A photo of Anna Esbensen.

Anna J. Esbensen, PhD, FAPA, FAAIDD

  • Research Director, Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
  • Research Director, Jane and Richard Thomas Center for Down Syndrome
  • Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics



I’m a clinical psychologist who specializes in Down syndrome. In my practice, I support individuals who have Down syndrome with mental health management, when needed. I also provide support to families of individuals with Down syndrome, especially related to behavior management. Psychological testing is part of my practice as well.

I serve as the psychologist and research director for the Thomas Center for Down Syndrome at Cincinnati Children’s. I’m also a fellow of the American Psychological Association and a fellow of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

I came to my specialty area because my early experiences with individuals with Down syndrome shaped my research questions and clinical focus. I focus on how the genetic characteristics of Down syndrome interact with the environment, contributing to the mental health and behavioral presentation of the individual. I’m also concerned with the patient’s family and their needs, so that I can provide them with their desired treatment outcome.

In addition to helping patients and their families, I do research. I’m interested in how we measure outcomes and change in outcomes through the lifespan development of individuals with Down syndrome, the physical and mental health of individuals with Down syndrome, and comorbid conditions often present in individuals with Down syndrome.

I also hope to improve on current clinical trials, which have not been successful in part because our outcome measures have not been sensitive to detecting change. I’m seeking to identify what measures are most appropriate for use with individuals with Down syndrome who are between the ages of 2 ½ years and 29 years. These measures must also be the most sensitive to detecting change.

In my spare time, I enjoy reading on my porch swing and researching genealogy.

PhD: The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, 2004.

MA: The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, 2001.

BScH: Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada, 1997.


Down syndrome (behavior management; treatment; psychology evaluation)

Services and Specialties

Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Down Syndrome, Thomas Center for Down Syndrome


Lifespan development of Down syndrome; measuring outcomes among individuals with Down syndrome; health care of individuals with Down syndrome

Research Areas

Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics

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Contributions to Racial Disparity in Mortality among Children with Down Syndrome. Santoro, SL; Esbensen, AJ; Hopkin, RJ; Hendershot, L; Hickey, F; Patterson, B. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2016; 174:240-246.e1.

Implications of Using the BRIEF-Preschool With School-Age Children With Down Syndrome. Esbensen, AJ; Schworer, EK; Lee, NR; Hoffman, EK; Yamamoto, K; Fidler, D. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. 2024; 129:41-55.

Evaluating an adapted reverse categorisation task to assess cognitive flexibility in young children with Down syndrome. Van Deusen, K; Prince, MA; Thurman, AJ; Esbensen, AJ; Patel, LR; Abbeduto, L; Walsh, MM; Daunhauer, LA; Feigles, RT; Fidler, DJ. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research. 2023; 67:734-745.

Psychometric properties of inhibitory control measures among youth with Down syndrome. Soltani, A; Schworer, EK; Altaye, M; Fidler, DJ; Beebe, DW; Wiley, S; Hoffman, EK; Voth, K; Esbensen, AJ. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research. 2023; 67:753-769.

Psychometric evaluation of a working memory assessment measure in young children with Down syndrome. Pinks, ME; Van Deusen, K; Prince, MA; Esbensen, AJ; Thurman, AJ; Patel, LR; Abbeduto, L; Walsh, MM; Daunhauer, LA; Feigles, RT; et al. Research in Developmental Disabilities. 2023; 139:104564.

Executive Functioning, Language, and Behavioral Abilities Related to Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Down Syndrome. Soltani, A; Schworer, EK; Amin, R; Hoffman, EK; Esbensen, AJ. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. 2023; 44:e429-e435.

Computer and tablet assessments of executive function in youth with Down syndrome: feasibility and predictors of performance. Schworer, EK; Esbensen, AJ. British Journal of Developmental Disabilities. 2023; ahead-of-print:1-10.

Caregiver experiences helping children with Down syndrome use positive airway pressure to treat obstructive sleep apnea. Xanthopoulos, MS; Nelson, MN; Eriksen, W; Barg, FK; Byars, KC; Ishman, SL; Esbensen, AJ; Meinzen-Derr, J; Heubi, CH; Gurbani, NS; et al. Sleep Medicine. 2023; 107:179-186.

Systematic Review: Emotion Dysregulation in Syndromic Causes of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Shaffer, RC; Reisinger, DL; Schmitt, LM; Lamy, M; Dominick, KC; Smith, EG; Coffman, MC; Esbensen, AJ. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2023; 62:518-557.

Using the Social Skills Improvement System (SSiS) Rating Scales to assess social skills in youth with Down syndrome. Channell, MM; Mattie, LJ; Schworer, EK; Fidler, DJ; Esbensen, AJ. Frontiers in Psychology. 2023; 14:1105520.

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