Social Dynamics and Early Visual Experiences

Social interaction during early childhood is a critical component of development. This project explores these interactions during play among children with and without autism spectrum disorder to better understand how children learn to engage with their environment and the people around them. The results of this project may lend itself to improving early screening, diagnosis, and intervention processes for young children with autism spectrum disorder and their families.

What are the goals of the study?

The goal of this project is to explore the early visual experiences of children during social play with their parents and how these interactions may influence different aspects of their development, such as language and cognition.

What will happen during the visit or online?

You and your child will be asked to play with a set of toys for approximately 5 minutes while wearing head-mounted eye-trackers. Depending on your child’s age, your child will also be asked to complete: the ADOS-2 (a gold-standard autism diagnostic test; 12mo and older), an IQ test (12mo and older), a motor assessment (18mo or younger), and/or two vocabulary tests (30mo or older).

How will this help families?

Families will receive a free summary of their child’s assessment results (autism diagnosis, vocabulary, motor skills, and/or Q) along with an Amazon gift card, family passes to the Children’s Museum of Houston, and a gift-bundle (toys, books, crayons, T-shirt, etc). We hope this project will ultimately assist in improving early screening, diagnosis, and intervention processes for infants and toddlers that may have autism spectrum disorder.

Sensory-based interventions are commonly prescribed by occupational therapists in the treatment of children with autism spectrum disorder and related neurodevelopmental disorders. However, while there is emerging evidence for Ayres Sensory Integration therapy in individuals with IQs above 65, many studies evaluating the efficacy of various sensory-based interventions have demonstrated low or insufficient strength of evidence. This study aims to pinpoint interventions that might be promising candidates for targeted trials based on prevalence and perceived efficacy in a large community sample.

What are the goals of the study?

The purpose of this research study is to identify the sensory interventions and strategies that caregivers consider the most effective at treating or managing their child’s sensory reactivity symptoms.

What will happen during the visit or online?

If you agree to take part in this research, you will be asked to complete a 5-10 minute anonymous survey, which will ask you to identify your child’s sensory preferences and your satisfaction with the sensory interventions you use currently or have tried in the past.

How will this help families?

By participating in this study, caregivers of children with autism can share their experiences with the sensory interventions that have worked best for their child. The goal of this project is to use these responses to drive future research to improve the efficacy and accessibility of these strategies.

This study is important because a child’s own actions influence input from their environment, input that shapes their learning and development. This is a dynamic process, where small initial individual differences in the child’s actions compound to set the child on a drastically different developmental trajectory, aspects of the child (e.g. motor development) and of the child’s environment (e.g. parental responsiveness) influence learning opportunities in real-time. Thus it is crucial to examine differences in learning processes at the group and the individual level within dynamic environments.

What are the goals of the study?

The goal of this study is is to capture how young children view their everyday environments. To accomplish this goal, young children (ages 24-72 months) with ASD, Down Syndrome, and typically developing children and their parent will wear head-mounted cameras at home during typical daily routines. Videos will be coded for the presence of people and objects in their visual field as well as responses to people and situations (e.g. child directed speech and meal times).

What will happen during the visit or online?

After participants pass the pre-screen and intake call, participants will be asked to partake in pre-post questionnaires and an up to hour long at-home recording.

How will this help families?

Once influential differences are identified, changes in these differences could then be translated for use as outcome measures.

Autism is often not diagnosed until after 24 months of age, yet through our IBIS research, we’ve identified early changes in brain development occurring between 6 and 12 months. By further expanding our research in early brain development, we hope to identify methods for earlier identification and more individualized treatment.

What are the goals of the study?

Our goal is to understand early brain development in autism, which we hope will lead to earlier identification and more individualized supports.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Families travel to one of 5 sites for visits at 6, 12 and 24 months. Visits last approximately two days and include un-sedated MRIs during natural sleep along with various developmental assessments. Participants receive around $450 per visit along with reimbursement for travel expenses. This study is being conducted nationally across 5 sites in Seattle, Minneapolis, Chapel Hill (NC), Philadelphia, and St. Louis

How will this help families?

We hope to identify methods for earlier identification of autism and more individualized interventions.

This study will help us learn more about early signs of emotional and behavioral challenges that many siblings of children with autism start to have by age 3. Findings from this study may help us identify and treat these challenges earlier in life. As part of the study, your child will receive multiple diagnostic evaluations from expert clinicians at the Yale Child Study Center.

What are the goals of the study?

We are recruiting infants for a study of emotional development. The study is looking at emotions in siblings of children with autism from 4-30 months of age. The goal is to learn more about early signs of behavioral and emotional challenges that may develop when children are 2-3 years old.

What will happen during the visit or online?

You and your baby will come to the lab for 5 study visits over 2.5 years. Each visit will last a few hours. During the visits, your baby will participate in clinical assessments, watch videos, and complete play-based tasks. You will fill out surveys and participate in interviews about your baby, yourself, and your family. All visits will take place in New Haven, Connecticut. Free and secure parking is provided. Families will receive up to $250 for being in the study.

How will this help families?

This study will help us learn more about early signs of emotional and behavioral challenges that many siblings of children with autism start to have by age 3. Findings from this study may help us identify and treat these challenges earlier in life. As part of the study, your child will receive multiple diagnostic evaluations from expert clinicians at the Yale Child Study Center.

Our team hopes to identify how electroencephalography (EEG) measures taken at the first study visit relate to language acquisition and language ability one year later. Similar studies have focused on adolescents or adults, and only a handful have investigated brain activity in young children.

What are the goals of the study?

Researchers in the Labs of Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston Children’s Hospital are recruiting children with and without a diagnosis of ASD between 2 and 5 years old. This study is investigating how differences in brain activity affect learning, language, and behavior in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participation in this study entails 2 visits, each one year apart, at the Labs of Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston Children’s Hospital. Each visit includes clinical and behavioral assessments that will evaluate your child’s thinking, motor skills, language skills, and social communication. In addition, we will measure your child’s brain activity using electroencephalography (EEG).

How will this help families?

The information gathered through this study has the potential to help inform future treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders. In addition, families will receive a written report of the completed language and cognitive assessments after each study visit.

This program supports data collection and sharing that will expand and improve medical research. By generating the most comprehensive Data Collection Program for these conditions, we can increase research and accelerate the development of new drugs, devices, or other therapies. Participating families will also have the ability to connect with other patient organizations, be contacted to participate in emerging clinical trials (if eligible), and manage how their data is used.

What are the goals of the study?

The RARE-X Data Collection Program makes data collection free, accessible and easy for communities, while ensuring the data collected is as useful and shareable as possible for researchers and others working on treatments. Our goal is to enable families to easily collect and access their data and empower them to become data stewards and sharers. This program helps create a robust data set that can be shared to accelerate diagnosis, disorder understanding, and drug and therapy development.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participants will be asked to create a secure, password-protected account and provide their consent to participate. Participants will then have the chance to answer a set of questions (survey) regarding the patient’s health history, development, and treatment and care. Additional surveys will be added over time and participants will be notified of future surveys relevant to them. Participants will also have the opportunity to upload genetic test results related to the disorder diagnosis.

How will this help families?

Participation in this program may…

  • Contribute to further research leading to the development of treatments
  • Provide patients the opportunity to participate in clinical trials
  • Help you learn more about the disorder, leading to better advocacy in medical, education, and social services
  • Inform patients/families about the progression of the disorder and how they may compare with other patients

You will be paid for your time and travel expenses. You will also be given a report and receive personalized feedback on your child at your child’s two-year visit. If your infant develops autism, we will assist you in finding services in your community. There is no cost to participate in the study and no insurance needed.

What are the goals of the study?

The goal of this study is to track the early development of infants with an older sibling, so we can better understand how autism develops.

What will happen during the visit or online?

You and your child will make 2-4 visits to CHOP’s Robert’s Center for Pediatric Research. We will observe as you and your child play with various toys, puzzles, and interactive items such as bubbles and balloons. Caregivers will answer questions about their children’s development and past medical history. Using these observations and questionnaires, we will assess your child’s language, motor, and social development after your child starts to walk and again when he/she turns two. We will also provide an expert autism evaluation when your child turns two years old.

How will this help families?

Through measuring facial expression, movement, and infant-caregiver synchrony in very young children as a novel tool, we are working on earlier autism detection and developmental characterization.

By participating in SPARK, you may have the opportunity to receive gift cards, complete additional surveys and learn about other studies from vetted researchers about topics that are relevant to you and your family. Also, there are resources available on the SPARK website that families have found useful and geared to your specific needs.

What are the goals of the study?

The mission of SPARK is to ignite research at an unprecedented scale to improve lives by advancing our understanding of autism.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participation involves the completion of a brief online questionnaire, as well as a saliva collection kit from each participating member of the family. SPARK is free and can be done entirely from home. One of our team members can meet with you virtually to complete registration and answer any questions you may have. Alternatively, depending on your distance from CHOP, we can even meet with you in person at CHOP or at your home to complete the registration and saliva collection processes. We have extensive protective equipment and can easily conduct this visit in an outdoor space, like a driveway or front yard!

How will this help families?

By analyzing DNA from tens of thousands of individuals, SPARK has already identified new genetic changes that contribute to autism, and this number will only continue to grow.

We are one site as part of a nationwide study, the Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS). Our team develops and implements advanced neuroimaging methods and tools to study the structural and functional features of the brain, to better understand the neurobiology of autism.

What are the goals of the study?

This study seeks to understand the key differences and similarities in brain development between infants whose siblings do and do not have autism.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participants will be asked to make 3 visits to CHOP over time to complete cognitive and behavioral testing and a non-invasive MRI. Participants will be compensated for their time and receive a written feedback report.

How will this help families?

We study brain structure and function that are thought to support skills and behaviors related to autism, including social communication, repetitive behaviors, and co-occurring conditions of anxiety, ADHD and language impairment.

You will be paid for your time and travel expenses. You will also be given a written report and receive personalized feedback on your child at each visit. If your infant develops autism, we will assist you in finding services in your community. There is no cost to participate in the study and no insurance needed.

What are the goals of the study?

The goal of this study is to track the early development of infants with an older sibling, so we can better understand how autism develops.

What will happen during the visit or online?

You and your child will make 2-4 visits to CHOP’s Robert’s Center for Pediatric Research. We will observe as you and your child play with various toys, puzzles, and interactive items such as bubbles and balloons. Caregivers will answer questions about their children’s development and past medical history. Using these observations and questionnaires, we will assess your child’s language, motor, and social development when your child is one and again when he/she turns two. We will also provide an expert autism evaluation when your child turns two years old.

How will this help families?

CAR researchers are focused on understanding the very earliest signs of autism, in order to use that knowledge to help families access evaluations and services as early as possible.

What are the goals of the study?

The purpose of this research study is to examine relationships between brain and behavior development in toddlers with and without autism who have older siblings.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Your participation would involve you coming to the Center for Autism Research at CHOP in Philadelphia with your toddler.

There are four parts involved in your participation:

  1. A remote video call interview with you and our study’s clinical psychologist.
  2. Online questionnaires which you will complete on your own time on any internet device.
  3. A behavioral evaluation of your toddler. For this part, you will first visit the Center for Autism Research with just you and your toddler. After this behavior evaluation, we will schedule a follow-up video call with you, where the psychologist will inform you about the testing results.
  4. If your child meets our criteria, we will ask you to return for an MRI scan of your toddler’s brain while they sleep.

You will be compensated for your time and effort dedicated to the study and you will be reimbursed for your travel expenses to CHOP.

How will this help families?

A focus on the earliest signs of autism is critical for families, so that children can access services and supports as early as possible. CAR researchers are using neuroimaging methods to identify brain signatures in children starting from 6 months of age onward that might be associated with autism in children with and without a family history of autism.