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

There is a continued call for the use of practices supported by evidence to improve the quality and effectiveness of services provided for students with disabilities. FPG implementation specialists recently published an article that describes how an implementation science approach was used to cultivate systemic change and create improved outcomes for students with disabilities.

Featured FPG News Story

FPG's Ann Sam, PhD, and several UNC colleagues from the School of Education and the Department of Allied Health Sciences have answered a call for help for families in Ukraine, collaborating to create a compilation of simple-to-use resources, accessible online, to help families and others who care for autistic children and youth cope with the violence and uncertainty of war.

Featured Publication

The majority of autism parent training interventions have been developed without considering the unique needs of under-represented communities, such as the Black community. FPG Equity Research Action Coalition Founding Director Iheoma Iruka recently contributed to the development of the Color of Autism’s parent training program for Black parents of children with autism.

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.
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).
Beginning June 2022 through September 30, 2022, the FPG Autism Team, led by Dr. Ann Sam, will provide virtual professional development training on the Autism Program Environment Rating Scale (APERS). The training will be for nine participants who are team members of Guilford County Schools (GCS). The project will include training on the FPG version of the APERS (note Brookes Publishing will publish the full updated APERS in 2022 for purchase). Training consists of virtual didactic training (8 hours), APERS practice conducted in schools by participants, interview and feedback review by trainers, virtual consensus scoring, virtual debrief and professional development planning, and virtual follow-up.
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.