017,2016): California Lutheran University ($1,000)


CLU Center for Innovative Learning (2017): Bring Your Own Brain ($625)




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