My program of scholarship is devoted to enhancing the treatment outcomes of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is a developmental disability that affects 1 in 64 individuals in the United States and is characterized by deficits in social interactions (e.g., lack of eye contact), communication (e.g., failure to develop typical language), as well as rigid and repetitive behavior (e.g., excessive talking). I approach ASD research from an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) framework. ABA, by definition, is the application of behavioral principles (e.g., positive reinforcement and precise measurement of observable behavior) to produce socially significant behavior change. Approaching ASD research from an ABA perspective allows me to develop innovative intervention frameworks that directly improve upon the core challenges of ASD and make meaningful differences in the lives of those affected by the disability.
My research agenda involves two distinct but connected areas of research: 1) social skill development of children with ASD and 2) ethical and professional decision-making of Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs; masters level professionals who provide ABA treatment to people with ASD). My research on social skill development is applied and targets the development and evaluation of innovative ways for BCBAs to improve social skill outcomes of children with ASD. My research on ethics and professional decision-making aims to improve the decisions BCBAs make when providing treatment, which improves outcomes of children with ASD who receive treatment.
The Early Learning Institute
A majority of my research takes place at MSU’s Early Learning Institute. The Early Learning Institute (commonly referred to as ELI) is a community-based EIBI program for children with autism. The Early Learning Institute is located at three sites: The Child Development Laboratory Preschool at MSU, Head Start at Capital Area Community Services, Inc. in Lansing, MI and Midway Early Childhood Learning center in Holt, MI.
The Early Learning Institute offers a unique opportunity to conduct both single-subject research and larger scale randomized-controlled trials on autism interventions. The research conducted at the Early Learning Institute is innovative, and it is designed to directly improve the lives of the children who participate. Furthermore, the research conducted at the Early Learning Institute aims to influence and advance policy in the State of Michigan and beyond, and to have broad influence on autism service providers both nationally and internationally.
- Autism Treatment:
- A pilot evaluation of a treatment package to teach social conversation via video-chat, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
- Further examination of video‐based preference assessments without contingent access, published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis
- Using activity schedules to promote varied application use in children with autism, published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis
- An evaluation of a brief multiple-stimulus without replacement preference assessment conducted in an electronic pictorial format, published in the Journal of Behavioral Education
- Ethics and Behavior Analysis:
- A call for discussion about scope of competence in behavior analysis, published in Behavior Analysis in Practice
- How to identify ethical practices in organizations prior to employment, published in Behavior Analysis in Practice
- Maintaining professional relationships in interdisciplinary settings: Strategies for navigating non-behavioral treatment recommendations for individuals with autism, published in Behavior Analysis in Practice
- Sleep and challenging behaviors in the context of intensive behavioral intervention for children with autism, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
- Increasing physical activity for adults with autism spectrum disorder: Comparing in-person and technology derived praise, published in Research in Developmental Disabilities