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News from September 2016

New initiative to create reading comprehension intervention tailored to students with autism
September 12, 2016

MCPER is partnering with the University of California, Riverside, on a project to create a reading comprehension intervention specifically designed for students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

The project, Reading Enhancements for Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders (Project READ), received a $1.5 million federal grant, which will enable investigators to develop and test the intervention at elementary and middle schools in Texas and Southern California over a 3-year period.

The project’s investigators include Sharon Vaughn and Colleen Reutebuch of MCPER and Michael Solis, an assistant professor of special education at UC Riverside, who is also formerly of MCPER.

“The reading intervention takes into account many of the unique challenges of providing reading instruction to students with ASD by using interest-based text,” Solis told UCR Today. “Once students are more motivated to read about their interest area they are much more likely to be engaged and open to learning new skills that will help improve their ability to understand what they read.”

ASD is becoming increasingly prevalent in the United States, where it affects 1 in 68 children, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014.

Educators and parents have long expressed concern over the lack of proper reading instruction for children with ASD. Solis said he believes the problem stems from inadequate research on the topic, which he found was explored in only 12 studies over the last 3 decades.

For more information, visit Project READ's project page

Tags: Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute  Reading Enhancements for Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders 

News from May 2015

Paper by Autism Institute Director Mark O’Reilly, international colleagues wins journal’s 2014 Editors’ Award
May 8, 2015

A paper by Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute Director Mark O'Reilly and colleagues from four different countries has won the 2014 Editor's Award for the journal Augmentative and Alternative Communication.

"Tangible Symbols as an AAC Option for Individuals With Developmental Disabilities: A Systematic Review of Intervention Studies" earned the most votes from the journal's associate editors to win the annual award. O'Reilly co-authored the article with Laura Roche, Jeff Sigafoos, Vanessa Green, and Larah van der Meer of Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand; Giulio E. Lancioni of the University of Bari in Italy; Dean Sutherland of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand; Ralf Schlosser of Northeastern University in Boston; Peter Marschik of the Medical University of Graz in Austria; and Chaturi Edrisinha of St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. The authors reviewed nine studies that evaluated the use of tangible symbols in alternative and augmentative communication interventions for individuals with developmental disabilities, finding the technique promising but in need of further research.

Tags: Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute 

News from April 2015

Documentary, articles spotlight MCPER researchers’ support of children with autism and their families
April 7, 2015

Several recent features demonstrate the work—and success—of faculty members and students affiliated with the MCPER Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute as they support children with autism and their families, translating research into effective practices that have a direct positive impact on this population.

"Game Changers: Autism and Developmental Disabilities," produced by the Longhorn Network, features the innovative work of Institute Fellows Greg Allen, Terry Falcomata, and Amanda Little. In addition to insights from the researchers, the video features baseline and postintervention footage of a child with autism and his mother.

"A Symbiotic Partnership"—a feature in .edu, the online magazine of the UT Austin College of Education—chronicles the success of the partnership between members of the Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute and Austin Travis County Integral Care. A narrated video documents the journey of a participant in the study, his mother, and the researchers who work with him. The accompanying article features input from Institute Director Mark O'Reilly and doctoral students including MCPER's Cindy Gevarter and Laura Rojeski who receive in-the-field training while providing a vital service for children and families and supporting Austin Travis County Integral Care.

"The Cerebellum Question," an article in .edu, examines Allen's use of magnetic resonance imaging to study the cerebellum's potential role in autism.

"Changing Challenging Behavior: Q&A With Terry Falcomata," another feature in .edu, profiles Falcomata's work in assessing and treating challenging behaviors of children with autism. The article also describes the partnership between Falcomata and his colleagues and the Bluebonnet Trails Autism Program to provide both clinical work with families and research activities. 

For more information, visit the Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute on the MCPER website.

Tags: Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute 

News from May 2014

Farah El Zein featured in College of Education’s “Meet Our Graduates” feature
May 20, 2014

Farah El Zein, a researcher with MCPER's Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute, is one of five graduates featured in the UT College of Education's "Meet Our Graduates" feature. According to the college, the feature celebrates "five exemplary students—one from each college department—whose diligent work and dedication won them accolades from faculty and advisers alike." El Zein is the representative from the Department of Special Education, in which she earned her doctorate this year. To read the full story, visit El Zein's profile on the College of Education website.

Tags: Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute 

News from March 2014

Four MCPER alums accept new positions at universities, research center
March 7, 2014

MCPER congratulates and wishes the best of luck to Farah El Zein, Audrey Leroux, Kristie Metz, and Michael Solis as they begin new positions at universities across the country and a research center overseas.

El Zein, a graduate research assistant with MCPER's Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute, has accepted a senior research associate position at the Awsaj Center for Education Research and Development in Doha, Qatar. Leroux, a graduate research assistant with the MCPER Reading Institute, has accepted an assistant professor position at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Metz, a former graduate research assistant with the Reading Institute, is completing her internship and will begin a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Solis, also a researcher with the Reading Institute, has accepted an assistant professor position at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Tags: Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute Reading Institute 

News from January 2014

MCPER fellow Russell Lang tabbed as co-editor of Developmental Neurorehabilitation journal
January 8, 2014

Russell Lang, a fellow in MCPER's Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute, has been selected to serve as co-editor of Developmental Neurorehabilitation, a peer-reviewed journal published by Informa Healthcare. Developmental Neurorehabilitation "aims to enhance recovery and rehabilitation in children with brain injury and neurological disorders," according to the journal's websiteLang is an assistant professor of special education at Texas State University – San Marcos and a board-certified behavior analyst.

Tags: Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute 

News from December 2013

ASD Institute to evaluate early intervention literature and treatment programs in Texas
December 5, 2013

The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services selected Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute Director Mark O’Reilly and Institute Fellow Terry Falcomata to conduct an extensive review of comprehensive treatment programs for young children with autism. Additionally, O’Reilly and Falcomata will evaluate the department's current autism program—serving areas including San Antonio, Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Houston—and provide recommendations to increase effectiveness of the program in terms of child outcomes and the number of children who receive services. For more information, visit the Evaluation of Early Intervention Programs for Children With Autism in Texas project page.

Tags: Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute  Evaluation of Early Intervention Programs for Children With Autism in Texas 

News from September 2013

Multimedia guide arms secondary teachers with strategies for students with autism spectrum disorders
September 25, 2013

The Center on Secondary Education for Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders (CSESA) and the Organization for Autism Research have published a multimedia guide that provides secondary school teachers with research-based strategies for adolescents with autism spectrum disorders.

“Understanding Autism: A Guide for Secondary School Teachers” aims not only to enhance learning opportunities for adolescents with autism spectrum disorders, but also to improve the classroom environment, according to a press release. The print and web instructional resource, which complements a series of training videos, is available online through the CSESA website.

A MCPER project is one of multiple CSESA sites.

For more information about this product, read the press release.

Tags: Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute  Center on Secondary Education for Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders 

Researchers to discuss synthesis of studies on comprehension interventions for students with autism
September 24, 2013

MCPER researchers Lisa McCulley and Farah El Zein will explore their synthesis of reading comprehension interventions for students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) at a brown bag presentation on October 2. "Reading Comprehension Interventions for Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Synthesis of Research" will be held from noon to 1 p.m. in the Pittenger Room (SZB 418). To RSVP, send an e-mail with "Autism" in the subject line to rsvp@meadowscenter.org.

The authors synthesized reading intervention studies conducted between 1980 and 2012 with K–12 students identified as having ASD. Nine single-subject design studies, one quasi-experimental study, and two single-group design studies met criteria for inclusion. Findings indicate that modifying instructional interventions associated with improved comprehension for students with reading difficulties may improve reading comprehension in students with ASD. 

Tags: Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute Reading Institute 

News from March 2013

Irish scholar Olive Healy to explore autism research at 2013 Mollie Villeret Davis Symposium
March 29, 2013

Olive Healy—director of research at the Irish Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Research and a lecturer in psychology at the National University of Ireland, Galway—will be the featured speaker for MCPER's 2013 Mollie Villeret Davis Symposium. ​Healy will present "Child and Family Research Outcomes at the Irish Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Research" at 4 p.m. on April 22 in the Al Kiva Room (SZB 104), followed by a reception. Admission is free, and participants can receive 1.5 BCBA continuing education credits. To RSVP, send an e-mail with "Autism" in the subject line to rsvp@meadowscenter.org.

Healy's research focuses on the assessment and treatment of behavioral problems in autism and related conditions. She is currently on the editorial board of five scientific journals and has more than 15 years of experience in the application of behavior analysis to the treatment of developmental disorders and intellectual disabilities. Healy played a leading role in establishing behavior analysis as recognized division of the Psychological Society of Ireland. In 1998, Healy was involved in opening and directing the first government-funded applied behavior analysis school for the treatment of autism spectrum disorders in Ireland and establishing four additional treatment centers that use applied behavior analysis as the primary educational intervention for autism spectrum disorders. She has served as an expert witness in a number of court cases involving individuals with special needs.

 

Tags: Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute