A big congratulations
to Sandy Birkeneder for successfully
passing her qualifying exam!! Sandy has now advanced to
candidacy! She will begin her dissertation this summer, studying
the development of joint attention in school age children and its
impact on reading outcomes within learners with autism.
Congratulations, Sandy!! We are proud of you!
Congratulations to Dr.
Jennie Bullen who successfully defended her
dissertation examining the influence of sensory processing skills
on academic outcomes within learners with and without autism. Dr.
Bullen will graduate this spring with a Ph.D. in Human
Development. Following her successful defense, Dr. Bullen began
the ARTP postdoctoral training program through the UC Davis MIND
She will be working as a postdoctoral scholar within the CARE lab
over the next 2 years.
Welcome to the CARE Lab!
like to extend a warm welcome to Cindy
Parks and JD
Oppermann who will begin their graduate studies
this fall. Cindy will begin her doctoral studies within the
School of Education, Learning and Mind Sciences. She is
interested in studying inclusive practices for neurodivergent
learners within general education classrooms. JD will begin his
master’s program in Human Development. He is interested in
understanding how Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles
align with the needs of autistic learners within classrooms.
See their full bios here.
Welcome to the CARE Lab, Cindy and JD!! We are thrilled that you
will be part of our CARE team.
INSAR Presentations 2022
Sandy presented an oral presentation at the
International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) examining the
reliability and validity of the Childhood Joint Attention
Rating Scale for school-age children with autism.
For more information about INSAR, click here.
Jennie presented a related poster at INSAR
titled, Parent Report of Nonverbal Joint Attention Symptoms
in ASD: Validating the Childhood Joint Attention Rating
Scale. View the poster here!
Christine Soliva was accepted into the combined Masters and
Teaching Credential Program at UC Riverside!
Christine Soliva was recently
accepted into the Teacher Education Program at the University of
California, Riverside where she will earn a Master’s in Education
with a single subject teaching credential in English.
Following graduate school, she plans on teaching high school
English. We are very proud of her and excited for her new journey
as an educator!
Cameron Alexander was accepted into the School Psychology
Doctoral Program at UC Riverside!
Cameron Alexander was recently
accepted into the University of California, Riverside School
Psychology Ph.D. program where he will work with Dr. Katherine
Stavropoulos to study the effects of bio-neurological processes,
autism, and emotion regulation in children. He will be working
with the Social Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience Lab, which
does EEG research to better understand the reward system
processes for children with autism. Cameron will also be involved
with the SEARCH Family Autism Resource Center which provides
autism screening, community outreach, and support for families
within the Inland Empire. Although we will miss Cameron at
the CARE lab, we are so very proud of and excited for him!
CARE Lab Ph.D. Students Present at UC SPEDDR!
Johanna Vega Garcia, Sandy Birkeneder, and Jennifer Bullen all
presented talks at the 2022 UC SPEDDR Conference at UC
Johanna and co-presenter
Helen Fann gave a talk exploring the association between teachers
use of responsive language and teacher-level characteristics
within preschool through 3rd-grade classrooms serving children
with autism. Sandy and Jennie gave back-to-back talks looking at
the Childhood Joint Attention Rating Scale (C-JARS) validity, IQ,
& gender effects, and the validity and test-retest reliability of
Childhood Joint Attention Scale and its relation to learning.
The CARE lab is proud of all of our graduate presenters!
Student-Teacher Interactions Facebook Live Talk
Investigators Nicole Sparapani, Nancy Tseng, and Peter Mundy
talk about their current research and the new IES
Drs. Sparapani, Tseng, and Mundy
recently gave a talk about the effect of
teacher interactions on students with autism.
They discussed previous findings on the best
instructional practices for students in math and literacy lessons
and also talked about their new IES exploratory project looking
to bridge the gap between autism and general education research.
Check out the talk on the UC Davis MIND Institute
Congratulations to Johanna Vega and Sandy Birkeneder!
New Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related
Disabilities (LEND) Fellows
Johanna and Sandy were
recently accepted into the Leadership Education in
Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) fellowship. As
part of the fellowship, they will be involved with many
different learning opportunities, including the LEND curriculum
courses, interdisciplinary clinical activities, community
training activities, and research!
We are very proud of you both!
Welcome Cameron Alexander!
Cameron Joins the CARE Lab as a Full-Time Research
We would like to welcome Cameron
Alexander as our new research coordinator and lab
manager for the Collaborative Autism Research in
Education (CARE) Lab. He will be working with the lab to organize
and manage our new IES project, The MAP
Exploration! Cameron received a BS in Human Development
and minored in Psychology and Education at UC Davis. He worked in
the CARE lab as an undergraduate research assistant for 2 years.
We are so lucky to have you join the team full-time,
Our First IES Grant!
$1.7 Million to Bridge Autism and General Education Research
CARE Lab members, Dr. Nicole Sparapani
and Dr. Nancy Tseng just received a
competitive IES grant in the amount of $1.7 million to bridge
autism and general education research! They will be working
alongside a team of researchers, including Dr. Peter
Mundy from the SOE, in an effort to improve the
educational outcomes and support inclusion of learners with
autism in K-3rd grade general education classrooms.
Congratulations to our recent
graduates, Julie Daseking and Cameron
Alexander! Julie graduated with a BS in Human
Development and Design. Cameron graduated
with a BS in Human Development, and he’s minoring
in Psychology and Education. Julie & Cameron also
successfully completed and filed their honor’s projects! We, at
the CARE Lab, are very proud of you both!!
Congratulations to Johanna Vega Garcia and
Sandy Birkeneder for successfully completing and
passing their 2nd year doctoral preliminary examinations!! What a
milestone!! Proud Proud Proud!
Evaluating Teacher Language Within General and Special Education
Classrooms Serving Elementary Students with Autism
Nicole Sparapani &
colleagues recently published a manuscript in the
Journal of Autism and Related Disorders (JADD) examining
how teachers and paraprofessionals in 126 kindergarten-second
grade classrooms talked with their 194 students with autism, and
further, how individual student characteristics in language,
autism symptoms, and social abilities influenced this
talk. You can read the full article here!
Authors: Sparapani, Reinhardt, Hooker,
Morgan, Schatschneider, & Wetherby, 2021,
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities
What Are the Odds?: Predicting the Likelihood of a
Negative Episode in a Sample of Toddlers with ASD
Amanda Dimachkie Nunnally,
postdoctoral scholar, recently published her 1st
first-author manuscript in the international
journal, Autism!! In this study, Amanda and
colleagues evaluated emotion dysregulation in 71 toddlers
with ASD while working on a task with their caregivers.
You can check out her article here!
Emotion Regulation Skills Predict Friendship Quality in Children
Nicole Sparapani &
Amanda Dimachkie Nunnally co-authored a
manuscript recently published in the International
Journal of Developmental Disorders. This manuscript is
a joint collaboration between UC Davis, the University of
Pennsylvania, UCLA, and the University of Rochester.
Authors: Heather J. Nuske, Wendy Shih, Nicole J.
Sparapani, Lauren Baczewski, Amanda Dimachkie Nunnally,
Samantha Hochheimer, Consuelo Garcia, Fernanda Castellon, Lynne
Levato, Erin Fischer, Zabryna Atkinson-Diaz, Jennica Li,
David S. Mandell, and Connie Kasari
Project Description: Within this project, we
evaluated the association among self-regulation, mental health,
and friendship quality in a sample of 106 children with autism
between 5–12 years of age. We found a positive predicative
association between self-regulatory skills and social
companionship. In addition, difficulties with self-regulation
were associated with increased conflict. These data highlight the
importance of self-regulation and mental health as intervention
targets for school-aged children with autism.
2021 Conferences and Talks
International Society for Autism Research (INSAR)
The CARE Lab
presented a poster titled, Teacher-Student Interactions
within Mathematics Instructional Contexts in Classrooms Serving
Students with Autism at the INSAR annual virtual
meeting. View the poster here!
Authors: Nicole Sparapani, Nancy Tseng,
Sandy Birkeneder, Amanda Dimachkie Nullally,
Laurel Towers, Cameron J. Alexander, Johanna Vega Garcia, Taffeta
Sandy Birkeneder and Nicole
Sparapani presented a poster
titled, Measurements of Spontaneous Communication
Initiations in Children with Autism in Preschool to Third Grade
Classrooms at the INSAR annual virtual
meeting. View the poster here!
Amanda Dimachkie Nullally,
postdoctoral scholar, presented a poster presentation
titled, Building Better Bridges: Factors Related to
Teachers’ Perceptions of Transition Success for Their Students
with Autism, at the 2021 virtual Gatlinburg Conference
on Research and Theory in Intellectual and Developmental
Disabilities. View the poster here!
Dr. Sparapani and Dr. Tseng presented an
interactive poster project titled, Classroom Math
Learning Opportunities Provided to Students with
Autism at the 2021 AERA virtual conference. Co-Authors:
Laurel Towers & Taffeta Wood. You
can view the interactive poster
Laurel Towers, doctoral student, presented a
talk titled, Differences in Instructor Responsiveness
Between Special Education Teachers and Classroom
Paraprofessionals at the University of California Center for
Research on Special Education, Disabilities, and Developmental
Risk (SPEDDR) 2021 virtual conference.
Nicole Sparapani was announced a recipient for
2020 UC Davis Hellman Fellowship Award for her
project, Evaluation of Interactions between Early
Elementary Students with Autism and their Teachers during
Literacy and Mathematics Classroom Observations.
Sparapani and co-authors, Solari, Towers,
McIntyre, Henry, and Zajic, published a paper titled, Secondary
analysis of interactions between students with autism and their
interventionists within a scripted reading curriculum in
the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing
Sparapani co-authored a paper titled,
Students’ problem behaviors and teachers’ warmth,
responsiveness, and classroom control as predictors of
students’ classroom instructional experiences in first grade.
The manuscript was published in Contemporary Education
Psychology. (McLean, L., Sparapani, N., Day, S.,
Connor, C.M., 2020). Read
Sparapani and Tseng
co-presented a talk titled,
Mathematical Learning Opportunities for Early Elementary Students
with Autism, at the 2020
SENIA International Virtual Conference.
Sparapani presented a talk titled,
Teacher-Student Interactions within Elementary Classrooms
Serving Students with Autism at the UC Davis MIND
Institute Virtual Neurodiversity Summit. Watch
co-facilitated the 2020 UC Davis MIND Summer Institute titled,
Life on the Spectrum: Women Sharing their Unique
Experiences. This panel discussion explored the unique
stories of several autistic women as they share their
perspectives across the life span. The panelists highlighted
strengths and challenges related to diagnosis, co-occurring
conditions, social and sensory experiences, education, parenting,
family life, careers, and community. Watch the talk.
Johanna Vega Garcia, doctoral student,
presented a poster titled, Examining Teachers’
Responsiveness with Preschool-3rd Grade Students with Autism
During Classroom Activities at the University of
California Center for Research on Special Education,
Disabilities, and Developmental Risk (SPEDDR) Annual Conference
in Los Angeles, CA.
Birkeneder, doctoral student, presented a poster
titled, Joint Attention in School-Aged Children with
Autism at the University of California Center for
Research on Special Education, Disabilities, and Developmental
Risk (SPEDDR) Annual Conference in Los Angeles, CA.
Laurel Towers presented a poster
titled, Supporting Emotion Regulation in Students with
Autism Spectrum Disorder across Classroom Contexts
at the University of California Center for Research on Special
Education, Disabilities, and Developmental Risk (SPEDDR) Annual
Conference Los Angeles, CA.