Language Use in Autism

What are the goals of the study?

A short, online survey about words and phrases used when talking about autism. Our aim is to inform how communities may best and most supportively discuss autism.

What will happen during the visit or online?

You will be asked to rate a list of words/phrases commonly associated with autism based on how harmful/pathologizing vs affirming/helpful you believe they are.

How will this help families?

Study findings will be used to make recommendations about language that is most preferred and affirming when talking about autism. Following these recommendations will allow individuals on the spectrum and their families to receive care that aligns with the values of the autism community and inform training and education efforts.

In less than 45 minutes, participants can help us understand the greater extent of mental abilities seen in autism and help dispel harmful per-conceived notions of the autistic mind.

What are the goals of the study?

This study aims to understand how people mentally represent others on a more nuanced level.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participants will read short (4-sentence) stories and make True/False responses about the people in them. Then participants will read statements and judge how pragmatically sound they are for communication.

How will this help families?

Improving our understanding of the social brain can inform the way families affected by autism understand and interact with their loved ones. Allow them to enjoy an improved quality of life, based on an understanding of autism gained through scientific insights.

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 could help dispel dated and harmful notions about the limits of the autistic mind. We aim to understand certain forms of social cognition on a more nuanced level to explore the greater extent of autistic abilities beyond what has been previously assumed.

What are the goals of the study?

To understand complex social cognitive processes and their instantiation in neuro-divergent individuals.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Online Study: Participation usually takes less than 1 hour and entails reading short (4 sentence) stories and quickly answering True/False prompts. Then making judgements about the linguistic “strangeness” of statements made about agents in stories.

How will this help families?

The results of this study will provide new insight on the nature of certain cognitive processes. Equipped with this new knowledge, families of individuals affected by autism can better understand and interact with this population such that one’s quality of life may be improved.

Individuals with autism can have reduced awareness of what strengths they possess. This can associated with lower self-esteem, mood disorders, and negative repetitive thinking about one’s self. This study is looking to explore strength awareness in adolescents with autism, in hopes to investigate the effects of improving strength awareness

What are the goals of the study?

We are looking to evaluate how young adults identify and express their own personal identities.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Fill out surveys via a secure research platform asking about experiences, mood, and how one describes oneself (roughly one hour, can be completed over separate sessions) 2. Parent or legal guardian will fill out surveys about their child (roughly one hour).

How will this help families?

Decreased strength awareness can be problematic for children as they transition into adulthood. It can cause reduced ability to advocate for oneself in relationships, school settings, and during employment. This study is evaluating strength awareness in adolescents with autism to further research the effects of decreased and increased strength awareness.

Individuals with autism are significantly under-employed, and those within 2 years of high school graduation experience the most significant risk of unemployment. If successful, this research study will result in a novel intervention that enhances interviewing skills that may lead to better employment outcomes. While the primary goal of the study is to improve character strength identification in the context of a job interview, it could potentially expand to other areas in life as well.

What are the goals of the study?

We are looking to evaluate how effective a strength-based intervention my be in improving job interview skills in young adults.

What will happen during the visit or online?

A baseline testing session, lasting roughly 2 hours. 2. After this testing session, each participant will be randomly placed into a “training group” (which will participate in 9 online sessions lasting 60 minutes each) or the “control group” (which will do nothing but will receive the training material to use on their own after study completion). 3. All participants will participate in a follow-up testing session, lasting roughly 2 hours. 4. After the follow-up session, participants will be contacted in 6 month by phone call.

How will this help families?

Inability to obtain work can lead to negative outcomes including reduced ability to establish financial independence and reduced satisfaction of life. In hopes of better employment outcomes for individuals with autism, this research study examines a novel intervention to enhance job interview skills.

Autistic individuals experience depression differently, and at a higher rate, than typically-developing individuals, yet there is no measure that specifically measures depression in autistic populations. As such, we have created a new measure to look at depressive symptomatology as seen in autistic populations. Our study will provide us with a more complete understanding of autistic youth’s mental health, while also providing professionals with a more accurate understanding of how to tailor treatments for depressive symptoms in autistic individuals.

What are the goals of the study?

In our study, we are investigating the overlapping symptoms between depression and autism. The goal of this project is to learn more about depressive symptoms that autistic adolescents may show. We are also hoping to gain a better understanding of whether parents attribute such symptoms to their child’s primary diagnosis of ASD, or to depression, or to something else such as puberty or stress.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Adolescents will be asked to complete a questionnaire about their feelings over the last two weeks. This will take approximately 30 minutes. Parents will also fill out a questionnaire about their child’s feelings, behaviours, and emotions over the two weeks. Then, parents will be asked to complete another questionnaire about their child’s behaviours and emotions over the past 6 months. Together, this should take approximately an hour and a half and will be completed over Zoom. Parents will receive a $20 Amazon gift card and adolescents will receive a $10 Amazon gift card for participating.

How will this help families?

Co-occurring conditions such as depression in autistic individuals can increase stress on both the individual and their family. Our study will provide us with a more accurate understanding of the rate of depression in autism, how depression affects autistic individuals and their families, and how to care for families that are experiencing depression in autism. As such, we can begin to lessen the stress and other impacts that depression can have on autism, and improve the lives of autistic individuals and their families.

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.

What are the goals of the study?

This study proposal seeks to collect a foundational dataset to determine how basic perceptual processes may explain individual differences in social communication in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Issues in social communication often refers to high-level visual skills such as discriminating facial expressions, or auditory skills such as discriminating between different tones of voice.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participants will complete tasks where they are presented with stimuli that they see, hear, and, touch and will respond to them in questions that ask about what they perceived, remembered, and/or ask them to solve puzzles. Participants’ guardians will be asked to complete a variety of questionnaires about your child. These may ask about personal information, aspects of the child’s personality and habits, questions about their experiences and feelings. They will be asked to participate in 3 experimental sessions that will last up to 60 minutes. Participants will download experimental software for these sessions onto their tablet or smartphone.

How will this help families?

Identifying distinct groups within our ASD sample is critical for future work on intervention efficacy and for better understanding the mechanisms which lead to the wide range of abilities and symptoms observed in ASD. If we find these hypothesized relationships between our specific tasks and tasks of emotion recognition, it could help individualize interventions for children who struggle with specific aspects of social functioning. For example, if a child’s intervention goals included improving her ability to recognize affective facial expressions, our data would provide preliminary evidence that she may benefit from tasks training visual contour integration (along with more traditional explicit teaching methods). Further, these tasks can be used in young children to potentially identify early developmental signs of ASD and interventions for basic perceptual processes at these earlier stages may help aid their social development. Identification and validation of potential subgroups of children with ASD will inform future research efforts in a variety of domains (e.g. neuroscience, pharmacological and/or behavioral clinical trials, genetics, etc).

While siblings of individuals with ASD are at greater risk for ASD and other developmental disorders themselves, very little is known about how autism affects the children of these siblings (the “next generation”). This project is aimed at laying the groundwork to better understand how autism affects the next generation. This study will focus on establishing the infrastructure to examine the next generation of families affected by ASD by engaging adult siblings and their spouses/partners in focus groups; this feasibility study will pave the way for a phenotyping study of the next generation to examine the early signs and symptoms among the second-degree nieces and nephews of individuals with ASD.

What are the goals of the study?

To gather input on how having a sibling with ASD affects your family planning decisions and your perspective on participating in research.

What will happen during the visit or online?

If eligible, you will be invited to participate in a 2-hour focus group via Zoom alongside other siblings (and spouses/partners of siblings) of individuals with ASD to provide insight into your experiences, your current feelings surrounding family planning decisions, and your willingness to participate in future research. You will be compensated for your time and input.

How will this help families?

Participation in this study will help to establish a research protocol that can assist other siblings of individuals with ASD. Participation will also assist researchers in knowing what topics need to be addressed through future research and/or clinical projects to help support the needs of unaffected siblings as well as the needs of their affected siblings.

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