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.

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.

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.

We want to understand autistic adults’ experiences with communicating without words because because individuals with autism tend to have difficulties using nonverbal communication. We want to be able to help the autism community with communication skills if that is something the study indicates is important to them, and help create interventions targeting nonverbal communication if the autism community indicates a desire for it. This study began at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia by Dr. Ashley de Marchena and a team of students as part of the InterAction Lab and is now being continued at Drexel University’s A.J. Drexel Autism Institute.

What are the goals of the study?

We are interested in developing supports to help improve communication experiences for adults on the autism spectrum, but first want to hear from the autistic community about what (if any) supports are wanted or needed.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participants will be asked to complete about 60 minutes of online surveys related to communication, autism traits, and general information about themselves. The surveys should take about an hour to complete. Communication differences will be accommodated.
Participants will receive a $40 Amazon gift code after you complete the study.

How will this help families?

The results of the survey will be used to develop supports for both autistic and non-autistic people to facilitate stronger, more comfortable interactions.

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.

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.

Children with ASD experience a wide range of outcomes, and not all children respond effectively to behavioral interventions. There is accumulating evidence of tDCS (mild brain stimulation) being effective in treating the comorbidities as well as the core symptoms of ASD. tDCS is most effective when used simultaneously with behavior intervention. In this study, we will isolate the effects of tDCS alone and in combination with ABA on the executive functioning skills and the core symptoms of ASD and monitor the results using an objective neurophysiological test (EEG).

What are the goals of the study?

The goal of this study is to see if transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) when used during ABA therapy improves learning in children with ASD. If your child takes part in the research, s/he will receive tDCS while receiving her/his ABA therapy.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Your child will participate in the study for a total of five months. S/he will receive 20 sessions of tDCS as well as 20 sessions sham (fake) tDCS. Each session is 20-mins long. A resting electroencephalogram (EEG) using a portable headset will be obtained about one time per month. Most study procedures will be done remotely but several in-person visits are required.

How will this help families?

Potential benefits of tDCS are improvements in executive function skills, decrease in the core symptoms of ASD, and/or greater learning acquisition during ABA therapy in study participants. However, there may not be any benefit at all – that is why we are conducting this study.

The goal of this study is to understand how autistic adolescents feel about common intervention goals and strategies used to support autistic children and young people. Autistic people have not historically been a part of the development of these interventions and autistic advocates have voiced concerns saying that these interventions are unethical and caused harm to autistic people. It is important to seek autistic feedback to determine where these practices fail to align with the values of autistic people and where they can be improved.

What are the goals of the study?

A primary goal of the study is to understand how sensory processing develops over adolescence. We hope to identify neurobiological mechanisms related to sensory over-responsiveness (SOR) with the goal of informing the development of targeted interventions.

What will happen during the visit or online?

The researcher will set up a time to meet with the teen (participant) and their parent via zoom or in person, depending on location and preference. During the meeting, the parent and participant will participate in a consent/assent process. Once both parties consent/assent to participate, the teen will be sent the survey link and answer the survey items. If preferred, they can have the survey items read to them and the researcher can fill out the survey based on their dictated answers. The survey will take approximately 30-45 minutes.

How will this help families?

There are no direct benefits to participants or families. However, we hope that the findings from this study will help clinicians provide supports to autistic children and young people that are more in-line with what the autistic community desires.

Autistic children frequently engage in repetitive and inflexible behaviors, and sometimes these behaviors can significantly interfere with child learning, are associated with long-term functional impairment, and co-occurring psychiatric conditions (e.g., anxiety). However, there is a significant gap in effective interventions that address repetitive and inflexible behaviors. The FITBI Study partners caregivers of autistic children with trained therapists to provide coaching for inflexible or repetitive behaviors that are interfering with parent or child quality of life.

What are the goals of the study?

Researchers at the University of Kansas are currently recruiting for a study that provides parent coaching to address the repetitive or inflexible behaviors of autistic children between the ages of 3 to 9 years old. The Family-Implemented Treatment for Behavioral Inflexibility (FITBI) project partners eligible participants with a trained coach to receive individualized support via telehealth.

What will happen during the visit or online?

If you and your child qualify to participate, you will be partnered with a trained coach to receive free, individualized support. Here are a few important details about the research study:
• The study will primarily take place via a secure telehealth video meeting system. Depending on family proximity, there could be home visits to collect data.
• Caregiver participation includes attending weekly telehealth sessions with a trained coach and completing online surveys and brief interviews about yourself and your child.
• Participants can receive up to $120 in compensation for participating.
• Eligible participants will be randomly assigned to one of two groups.
• Participants will be recruited from the states of Kansas and Missouri.

How will this help families?

The overall goal of the FITBI Study is to determine whether a new form of family-based intervention for repetitive and inflexible behaviors, delivered using videoconferencing technology, can counter any negative effects of those behaviors and improve positive outcomes for young autistic children. Results from this study could have substantial implications for remotely delivered interventions that address the repetitive and inflexible behaviors of autistic children.

Through a better understanding of motor learning, we can begin to craft early interventions to fit the needs of our participants. Our study aims to focus on how infants at elevated risk for autism learn motor skills for the purposes of developing early interventions. We accomplish this through non-invasive measures using play based assessments and a motor learning task.

What are the goals of the study?

The current project for the infant robot interaction study aims to better understand how infants at elevated and community risk for autism learn motor skills. We are specifically interested in how infants integrate their vision and movements to learn that their behaviors are controlling our robot. We ultimately want to understand infant motor learning so that we can better tailor early motor interventions.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participants will come to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for a single hour visit. We will place 4 movement sensors on your child’s arms and legs, and a head mounted eye tracker on their head. With these devices on, we will record a video of your child observing our robot talk and move. At the end of the visit, we will measure your infant’s weight, length, and motor milestones. You will also go home with a short survey that asks you about your child’s everyday behaviors.

How will this help families?

No direct benefits will be given to the participants of our study. However, our goal is to better understand how infants at elevated risk for autism learn motor skills so that we can better develop early interventions for this population. Through early intervention, infants can have the best start to life by working on the needs of the patient.

There is a clear unmet need for new medicines to treat irritability in children with ASD that do not have the metabolic and weight adverse event profiles of the currently approved treatments. Cannabidivarin (CBDV), a nonpsychoactive phytocannabinoid with no appreciable tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has potential therapeutic effects on irritability and disruptive behaviors, repetitive behaviors, sociability, and quality of life, as well as the capacity to reduce inflammation.

What are the goals of the study?

This study aims to examine the efficacy and safety of CBDV, with a primary aim of studying its effect on irritability in children with ASD.

What will happen during the visit or online?

It will take about 16 weeks to complete this study. During this time, we will ask you to come to Albert Einstein College of Medicine 4 times for study visits. (Baseline, Week 4, Week 8, and Week 12). In addition, we will ask you to complete 5 remote visits. Two out of these 5 remote visits will involve assessments performed over the phone, as well as a visit to your local QUEST diagnostic center (at no cost to you, at Screening and Week 2 ) The other 3 remote visits will only involve assessments performed over the phone (Weeks 6, 10, and 14). On-site visits include a physical and neurological exam, measuring vital signs, lab work, and completion of assessments/questionnaires. An ECG will be completed at Baseline and Week 12.

How will this help families?

The goal of this study is to see if CBDV can improve irritability and disruptive behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorder, without the weight gain and metabolic side effects of the FDA approved antipsychotics aripiprazole and risperidone.