Autism research at the university of alabama
current Research Projects
There are many opportunities for children, adolescents, and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), their families, and practitioners to be involved in studies at UA. Please Contact Us if you are interested in participating in our research. Here are some of our current projects.
Temporal dynamics of neural activity in autism spectrum disorder (Dr. Malaia and colleagues)
Modeling of the temporal structure of brain activity in individuals with ASD during resting state, as well as during communication
SENSE Study (Dr. White and collaborators)
This is a multisite Randomized Controlled Trial, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. In collaboration with Vanderbilt University and Stony Brook University, the University of Alabama is enrolling adolescents with ASD to receive one of two evidence-based treatments. The goal of this project is to determine the efficacy of a theatre-based intervention that aims to improve social functioning in youth with autism. This project will be enrolling during the 2018-2019 school year. For more information, please contact Dr. Nicole Powell at email@example.com or call (205) 348-3535.
EASE Study (Dr. White and collaborators)
This is a multisite Randomized Controlled Trial, funded by the Department of the Army. In collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Alabama is enrolling adolescents and young adults with ASD. EASE is a mindfulness-based treatment that seeks to improve ability to manage intense negative emotions and decrease reactivity (e.g., intense anger or sadness). This project will be enrolling during the 2018-2019 school year. For more information, please contact Dr. Nicole Powell at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (205) 348-3535.
Does Sensory Sensitivity Help Explain the Relationship between Symptoms of ASD and Willingness to Communicate? (Dr. Barnard-Brak, Dr. David Richman [Texas Tech University], Dr. Watkins)
Individuals with ASD struggle with both sensory sensitivity and social communication. The implication of this study is that by addressing sensory sensitivities, we may improve the willingness of individuals with ASD to engage in social communication.
Educational Versus Clinical Diagnoses of ASD (Dr. Barnard-Brak)
This study examines rates of clinical diagnosis for ASD, which tend to be greater than the rates of educational diagnosis for ASD. Results show a greater discrepancy in educational diagnoses for girls versus boys as compared to the clinical diagnoses.
Symptoms of ASD and Sensitivity to Post Traumatic Stress (Dr. Barnard-Brak)
In this pilot study, the relationship of symptoms of ASD with sensitivity to post traumatic stress is being examined. It is hypothesized that individuals with symptoms of ASD may be more vulnerable to experiencing post traumatic stress as compared to their non-ASD counterparts.
Romantic Relationship Status and Symptoms of ASD (Dr. Barnard-Brak)
Individuals with ASD would appear to have difficulty initiating and maintaining long term, romantic relationships. The current study examines the relationship between symptoms of ASD and romantic relationship status as associated with other correlates such as age and gender.
Rural Caregivers' Knowledge of Autism (Dr. Tomeny and Dr. Barber)
In collaboration with multiple departments on campus, we are aiming to better understand what parents across Alabama in a variety of communities know about ASD and general child development.
Rural Teachers' Knowledge of Autism (Dr. Tomeny and Dr. Ashley Cawley)
In collaboration with multiple departments on campus, we are examining levels of knowledge about autism and general child development among teachers across Alabama. We are particularly interested in identifying the specific needs of teachers to better instruct children and adolescents with ASD.
How's the Family: A Study of Family Coping and Communication (Dr. Tomeny)
For this study, we are interested in examining how families with children with ASD and other developmental disabilities communicate with one another and cope with stressful situations. A major goal of this project is to get reports from multiple members of each family, including both parents and siblings.
Child, Adolescent, and Adult Siblings (Dr. Tomeny)
This study involves investigating a variety of outcomes among typically-developing siblings of individuals with ASD or intellectual disabilities. We are particularly interested in identifying risk- and protective-factors for sibling emotional and behavioral functioning. Constructs examined for adults include social support, parentification, life satisfaction, and perceived impact.
Brain Mechanisms of Multimodal Prosody in Gesture and Speech (Dr. Morett)
Prosody is the music of human language, conveying meaning beyond what is conveyed by words alone. In speech, prosody is conveyed via pitch accenting, and in gesture, prosody is conveyed via beats. We are using eye-tracking and EEG to examine how these two cues are integrated and how they affect memory and language acquisition in people with and without ASD.
Neural Respone Variabilty and Gesture-Speech Integration (Dr. Morett)
For this study, we are examining the neural responses to gesture and co-occuring speech and whether this predicts language development in children with ASD.
Increasing Social Interaction in Children with ASD and their Typically Developing Peers and Siblings (Dr. Watkins and collaborators)
In this series of studies, we are examining the effects of an intervention package consisting of the incorporation of preferred interests into structured play activities, brief instruction, adult modeling, and response to child questions to increase social interaction between children with ASD and their peers or siblings.
Training Teachers to Implement Evidence-Based Practices (Dr. Watkins)
The purpose of this study is to train teachers to implement evidence-based behavioral strategies to improve the social communication skills of students with ASD. We are examining the effectiveness and acceptability of teacher training procedures in an attempt to narrow the research-to-practice gap and improve outcomes for students with ASD in the classroom.
Examining the Impact of Social Skills Interventions for Children with ASD Across Multiple Outcomes (Dr. Watkins and Dr. Morett)
In this pilot study, we are evaluating the efficacy of a comprehensive social skills training intervention in promoting improved functioning in elementary school-age children with ASD at the neural, cognitive, and behavioral levels.
Interventions for Students with ASD in Inclusive Classrooms (Dr. Watkins, Dr. Barnard-Brak, Dr. Garcia-Grau, and collaborators)
Students with ASD are increasingly educated alongside typically developing classmates, and interventions are needed to promote the success of these students in inclusive settings. This meta-analysis and best-evidence synthesis examines the characteristics of interventions for students with ASD in inclusive school settings, offers an analysis of intervention effects and variables that influence outcomes, analyzes the social validity of the interventions, and provides recommendations for practice and research.
Early Interventionists’ Practices With Families of Toddlers With Social Communication Delays (Kimberly Tomeny and Dr. McWilliam)
In this two-part study, we are examining perceptions and observations of home-visiting practices in early intervention. We are also comparing two different types of telecoaching methods (i.e., bug-in-ear vs. asynchronous feedback) to support early interventionists’ use of caregiver-implemented intervention strategies and strategies for toddlers with or at risk for ASD.
Selected publications from autism cluster faculty
Akamoglu, Y., & Meadan, H. (2018). Parent-implemented language and communication interventions for children with developmental delays and disabilities: a scoping review. Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 1-16.
Akamoglu, Y., Meadan, H., Pearson, J. N., & Cummings, K. (2018). Getting connected: Speech and language pathologists’ perceptions of building rapport via telepractice. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 1-17.
Barber, A. B., Saffo, R. W., Gilpin, A. T., Craft, L. D., & Goldstein, H. (2016). Peers as clinicians: Examining the impact of Stay Play Talk on social communication in young preschoolers with autism. Journal of Communication Disorders, 59, 1-15.
Barnard-Brak, L., Ivey-Hatz, J., Ward, A. K., & Wei, T. (2014). Self-regulation and social interaction skills among children with autism across time. Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, 8, 271-279.
Barnard-Brak, L., Richman, D. M., Chesnut, S. R., & Little, T. D. (2016). Social Communication Questionnaire scoring procedures for autism spectrum disorder and the prevalence of potential social communication disorder in ASD. School Psychology Quarterly, 31, 522-533.
Barnard‐Brak, L., Richman, D., Ellerbeck, K., & Moreno, R. (2017). Health care provider responses to initial parental reports of autism spectrum disorder symptoms: Results from a nationally representative sample. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 22, 30-35.
Barnard-Brak, L., Thompson, S., Richman, D., & Wei, T. (2014). Assistive technology as a predictor of general or alternate assessment among elementary-aged students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Assistive Technology, 26, 81-87.
Chesnut, S. R., Wei, T., Barnard-Brak, L., & Richman, D. M. (2017). A meta-analysis of the social communication questionnaire: Screening for autism spectrum disorder. Autism, 21, 920-928.
Cockerham, D., & Malaia, E. (2016). Neuroscience-based approaches to teaching students on the autism spectrum. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 224, 290.
Conner, C. M., White, S. W., Beck, K. B., Golt, J., Smith, I. C., & Mazefsky, C. A. (2018). Improving emotion regulation ability in autism: The Emotion Awareness and Skills Enhancement (EASE) Program. Autism. doi: 10.1177/136236131880709
Cook, B., Buysse, V., Klingner, J., Landrum, T., McWilliam, R., Tankersley, M., & Test, D. (2014). Council for Exceptional Children: Standards for evidence-based practices in special education. Teaching Exceptional Children, 46, 206.
Elias, R. & White, S. W. (2017). Autism goes to college: Understanding the needs of a student population on the rise. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s10803-017-3075-7
Gevarter, C., O'Reilly, M. F., Sammarco, N., Ferguson, R., Watkins, L., Kuhn, M., & Sigafoos, J. (2018). Comparison of schematic and taxonomic speech generating devices for children with ASD. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 53, 222-238.
Keefer, A., White, S. W., Vasa, R. A., & Reaven, J. (2018). Psychosocial interventions for internalizing disorders in youth and adults with ASD. International Review of Psychiatry. Advance online publication. doi: 10.10180/09540261.2018.1432575
Ledbetter-Cho, K., O’Reilly, M, Lang, R. Watkins, L., & Lim, N. (2018) Meta-analysis of touch-screen mobile devices for teaching academic skills to individuals with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. doi: 10.1007/s10803-018-3573-2
Malaia, E., Bates, E., Seitzman, B., & Coppess, K. (2016). Altered brain network dynamics in youths with autism spectrum disorder. Experimental Brain Research, 234, 3425-3431.
Malaia, E., Cockerham, D., & Rublein, K. (2017). Visual integration of fear and anger emotional cues by children on the autism spectrum and neurotypical peers: An EEG study. Neuropsychologia.
Mazefsky, C. A., Yu, L., White, S. W., Siegel, M., & Pilkonis, P. A. (2018). The Emotion Dysregulation Inventory: Psychometric properties and item response theory calibration in an autism spectrum disorder sample. Autism Research. In Press. doi: 10.1002/aur.1947
Morett, L. M., O’Hearn, K., Lynn, A. S., Luna, B., & Ghuman, A. S. (2016). Altered gesture and speech production in ASD detract from in-person communicative quality. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46, 998–1012.
Murphy, S.,Chowdhury, U., White, S. W., Reynolds, L., Donald, L., Gahan, H., Iqbal, Z., Kulkarni, M., Scrivener, L., Shaker-Naeeni, H., & Press, D. A. (2017). Cognitive behaviour therapy versus counselling intervention for anxiety in young people with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders: A pilot randomised controlled trial, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.doi: 10.1007/s10803-017-3252-8
Pierucci, J.M., Barber, A.B., Crisler, M.E., Gilpin, A.T., & Klinger, L.G. (2014). Play constructs and developmental skills in children with autism spectrum disorder. Focus on Autism and other Developmental Disabilities.
Pierucci, J. M., Barber, A. B., Gilpin, A. T., Crisler, M. E., & Klinger, L. G. (2015). Play assessments and developmental skills in young children with autism spectrum disorders. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 30(1), 35-43.
Rankin, J. A., Tomeny, T. S., & Barry, T. D. (2017). Multi-informant assessment of siblings of youth with autism spectrum disorder: Parent-child discrepancies in at-risk classification. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 68, 78-87.
Ratto, A. B.,Kenworthy, L., Yerys, B. E., Bascom, J., Wieckowski, A. T., White, S. W., Wallace, G. L., Pugliese, C., Schultz, R. T., Ollendick, T. H., Scarpa, A., Seese, S., Register-Brown, K., Martin, A., & Anthony, L. G. (2017). What about the Girls? Sex-Based Differences in Autistic Traits and Adaptive Skills. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 48, 1698-1711. doi: DOI 10.1007/s10803-017-3413-9
Smith, I. C., Edelstein, J.,Cox, B., & White, S. W. (in press). Parental disclosure of ASD diagnosis to the child: A systematic review. Evidence-Based Practice in Child and Adolescent Mental Health. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/23794925.2018.1435319
Stevens, T., Peng, L., & Barnard-Brak, L. (2016). The comorbidity of ADHD in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 31, 11-18.
Tomeny, T. S. (2017). Parenting stress as an indirect pathway to mental health concerns among mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder. Autism, 21, 907-911.
Tomeny, T. S., Barry, T. D., & Fair, E. C. (2017). Parentification of adult siblings of individuals with autism spectrum disorder: Distress, sibling relationship attitudes, and the role of social support. Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, 42, 320-331.
Tomeny, T. S., Ellis, B. M., Rankin, J. A., & Barry, T. D. (2017). Sibling relationship quality and psychosocial outcomes among adult siblings of individuals with autism spectrum disorder and individuals with intellectual disability without autism. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 62, 104-114.
Tomeny, T. S., Rankin, J. A., Baker, L. K., Eldred, S. W., & Barry, T. D. (2018). Discrepancy in perceived social support among typically developing siblings of youth with autism spectrum disorder. Autism, doi: 10.1177/1362361318763973
Tomeny, T. S., Vargo, C. J., & El-Toukhy, S. (2017). Geographic and demographic correlates of autism-related anti-vaccine beliefs on Twitter, 2009-15. Social Science & Medicine, 191, 168-175.
Vasa, R. A., Keefer, A., Reaven, J., South, M., & White, S. W. (2018). Priorities for advancing research on youth with autism spectrum disorder and co-occurring anxiety. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 48, 925-934. doi:10.1007/s10803-017-3320-0
Watkins, L., Kuhn, M., Ledbetter-Cho, K., Gevarter, C. & O'Reilly, M. (2017). Evidence based social communication interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder. Indian Journal of Pediatrics, 84, 68-75.
Watkins, L., O’Reilly, M., Kuhn, M., Lang, R., van der Burg, T., & Ledbetter-Cho, K. (2017). Incorporation of restricted interests reduces stereotypy and facilitates play and social engagement between a preschooler with autism and peers in inclusive setting. Advances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders, 1, 37-41.
Watkins, L., O’Reilly, M., Kuhn, M., & Ledbetter-Cho, K. (2019) An interest-based intervention package to increase peer social interaction in young children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. doi: 10.1002/jaba.514
Watkins, L., O'Reilly, M., Kuhn, M., Gevarter, C., Lancioni, G.E., Sigafoos, J., & Lang, R. (2015). A review of peer-mediated social interaction interventions for students with autism in inclusive settings. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45, 1070-1083.
Watkins, L., O’Reilly, M., Ledbetter-Cho, K., Lang, R., Sigafoos, J., Kuhn, M., Lim, N., Gevarter, C., & Caldwell, N. (2017). A meta-analysis of school-based social interaction interventions for adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 4, 277-293.
White, S. W., Elias, R., Capriola-Hall, N. N., Smith, I. C., Conner, C. M., Asselin, S. B., Howling, P., Getzel, E. E., & Mazefsky, C. A. (2017). Development of a college transition and support program for students with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47(10),3072-3078. doi: 10.1007/s10803-017-3236-8
White, S. W., Elias, R. E., Salinas, C. E., Capriola, N., Conner, C. M., Asselin, S. B., Miyazaki, Y., Mazefsky, C. A., Howlin, P., & Getzel, E. E. (2016). Students with autism spectrum disorder in college: Results from a preliminary mixed methods needs analysis. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 56, 29-40. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2016.05.010
White, S. W., Richey, J. A., Gracanin, D.,Coffman, M., Elias, R., LaConte, S., & Ollendick, T. H. (2016). Psychosocial and computer-assisted intervention for college students with autism spectrum disorder. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 51, 307-317.