Current Research

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Toy Talk
Toy Talk

In collaboration with Dr. Pamela Hadley at the University of Illinois, we are conducting a randomized clinical trial of Toy Talk, an innovative language modeling approach, using telemedicine and video-based feedback. The aim of this intervention is to increase caregivers’ use of interactive play and language strategies to improve the child’s early sentence development. Caregiver-child dyads will participate in weekly parent coaching sessions via telemedicine for 1 hour per week over 6 weeks. Caregivers will be asked to record their interactions with their child at home to help guide each session. Therapists will review these videos prior to each session and provide feedback on different intervention techniques.

JASPER Intervention Study

The aim of this study is to validate new treatment outcome measures, the ELSA (Elicitation of Language Samples for Analysis), OSEL (Observation of Spontaneous Expressive Language), and BOSCC (Brief Observation of Social Communication Change) over the course of a manualized treatment program (Joint Attention, Symbolic Play, Engagement, and Regulation)

Data-Driven Multidimensional Modelling of Nonverbal Communication

This project aims to address the limitations of qualitative descriptions of nonverbal communication by developing automated measurement tools to enable data-driven, objective characterizations of coordination of nonverbal communication. Participants (ages 1-4) complete a play-based assessment and a semi-structured assessment of nonverbal communication, which are recorded using multiple cameras as well as wearable accelerometers. Our collaborators at Georgia University of Technology, led by Dr. James Rehg, will develop a methodology and an associated set of software tools to convert data into computational models that quantify the fine-grained details of timing and coordination of nonverbal communication behaviors. Participants will return a year after their initial visit, allowing us to evaluate the extent to which the computational models of nonverbal communication can predict later language outcomes.

Toddler Brain Study

We are collaborating with Dr. Adriana DiMartino at Child Mind Institute to investigate brain and behavioral changes in children with autism spectrum disorder over the first five years of life. Through the use of natural sleep MRIs, the project aims to identify the neurobiological underpinnings of early developmental changes in restricted repetitive behavior/interests (RRB) – one of the most clinically impairing aspects of ASD - and their predictive contribution to behavioral outcomes.

Developing a scalable measure of social communication changes in ASD: Brief Observation of Social Communication Change (BOSCC)

In collaboration with Dr. Catherine Lord, we are developing a new treatment outcome measure, Brief Observation of Social Communication Change (BOSCC) for both minimally verbal and verbal children, adolescents and adults with ASD. The initial psychometrics of the BOSCC for minimally verbal children in the contexts of parent-child and examiner-child interactions have been published recently (See publications). We are in the process of validating the BOSCC for verbal children.

School Readiness in Kindergartners with ASD 

In this study, we aim to examine school readiness in kindergartners with ASD. During the study  we assess  academic  achievement, executive function  (EF), and socio-emotional abilities in children with ASD at kindergarten entry. Participants are invited to come back at the end of the kindergarten year so that we can measure the academic and behavioral progress over the kindergarten year. We are also interested in in examining the link between behavioral neurophysiological correlates of school readiness using electroencephalogram (EEG). Participating children will play a child-friendly computer  game for a short EEG session. 

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Unpacking Treatment Mechanisms: Combining Evidence from Three Early Intervention Models for ASD 

This NIMH funded project aims to improve our understanding of mechanisms of behavioral changes in toddlers and preschoolers with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and their caregivers over the course of early parent-mediated interventions. We are specifically interested in examining changes in children's social communication across different treatment models as well as changes in parent behaviors. We will implement newly validated treatment outcome measures as well as automatic acoustic analyses to examine these behavioral changes.