CARE Lab Works in Progress

Works in Progress


Social Network Support and Challenging Behaviors are Associated with Teachers’ Perceptions of Transition Success for their Students with Autism

This study examined teacher and student factors that contribute to teachers’ perception of the upcoming school transition for their student on the autism spectrum. A sample of 126 teachers across four sites in the United States completed surveys regarding their perception of the likelihood of success for their students’ upcoming transition. They were also asked to report on their students’ challenging classroom behaviors, their own experiences of burnout, and a social network survey about the people they relied on during their students’ transition. Results indicated that teachers with positive perceptions of their students’ upcoming transition experiences had larger support networks and identified fewer challenging behaviors in their student, suggesting that additional support may be needed for teachers, particularly for teachers of students on the spectrum who present more problem behaviors in the classroom.

Amanda D. Nunnally and colleagues, in preparation for publication

Preliminary Validation of an Observational Measure of Emotion Regulation for 15- to 22-year-old Males with Fragile X Syndrome

Emotion regulation (ER) is defined as capacity to manage physiological arousal and emotional states to match everyday situations. Individuals with fragile X syndrome (FXS) report higher rates of anxiety, which have been attributed to challenges in ER. This study examined the construct validity of an observational measure of ER as outlined in the Classroom Measure of Active Engagement (CMAE) by examining associations with salivary alpha-amylase (SAA) readings, a physiological measure of anxiety. Participants included 28 males (Mage = 19.02) with FXS who were recruited as part of a longitudinal study. Video observations of the ADOS-2 and saliva samples were collected, and participants completed a battery assessments on cognitive, behavior, and anxiety symptoms. Trained raters coded ER using the ADOS-2 observations with high inter-rater agreement. Findings indicated a significant, positive correlation between emotion dysregulation and salivary alpha-amylase (sAA) readings (r = 0.634; p < 0.01), suggesting an association between ER and psychosocial stress expressed by the sAA recordings. These findings offer preliminary support for the validation of the ER construct outlined in the CMAE and substantiate the role of physiological arousal in ER.

Cameron Alexander, Nicole Sparapani, Amanda Dimachkie Nunnally, Angela John Thurman, Leonard Abbeduto

Teacher Language by Mathematics Context Predicts Classroom Engagement in Preschool through Third Grade Students with Autism

mathThere is limited understanding of best mathematics instructional practices for learners with autism. In this study, we examined classroom videos to evaluate the nature of and variability in mathematical learning opportunities for preschool–3rd grade students with autism (n = 85). Findings suggest that the nature of the mathematical task is linked with the language that teachers use, and this in turn, predicts students’ active engagement within the learning opportunity. The knowledge gained from this project contributes to the improvement of educational outcomes for school-age children with autism—information that could be used to prepare both preservice and in-service teachers. 

Sparapani, Tseng, Alexander, Birkeneder, Karimi, Towers, Vega Garcia, Wood, & Nunnally, under review for publication 

Differences in Instructor Responsiveness and Student Participation between Special Education Teachers and Classroom Paraprofessionals Serving Preschool-3rd Grade Students with Autism  

This study utilized an archival dataset of classroom video observations of paraprofessionals and teachers working with preschool-3rd grade students with autism. Videos had been coded for student and teacher behaviors as part of The Classroom Measure of Active Participation (Class-MAP; Sparapani et al., unpublished manual). A subset of 30 observations were examined to investigate the responsive language that teachers and paraprofessionals used during classroom activities. We found that teachers used significantly more responsive language than paraprofessionals.

Towers & Sparapani, in preparation for publication

Measurements of Spontaneous Communication Initiations in Children with Autism in Preschool through Third Grade Classrooms  

engagement We utilized classroom video observations to examine the frequency and function of spontaneous communication in 112 preschool–3rd grade children with autism within 57 classrooms. Children initiated 7.53 instances (SD = 9.42) of spontaneous communication on average within a 12-minute sample, a rate of 0.69 initiations per minute. A 4-factor model of spontaneous communication functions exhibited the best relative and absolute fit to the data, and furthermore, child characteristics differentially predicted communication rate and function. Findings highlight, and begin to explain, variability in spontaneous communication children used in classrooms, provide evidence for conceptualizing and measuring spontaneous communication in learners with autism across classroom activities, and link individual child characteristics to varying communicative functions. Implications and future directions are discussed.

Birkeneder & Sparapani, under review for publication

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