Autism & Developmental Disabilities

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teacher showing happy and sad faces to student with autism

Supporting individuals with developmental disabilities such as autism, as well as their caregivers and service providers, is central to the work of FPG. Understanding developmental trajectories and the impact of a developmental disability on the individual, family, and broader community informs both theory and practice. High-quality intervention across the age range can ensure that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families fully participate in their community in ways that are meaningful to them. FPG investigators have identified central features of high-quality intervention, such as family-focused programming, early childhood inclusion, and the use of identified evidence-based practices. They lead the field in translating scientific knowledge into practical information for teachers and service providers, and actively join their colleagues from implementation science in promoting adoption and use of effective intervention practices in schools, homes, and community settings.

Featured Publication

Females and males are disproportionately diagnosed with autism, a sex difference that has historically represented this neurodevelopmental condition. FPG Faculty Fellow Clare Harrop contributed to a study that examines lifespan developmental trajectories of autism based on sex to elucidate behavioral phenotypic differences that may contribute to differential rates of diagnosis.

Featured Publication

FPG’s Hsiu-Wen Yang and Chih-Ing Lim contributed to an article that describes what STEM learning looks like for infants and toddlers. They include examples of STEM learning opportunities for infants and toddlers within daily routines and activities. We will also share a coaching framework to help early intervention providers support families to embed STEM learning opportunities at home.

Featured Person

Sallie Nowell, PhD, is a licensed speech-language pathologist and research scientist at Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Nowell's research focuses on assessment and treatment of social and pragmatic communication challenges in children with autism spectrum disorder and other neurodevelopmental conditions.

Current Projects

This model demonstration seeks to increase family uptake of developmental screenings and service enrollment of traditionally underserved populations by centering family and cultural voice throughout the implementation process.
The aims of this development and innovation project are to develop an interactive decision tree to inform adaptation of Classroom Pivotal Response Teaching (CPRT) for individual students, goals, and activities, and to develop an interactive on-line training and distance coaching model for teachers and paraprofessionals.
The Early Childhood Inclusion Professional Learning Program led by Chih-Ing Lim, PhD. at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Elena Soukakou, PhD., is committed to support the Community Psychology Hub, Singapore in ensuring that the InSP program is implemented effectively to serve young children with disabilities.
The pilot study presented in this proposal is a collaborative effort between the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) and the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The intended outcomes of this program are to positively impact inclusion in early childhood classrooms and kindergarten readiness for children with disabilities. Consisting of a 5 day, in-person, professional development (PD) opportunity and Networked Improvement Community (NIC) meetings that are targeted to meet the individual needs of the participants, we propose a three-phase process. Phase 1 includes targeted observations of inclusive STEM practices. Phase 2 includes a 5-day PD opportunity, planned and facilitated by UMBC and STEMIE. PD sessions will be designed to foster the participants’ engagement in inclusive STEM teaching. Phase 2 sessions will be developed based on observed needs of the participating teachers and support participants in using STEMIE resources (e.g. learning trajectories) within the scope of their own curriculum. A series of NIC meetings will be held focusing on areas of need identified by the participants to allow for collaborative problem solving with investigators serving as facilitators. The final phase (Phase 3) will include targeted observations of participants to assess progress.
This study will iteratively develop and test an adapted professional development model to be used with the Advancing Social-communication And Play intervention.
The National Clearinghouse on Autism Evidence and Practice (NCAEP) is conducting a systematic review of the current intervention literature targeting individuals on the autism spectrum. NCAEP is a continuation of the evidence review that was completed by the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The purpose of this study is to evaluate two group-based treatments: (1) the Program for Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS), which targets social skills, and (2) Unstuck and On Target (UOT), which targets executive function skills. The interventions are two 45-minute sessions per week across 16 weeks and will be implemented by school-based staff in middle schools in North Carolina and Southern California (San Diego area).
The goal of this project is to validate the Early Communication Indicator for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ECI-ASD) using a robust and representative multi-site sample of well-characterized children with autism spectrum disorder to determine the psychometric features of this instrument and its ability to detect change over time.