School Absenteeism in Autistic Youth

Our study is exploring the rates of and reasons for school absences in autistic students. Specifically, we are conducting a 20-day daily survey to learn more about child and family routines that impact children missing partial or full days of school. We’re also interested in how this interacts with parent stress.

What are the goals of the study?

We hope to learn more about the daily fluctuations in child behavior and routines that contribute to absenteeism so we can improve supports for schools and parents when children miss school.

What will happen during the visit or online?

1 hour virtual visit to answer questions about parent and child, then filling out a brief online attendance survey each day for 20 days

How will this help families?

We are working to better characterize the barriers that make consistent school attendance difficult for autistic children, and to better inform supports for parents and schools to make school attendance easier.

In this study, we will present a series of validated eye tracking paradigms (e.g., images of faces, videos of social interactions) while we monitor eye movements and physiological arousal. Two research assistants will also collect behavioral reports of ASD and ADHD symptoms from 8-12 years old participants. These data will allow us to examine how and if eye movements, arousal, and questionnaire outcomes differ between children with ASD and ADHD. By combining eye tracking/arousal measures and behavioral assessments, we will then draft a map of how these social cognitive traits manifest in eye movements.

What are the goals of the study?

The primary aim of this study is to test the utility of a social cognitive battery incorporating psychophysiological measures to differentiate between autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

What will happen during the visit or online?

A brief telephone screening will be conducted to determine if the child and family are interested in the study. Then, a research team member will schedule a time for the family to come into the lab for approximately 90 minutes. Prior to the visit, parents will be asked to send a copy of a recent diagnostic assessment to confirm diagnosis. During the visit, the participant will come to our lab with their parent. Upon completion of the consent and assent, cognitive screener will be conducted first to the child and then the eye tracking tasks will be administered using the Eyelink 1000. We will ask the child to sit in front of a computer screen, and we will be showing the child some videos and images while the computer will track the child’s physiological response and their eye movements. Parent and caregivers will complete a few questionnaires by the time. Upon completion of all measures, the participant will be given a $20 gift card for their time.

How will this help families?

Families will receive a feedback summary compiling information regarding their responses on questionnaires, including the Conners, SRS, and CBCL. Families will learn about their children’s current condition in behavior performances and cognitive development. If requested by contacting the lab via phone or email (or indicating during the study visit), a 15 minute phone feedback session will be scheduled for the parents with the PI, clinical psychologist, to discuss the results from the questionnaires. This will also offer the PI a chance to address any other questions the parents may have. Participants will also be compensated $20 for their time.

This is a research study to learn more about how children learn to understand language, and the role that caregivers play in this process. By learning more about these processes, we may be able to contribute to a better understanding of language development and impairment and the design of more effective intervention programs and therapies to support language learning. This study will be conducted by Dr. Sudha Arunachalam of the Communicative Sciences and Disorders department at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University, and Dr. Rhiannon Luyster of the Communicative Sciences and Disorders department at Emerson College.

What are the goals of the study?

Learn more about how children learn to understand language, and the role that caregivers play in this process.

What will happen during the visit or online?

If you give permission for your child to participate in this study, your child will be asked to play some games with us in the lab at 665 Broadway in Manhattan, and have a play session at home over web camera on your computer or tablet via Zoom videoconferencing software. You will be with your child the entire time. The in-person study is schedule for 1.5 hours, and the Zoom conferencing part of the study will take approximately 30-45 minutes of you and your child’s time.

The study also involves online surveys that can be completed by you from any location on a desktop, laptop, or tablet computer. These surveys will focus on your child’s demographics, daily activities, and language use, and will take up to 30 minutes to complete.

How will this help families?

We may be able to contribute to a better understanding of language development and impairment and the design of more effective intervention programs and therapies to support language learning.

This project will evaluate the effectiveness of MINDful TIME, an 8-week mindfulness-based program designed to improve mental health in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder and their caregivers. MINDful TIME includes weekly psychoeducational group meetings conducted through videoconferencing and use of a commercially available mindfulness meditation app. We will also explore whether caregivers in the treatment group demonstrate improvements in quality of life.

This project is a collaboration between researchers at the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) and the Autism Brain Aging Lab at Arizona State University.

Why this study is important: At least half of individuals with ASD experience clinically significant anxiety or depression. Mood symptoms increase significantly from childhood to adolescence and remain elevated during adulthood. Additionally, parents of children with ASD report higher levels of stress than parents of typically developing children or children with other disabilities and may experience higher stress once their children enter adolescence due to increased social-emotional difficulties. Notably, research from our group and others indicates increases in stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic in both adolescents with ASD and their parents. This project aims to improve mental health among teens with ASD and their parents through a telehealth mindfulness intervention.

What are the goals of the study?

This project will evaluate the effectiveness of MINDful TIME, an 8-week mindfulness-based program designed to improve mental health in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder and their caregivers. MINDful TIME includes weekly psychoeducational group meetings conducted through videoconferencing and use of a commercially available mindfulness meditation app. We will also explore whether caregivers in the treatment group demonstrate improvements in quality of life.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participation involves: 1-2 hour virtual intake visit to determine eligibility; Virtual group intervention sessions (2-hour sessions that meet weekly for 8 weeks); Up to 4 virtual data collection visits before and after participating in the intervention (1-2 hours each).

Teens and caregivers will: Attend an 8-week group telehealth intervention*; Learn strategies that may help with management of stress, anxiety or depression; Receive free access to a mindful meditation app (Ten Percent Happier) and asked to regularly use it throughout the study period.

*If you do not have access to the internet, our team will provide assistance for those who qualify.

How will this help families?

This project aims to improve mental health among teens with ASD and their parents through a telehealth mindfulness intervention.

Dr. Eggebrecht and researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are mapping brain function in children with autism spectrum disorder with diffuse optical tomography.

What are the goals of the study?

Dr. Eggebrecht and researchers at Washington University in St. Louis aim to investigate brain function underlying development in children who have or are at risk for developing Autism Spectrum Disorder.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Children will complete a 1-hour brain imaging scan and developmental testing at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Parents will complete online and phone surveys from home. Families will be compensated $25/hour for their participation.

How will this help families?

We hope that, in the future, society may benefit from study results which increase our understanding of typical and altered development of brain function. We hope that in the future, optical imaging will complement the current brain imaging technologies in the management of a variety of patient populations.

In our international study, we want to find out how Selective Mutism differs from Autism Spectrum Disorder. We are particularly interested in whether the situation has an influence on certain symptoms, for example, whether symptoms occur just as frequently at home in a familiar environment as in an unfamiliar environment. A symptom could be described as a sign by which a particular mental illness can be identified. In general, mental illnesses are associated with various symptoms. Therefore, in order to recognize a mental illness, it is essential to know as many symptoms as possible and to know how often and when they occur. This is particularly important for diagnostics, but also when it comes to providing the affected children with the best possible therapeutic support. We are also interested in surveying parents of neurotypical children without mental illness to determine possible differences. The study involves six questionnaires (approximately 40 minutes) that are completed online.

What are the goals of the study?

To gain knowledge on symptoms of selective mutism and autism and whether those are context-dependent.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Fill out questionnaire

How will this help families?

There are several hints that selective mutism is comorbid in a significant portion of autistic children. This research will enhance our understanding of selective mutism and autism and will help differentiate between the two conditions.

This study is being conducted by Dr. Lee Mason and Alexis Bolds of Cook Children’s Health Care System and Texas Christian University’s Burnett School of Medicine in Fort Worth, Texas. Our research is designed to assess your child’s language development over the course of two years. Every six months we will ask you and your child to take part in a telehealth-based functional language assessment that will last approximately one hour. At the completion of this project, we will compare the different language profiles of all participants.

What are the goals of the study?

We are asking you to take part in this research because your child’s language skills are still developing, and we are trying to learn more about how functional language develops over time. The purpose of this research is to determine whether we can accurately conduct language assessments via telehealth, and to better understand the differences in language development between children with and without autism spectrum disorder.

What will happen during the visit or online?

A language assessment called a “verbal operant experimental (VOX) analysis” will be conducted every six months as part of this research. The VOX is a functional analysis of language that has been carefully designed to assess four language domains: conversing, labeling, echoing, and requesting. Across each of these conditions, we will assess your child’s ability to say the same words. Caregivers will also be asked to complete a brief demographic survey at the time of each assessment to identify potential factors that may be related to language development. We expect each assessment to take approximately 45-60 minutes of your time.

How will this help families?

After each VOX analysis, you will receive an assessment report that describes strengths and weaknesses of your functional language skills. The report provides recommendations for helping to remediate any deficit areas identified by the assessment.

This pediatric autism clinical research study is currently testing the drug, pimavanserin, to see if it is safe and effective in treating irritability and other behaviors in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Study participation will last for up to 14 weeks, with a 6-week treatment period. Children who enroll in this study will receive either the study drug or placebo. A placebo looks like the study drug but has no impact on the person taking it. There will be no cost for the study drug or any study-related procedures. You may be compensated for your time and travel. If your child completes the 6-week treatment period, they may be able to enroll in a 52-week, open-label extension study if they qualify. During this open-label study, there is no placebo. Children who enroll will receive the study drug, pimavanserin.

What are the goals of the study?

The overall goal of this study is to evaluate whether an investigational drug might help relieve irritable behaviors associated with Pediatric Autism Spectrum Disorder that make social interactions and everyday functioning challenging.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Study participation will last for up to 14 weeks, with a 6-week treatment period. Children who enroll in this study will receive either the study drug or placebo. A placebo looks like the study drug but has no impact on the person taking it. There will be no cost for the study drug or any study-related procedures. You may be compensated for your time and travel.
If your child completes the 6-week treatment period, they may be able to enroll in a 52-week, open-label extension study if they qualify. During this open-label study, there is no placebo. Children who enroll will receive the study drug, pimavanserin.

How will this help families?

The evaluation of this investigational drug may help relieve irritable behaviors associated with Pediatric Autism Spectrum Disorder that make social interactions and everyday functioning challenging.

The Wall Lab has already conducted feasibility testing to show that GuessWhat has the potential to impact outcomes on standard behavioral measures. This low-commitment option is a prosocial game, where instead of drawing the player into an immersive game experience, the child actively engages with their social partner in order to perform well in the game. We hope our study testing this game, which leverages machine learning and science-backed treatment approaches, will be an engaging and rewarding experience for families, and that it will provide evidence for therapeutic impact.

What are the goals of the study?

The following study aims to understand the efficacy of the mobile game platform, GuessWhat, in delivering behavioral therapy to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

What will happen during the visit or online?

If you participate, you will be asked to complete a set of questionnaires that take approximately 1 hour to complete before and 4 weeks after being enrolled in the study. These questionnaires will ask about basic demographics, about your experience as a parents, and about your child’s social communication skills. 50% of participants will be randomly assigned to the treatment group, these participants will use a mobile app for 4 weeks after enrolling. 50% of participants will be in the control group, these participants will continue their normal routine for 4 weeks, before being asked to complete the second set of questionnaires.

How will this help families?

We hope the study game itself will be a fun game for families to play that encourages social communication. We are conducting this study to see if our game-based digital therapeutic can be an effective early intervention option for children with ASD. Results from this study will further understanding with regard to designing digital therapeutics for children with special needs.

Research has shown that certain bacteria in the gut produce substances that may enter the bloodstream and reach the brain, which my contribute to some characteristics often co-occurring with autism, such as irritability. Reducing these substances in the gut before they enter the bloodstream is a potential new approach to treating irritability associated with ASD. AB-2004, with its gut-targeted mechanism of action has the potential to fill this unmet need.

What are the goals of the study?

The study medication AB-2004 is designed to adsorb specific substances produced by bacteria in the gut and reduce their levels circulation in the bloodstream. The purpose of this study is to learn if AB-2004 may help improve irritability in adolescents compared to placebo by lowering the levels of these substances. The study seeks to determine if there is an effective dose of AB-2004 in 13 to 17 year olds with ASD.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participants will be examined by the study doctor for any changes to their health, complete a behavioral questionnaire, and participate in blood, urine, and other testing. Blood samples will be collected only 3 times during the study. Participants will take the study medication for 8 weeks and attend 6 clinic visits (lasting 2-3 hours) over 14-16 weeks. Formulated as a tasteless odorless powder, the medication is to be taken 3x/day mixed with any soft food your child may like such as yogurt or apple sauce. You will also be asked to collect urine and stool samples.

How will this help families?

Physicians have reported that irritability impacts a majority of pediatric ASD patients. The presentation of ASD-associated irritability can very with autism severity and age and can be caused by a broad array of different factors including lack of sleep, the inability to communicate pain, and mental health conditions. Currently, there are limited treatment options available for irritability associated with ASD and those that are approved can have significant side effects. AB-2004 offers potential hope of a new therapeutic option for autism-related irritability that might improve patients’ daily lives by avoiding the side effects and risks of currently available medications for irritability of autism.

Interested parents should know that we would like them to have the opportunity to share their story of being a parent to an autistic child. The five-minute Zoom interview is a quick interview to give parents the chance to share their experiences and participate in research. We are enrolling families with autism and other disabilities in the study.

What are the goals of the study?

The study goals are to learn about parents and families of children with autism and other disabilities to better understand their experiences as parents and caregivers and to understand the relationships they have with their children.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Parents will complete an online consent form, questionnaire, and five-minute Zoom interview.

How will this help families?

The research may ultimately lead to a better understanding of how to help families affected by autism and other disabilities to thrive and cope as parents and caregivers.

What are the goals of the study?

We are carrying out an interview research study in the US and Canada which will involve interviews with autistic adolescents and supporters of autistic children and adolescents.
The aim of the study is to understand everyday life with autism and to understand the most important characteristics and impacts of autism that should be measured in future clinical studies. We will use this information to develop a new questionnaire and a personalised goal setting approach in order to measure what matters to autistic people.

What will happen during the visit or online?

● Speak to a researcher during two one-to-one interviews, which should last around 60-75 minutes each
● Talk about the experience/their child’s experience of living with autism
● Give honest feedback about some questionnaires
● In appreciation of your time, you will be reimbursed after each interview (two interviews in total).

How will this help families?

There is no direct medical benefit from being in this study. The information learnt from this study may help researchers and doctors learn more about autism in general. Your child and others with autism may benefit from the results of such research in the future, as we seek to develop a new questionnaire and a personalised goal setting approach in order to measure what matters to autistic people.