Dean's Blog: April is National Autism Awareness Month

April 15, 2019 - Dean Rachel Croson



The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 59 school-age kids has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Researchers in the College of Social Science are developing interventions for parents, peers and community agencies that can help.

Parents. Dr. Brooke Ingersoll in the Department of Psychology directs the Autism Research Lab. She recently put her research into practice by developing an online parent coaching program. A federally-funded study demonstrates that parents who used this program with their children were successful, improving social communication skills and reporting increased self-efficacy and decreased parenting stress. Beyond the parents, the children of those involved also showed significant improvements in their social communication skills relative to others whose parents did not use the program. (Learn more.)

Peers. Dr. Sarah Douglas in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies directs the Research in Autism and Developmental Disabilities (RADD) Lab. Her research uses wearable sensors to track child-to-child communication in the preschool classroom. Comparing interaction patterns of children with ASD to typically-developing children can enable earlier diagnosis, and develop peer-to-peer interventions to further improve the social skills of children with ASD. Another project developed an intervention for older siblings of children with ASD, and was shown to increase communication between the siblings. (Learn more.) 

Community Agencies. Dr. Amy Drahota in the Department of Psychology directs the Accessing Community Treatments (ACT) Lab, which helps community-based agencies to improve the availability and delivery of high-quality care. A federally-funded grant supported the development of the ACT SMART Toolkit. The Toolkit helps agencies to implement new research-based treatments. Dr. Drahota also works on a multi-institutional collaboration evaluating the types of services offered by community-based agencies for children with ASD across the United States. This project has the potential to regularize and improve the standards of care for children and their families. (Learn more.) 

The MSU RAIND initiative brings together these researchers with others across MSU to gain a holistic view of ASD. Using methodologies as diverse as brain scans, surveys, prenatal measures and economic analysis, Social Science faculty come together with those from medicine, education and engineering to advance our ability to diagnose, to treat and perhaps one day to prevent developmental disorders. (Learn more.) 

The College of Social Science is transforming the human experience by bringing our talents to bear on addressing autism and other spectrum disorders.


Sincerely yours,

Dean Rachel T.A. Croson