Current Projects

SocialsibS project

This project investigates use of “peer” mediated intervention (where the sibling of the child with ASD serves as the peer) and use of evidence-based intervention practices specifically with the target child with ASD (e.g., video modeling). The study examines the effects of sibling-mediation and video modeling on the social communication behaviors of young children with ASD and their families. Graduate student speech-language pathology clinicians are specifically trained in providing this “hybrid” intervention (sibling-mediation + video modeling); we are examining the feasibility of the intervention, not only how the siblings learn the intervention, but also the graduate student clinicians. We are also examining the effects on social interactions between the siblings.

Funded by Autism Speaks, Treatment Grant: Pilot Level. PI: Donaldson.

We are no longer recruiting for this project. Check back soon for future projects and opportunities to participate.


Past Projects

Advancing Social Communication & Play (ASAP): an intervention for preschoolers with autism

The goal of this multi-site randomized controlled trial is to investigate the efficacy of a preschool-based joint attention and symbolic play intervention on the social, communication, and play skills of young children with autism. This intervention will be implemented by preschool special education teams (teachers and related service providers) in four areas of the US (North Carolina, Oregon/Washington, Florida, Minnesota). At Portland State University, the project will be completed in close collaboration with special education preschool classrooms in area school districts and educational service districts (ESD).

Funded by the Institute of Education Sciences 2011-2015. PSU Site PI: Donaldson; Project PIs: Boyd & Watson.

Parent Infant Interaction Study

The pilot project examined the social communicative behaviors of infant siblings of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) during natural, home-based interactions with their parents/caregivers and compared them to infant siblings of typically developing children. Siblings of children with ASD are considered “at-risk” for developing communication and socialization problems (Bailey et al, 1995). Overall, four families participated in this pilot study, including: three families with “at-risk” siblings and one family with a “low-risk” infant sibling. All infants completed an initial assessment of social and communicative behaviors at 6 months of age and a final assessment at 12 months of age. From 6 months to 12 months, the interactions between parents and infants were observed across two contexts: feeding/mealtime and playtime. All interactions were videotaped and coded for social and communicative behaviors, including joint attention, social interaction and behavior regulation.

The at-risk siblings demonstrated fewer social communication initiations and responses as compared to the low-risk sibling. At-risk siblings demonstrated greater use of behavior regulation functions (e.g., request for object/action, protest) as compared to social interaction and joint attention behaviors. At-risk sibling / caregiver dyads demonstrated fewer turns / decreased reciprocity, as compared to the low-risk dyad. Finally, at-risk siblings demonstrated lower rates of social communicative behaviors at playtime, as compared to mealtime. The at-risk infants demonstrated increased attention to play objects, as compared to caregiver interactions. They also demonstrated lower rates of social communicative behaviors across both contexts, as compared to the low-risk sibling.

This project provided preliminary information regarding the social communicative behaviors of infant siblings of children with ASD across home-based contexts. As the sample size for this pilot project was small, one cannot draw conclusions from these data. However, these results align with previous research demonstrating decreased frequency of early social behaviors (e.g., social interaction and joint attention) in at-risk siblings of children with ASD. In addition, results provide pilot data related to at-risk dyad reciprocity and contextual influences on function of communication. Results were presented at the American Speech-Language Hearing Association conference in 2010.

Funded by a PSU Faculty Enhancement Grant (2009-2010). PI: Donaldson

Interdisciplinary Practice Survey

The goal of this project was to survey the knowledge base and level of training and interdisciplinary collaboration amongst interventionists serving children with ASD in school settings throughout the state of Oregon. Data collection for this project is complete; the project is currently in the data analysis and dissemination phase.

Funded by a PSU Provost’s Award (2010). PI: Donaldson.