Autism & Developmental Disabilities

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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

Just one year after reaching 100,000 users, the Autism Focused Intervention Resources and Modules (AFIRM) project at FPG has reached another milestone―more than 200,000 users now rely on AFIRM for evidence-based practices that can help learners with autism. AFIRM provides free, user-friendly online learning modules, which are used all over the world by teachers, paraprofessionals, related service providers, families, and anyone who works with learners with autism.

Featured Project

The FPG Autism Team, led by Ann Sam, PhD will develop five new AFIRM modules. These modules will address new evidence-based practices (EBPs) identified by the latest National Clearinghouse on Autism Evidence and Practice review of the literature. The team will develop the content of the five new modules based upon the format of the current AFIRM modules. The modules will then be posted on the AFIRM website for free public access of the materials.

Featured Person

Ann Sam, PhD, is an advanced research scientist at FPG. Her research and professional development interests are rooted in her direct experience as a public-school teacher working in preschool and kindergarten classrooms with students with autism. The primary goal of Dr. Sam's work is to increase awareness and use of evidence-based interventions and resources designed to improve outcomes for students with autism. Dr. Sam led the development of the AFIRM modules.

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.
The FPG Autism Team will develop five AFIRM modules based on new evidence-based practices identified by the National Clearinghouse on Autism Evidence & Practice review of the literature.
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 FPG Autism Team will provide virtual professional development training on the Autism Program Environment Rating Scale (APERS) for nine participants who are team members of Guilford County Schools. Additionally, the team will provide training on the National Professional Development (NPDC) model.
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.