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Dr. Marlene Sotelo

Dr. Marlene Sotelo, BCBA-D, MT-BC, is a seasoned professional with over 30 years of experience in working with individuals of all ages who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disorders. As the Executive Director of Els for Autism ®, Dr. Sotelo plays a pivotal role in leading and managing the organization’s comprehensive programs and initiatives, in addition to overseeing fundraising and development efforts along with oversight of operations at The Els Center of Excellence ®. Under her guidance, Els for Autism has flourished as a globally recognized institution, providing cutting-edge research, innovative educational programs, and transformative services for individuals on the autism spectrum.

Dr. Sotelo’s visionary leadership has been instrumental in forging strategic partnerships with renowned institutions, fostering collaboration, and creating synergistic opportunities in the autism field. She actively engages with leading experts, policymakers, and stakeholders to advocate for improved access to high-quality resources and services for individuals with autism.

Before joining the Els for Autism Foundation in 2014, Marlene served as the Director of Education and Training at the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities for 12 years. She holds a Doctorate in Special Education from Nova Southeastern University, where she also served as an adjunct faculty member. Marlene is an experienced special education teacher, a board-certified music therapist, and a doctoral-level board-certified behavior analyst.

In addition to her role as Executive Director, Marlene is actively involved in various organizations and projects within the autism community. She is a member of the Non-Profit Chamber of Palm Beach and the Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce. Marlene serves on the board of directors for The Learning Academy (ages 14-21) at The Els Center of Excellence campus in Jupiter, Florida, and acts as a liaison between the charter school and the Foundation. She is an honored listee in the Marquis Who’s Who 2023.

Throughout her career, Dr. Sotelo has authored numerous research publications, contributed to prominent conferences, and presented her work internationally, further enriching the scientific understanding of ASD. Her expertise in evidence-based interventions, early intervention strategies, and the implementation of best practices has positively impacted countless lives.

Marlene’s commitment to global outreach and her expertise as an international consultant and speaker led to the Global Outreach Autism Learning Services (GOALS) program at Els for Autism, providing services to families and professionals in over 20 countries. She plays a pivotal role in providing operational and programmatic support to the Ernie Els Centre for Autism South Africa, provides support to the Els for Autism Canada and Els for Autism UK Foundations, as well as supporting all programs and services offered at The Els Center of Excellence campus in Jupiter, Florida.

As a music therapist and professional singer, Marlene spearheaded the development of the ‘Reach and Teach through the Arts’ program at Els for Autism, which promotes the use of arts in connecting and educating individuals with ASD and other developmental disorders. Marlene’s passion for philanthropy is highlighted through her songwriting and recordings, raising funds for children’s charities, and supporting musicians with ASD. Her contributions to the field of autism spectrum disorder are showcased through various published research studies in peer-reviewed journals, articles of interest in the field of autism and music therapy, and book publication projects such as her involvement in Autism Without Mask, published in Brazil.

Driven by a deep-rooted belief in the potential and unique abilities of individuals with autism, Dr. Marlene Sotelo continues to dedicate her expertise, compassion, and leadership to advance Els for Autism’s mission of fostering lifelong opportunities for individuals on the autism spectrum and promoting acceptance and inclusion in society.


Shanok, N. A., & Sotelo, M. (2022). A pilot tennis program for training fitness and social behaviors in individuals with autism spectrum disorder. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness62(8), 1118–1126.

The aim of this pilot study was to determine the effectiveness of a tennis-training program for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. As a reference, the tennis-training program was our Ernie Els #GameOn Autism® Tennis Program

Rouhandeh, A.A., Honsberger, C., Shanok, N.A. et al. Brief Report: Assessment of a Caregiver-Implemented Intervention for Improving Social Communication Skills in Toddlers and Young Children with Autism. J Autism Dev Disord (2022).

Shanok, N., Brooker Lozott, E., Sotelo, M., & Bearss, K. (2021). Community-based parent-training for disruptive behaviors in children with ASD using synchronous telehealth services: A pilot study. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 88, 101861.

Rouhandeh, A. A., Shanok, N. A., Brooker Lozott, E., Sotelo, M., Buxbaum, J. D., Kolevzon, A., De Rubeis, S., Siper, P. M., Foss-Feig, J. H., Honsberger, C. (May 2020). Caregiver-examiner consensus: assessing the relationship between caregiver report and direct assessment of ASD symptomology in toddlers. INSAR Conference. Seattle, Washington.

Shanok, N. A., Rouhandeh, A. A., Honsberger, C., Brooker Lozott, E., Sotelo, M., Buxbaum, J. D., Kolevzon, A., De Rubeis, S., Siper, P. M., Foss-Feig, J. H., (May, 2020). Neurophysiological Markers of ASD: Examining the Relationship between Electroencephalogram (EEG) and ADOS in High-Risk Toddlers. INSAR Conference 2020. Seattle, Washington.

Shanok, N. A., Sotelo, M., & Hong, J. (2019). Brief Report: The Utility of a Golf Training Program for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 1-7.

Wagenfeld, A., & Sotelo, M. (2019). The remarkable ways sensory gardens can help people with autism. Autism Parenting Magazine (Issue 90) 33-37.

Rouhandeh, A.A., Shanok, N., Honsberger, C., Mulhern, M., Huda, N., Brooker Lozott, E., Sotelo, M., Buxbaum, J.D., Kolevzon, A., De Rubeis, S., Foss-Feig, J.H., & Siper, P.M. (May, 2019). Bridging the Gap: Access to Genetic Testing in a Community Sample of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. INSAR Conference 2019. Montreal, Canada.

Sotelo, M., Wagenfeld, A., and Kamp, D. (2019) Designing an Impactful Sensory Garden for Children and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Children, Youth and Environments, Vol. 29, No. 1, pp. 137-152.

Hong, J. & Sotelo, M. (2016) Ernie Els  #GameOn Autism ™ Golf. The curriculum is written for the Els for Autism Foundation.

Sotelo, M. Improving Social Competence in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders Through a Combined Strategy Group Intervention: A Pilot Study, Doctoral Dissertation for Nova Southeastern University, December 2009.

Mitchell, S., Hardie, S., Lozott, E., Sotelo, M., & Alessandri, M. (August 2009). Strategies for Successful Supported Inclusion for a Student with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Case Study. Asia Pacific Autism Conference 2009.  Sydney, Australia.

Sotelo, M. (2007) Make a Difference, Song written, recorded, and released on CD with proceeds going to autism research.

Wise, L. & Sotelo, M. (2003) Autism: Questions and Answers, Journal of Music and Movement Based Learning, 9 (4).