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 FPG News Story

Autism intervention researchers often do not report the race and ethnicity of study participants. When data is reported, there is a lack of representation across historically minoritized racial and ethnic groups. A recent study led by FPG Faculty Fellow Jessica Steinbrenner, PhD, published findings about these inequities in January of 2022.

Featured Publication

Transitioning Together is a multi-family intervention designed to support families of adolescents on the autism spectrum as they prepare for the transition to adulthood. FPG researchers examined student, teacher, and school-level facilitators and barriers to adopting and implementing Transitioning Together at 30 public high schools.

Featured Project

A study, led by FPG researchers will iteratively develop and test an adapted professional development (PD) model grounded in Normalization Process Theory (an implementation science approach in complex health interventions) to be used with the Advancing Social-communication And Play intervention.

Current Projects

The FPG Autism Team will provide professional development training on the Autism Program Environment Rating Scale (APERS). The training will be for nine participants who are team members or affiliates of the Autism Professional Learning & Universal Supports Project at Illinois State University.
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.
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.