Faculty Profile EMPHASIS AREA: LMS. Autism Spectrum Disorder, Educational Research, Classroom Active Engagement and Participation, Social Communication

Nicole Sparapani

Assistant Professor

Nicole Sparapani, Ph.D., is an assistant professor within the School of Education and the MIND Institute. Dr. Sparapani’s background in speech-language pathology, developmental psychology, and education has informed her research agenda, which focuses on the dynamic and transactional interplay between children and their classroom environment. The overarching goal of her research agenda is to improve the educational experiences and outcomes of learners with complex learning needs and autism spectrum disorder (hereafter referred to as autism). Her work contributes to a limited literature base as well as provides insight into best instructional practices for students with complex learning needs. Dr. Sparapani has been involved in the development of three IES-funded classroom observation systems (R324A100174, R305A160399, R305N160013) designed to measure and monitor teacher and student behaviors that relate to developmental and academic outcomes. Dr. Sparapani is currently the PI on an IES project exploring the role of teacher-student interactions within general education classrooms serving students with autism (R324A210288). She is also a co-investigator on a federally funded project examining language and literacy development in young adults with Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic syndrome with phenotypic features similar to autism (HD024356). Dr. Sparapani has extensive expertise in the areas of observational research methods, student active engagement, teacher instructional moves, and the development and implementation of individualized educational programs for students with autism.

Research Interests

Autism Spectrum Disorder, Observational Methods, Educational Research, Classroom Active Engagement, Social Communication, Learning and Development, Teacher Language, Effective Instructional Practices

Professional Affiliations

2021-Present. Faculty Mentor, Autism Research Training Program (ARTP), UC Davis MIND Institute; https://health.ucdavis.edu/mindinstitute/centers/cedd.html

2020-Present. Faculty Member, Human Development Graduate Group (HDGG); https://humandevelopment.ucdavis.edu/

2020-Present. Faculty Member, Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental & Related Disabilities (LEND), UC Davis MIND Institute; https://health.ucdavis.edu/mindinstitute/education/lend/lend-index.html

2019-Present. Faculty, Center for Excellence for Developmental Disability (CEDD), UC Davis MIND Institute;  https://health.ucdavis.edu/mindinstitute/centers/cedd.html

2017-Present. Early Career Faculty Member, Early Career Enhancement Program, Early Learning Network (ELN); http://earlylearningnetwork.unl.edu/

2016-Present. Faculty Steering Committee, University of California Center for Research on Special Education, Disabilities, and Developmental Risk (SPEDDR); http://ucspeddr.ucdavis.edu/

2016-Present. Faculty Member, UC Davis Graduate Group in Education (GGE); https://education.ucdavis.edu/phd-education

2016-2018. Member, Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD)

2010-Present. Full Member Member, International Society for Autism Research (INSAR)

2014-2018. Member, Society for the Scientific Study of Reading (SSSR)

2013-2015. Member, American-Speech-Hearing-Association Special Interest Group, Language and Education & School-Based Issues (ASHA)

Awards and Honors

2020. University of California, Davis Hellman Fellowship Award ($16,000). This award is intended to promote the scholarly growth of assistant professors who exhibit the potential for great academic distinction. https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/meet-our-newest-hellman-fellows             

2019. Education Graduate Student Association Award for Outstanding Service to Students

2018. Deans Research Excellence Award ($9,640). The purpose of this award is to support and promote innovative research conducted by School of Education faculty members that advance the mission of the school to confront and eliminate inequities in education.

2016. AERA Outstanding Reviewer, Research Reviewer Certificate. 

2009-2012. Trainee, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services Training Fellowship: Interdisciplinary Preparation of Leadership Personnel to Serve Children and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Education

Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Postdoctoral Research Scholar: Developmental Psychology
2016

Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 
Doctor of Philosophy: Communication Science and Disorders 
2013

University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO 
Master of Arts: Speech-Language Pathology, 2003 

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Certificate of Clinical Competence, 2005

University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 
Bachelor of Arts: Communication Sciences and Disorders
2000

Professional Experience

2016-Present. Assistant Professor. School of Education and the MIND Institute, University of California, Davis

2015-2016. Educational Consultant. Learning Ovations, Inc., Tempe, Arizona

2013-2016. Postdoctoral Research Scholar and Project Coordinator. Arizona State University

2012-2013. Curriculum Development Consultant. Autism Spectrum Specialized Education and Training (ASSET) Project. Communication Science and Disorders, Florida State University

2009-2013. Graduate Research Assistant and Content Coordinator. Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

2009-2012. Early Interventionist. Florida State University Autism Institute, Tallahassee, FL

2003-2009. Speech-Language Pathologist. Cherry Creek Schools, CO

Funded Research

U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, Exploration ($1,699,998). Examining How Teacher-Student Interactions within Mathematics and Literacy Instructional Contexts Relate to the Developmental and Academic Outcomes of. Early Elementary Students with Autism; Grant #R324A210288. P.I. Sparapani (19%); Grant Duration: 7/1/2021 – 6/30/2025. https://ies.ed.gov/funding/grantsearch/details.asp?ID=4607&fbclid=IwAR0vk_gU9Rz9exxTw1EfNcBoH0e8nmUVwbd8Do-BQx2sA7eetD6CUxhS6Rs

University of California, Davis Hellman Fellowship Award.  Evaluation of Interactions between Early Elementary Students with Autism and their Teachers during Literacy and Mathematics Classroom Observations. Grant Duration: 7/1/2020 – 6/30/2021

National Institutes of Health, HD024356.  Language Development in Fragile X Syndrome. P.I. Len Abbeduto.  Role: Co-Investigator. Grant Duration: 7/1/2018 – 6/31/2023

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), NCT03380078.  Translating Evidence-based Interventions for ASD: Multi-Level Implementation Strategy (TEAMS).  P.I. Aubyn Stahmer.  Role: TEAMS – Leadership Institute Module Coach.  Grant Duration: 10/20/2017 – 8/31/2021

Institute of Education Sciences, R305N160013.  Optimizing Learning Opportunities for Students, Early Learning Observation System.  P.I. Carol M. Connor.  Role: Consultant. Grant Duration: 6/1/2016 – 5/31/2021

Health Resources and Services Administration, UA3MC11055.  Autism Intervention Research Network on Behavioral Health (AIR-B III Network).  P.I. Aubyn Stahmer.  Role: Senior Leader, Transition Protocol.  Grant Duration: 9/1/2015 – 8/31/2020     

Mental Health Services Act and the Department of Developmental Services.  Evaluating the Social-Sexual Education Program for Adults with Developmental Disabilities.  Contract with the North Bay Regional Center.  Grant Duration 2/1/2020 – 6/30/2020

Manuscripts and Publications

Connor, C.M., May, H., Sparapani, N.,…Day, S. (under review). Developing and testing a scalable version of assessment-to-instruction (A2i) technology to support implementation of individualized student instruction with monolingual and dual language learners. Journal of Educational Psychology (Revised and Resubmitted September 2021).

Sparapani, N., Tseng, N., Birkenender, S., Kamiri, S, Towers, L., Wood, T., & Nullally, A.D (under review). Teacher language by mathematics context predicts classroom engagement in preschool through third grade learners with autism, Social Sciences & Humanities Open (Submitted August 2021)

Toste, J. R., McLean, L., Peng, P., *Didion, L. A., *Filderman, M. J., Sparapani, N., & Connor, C. M. (under review). Do teacher perceptions of students’ academic and behavioral skills influence time spent in small-group reading instruction? Contemporary Educational Sciences (Submitted August 2021)

Pedrift, K. & Sparapani, N. (under review). The development of a social-sexual education project for adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities: Starting the discussion. Disabilities and Sexuality (Submitted May 2021)

Birkeneder, S. & Sparapani, N. (under review). Measurements of spontaneous communication initiations in children with autism in preschool through third grade classrooms, Autism (Submitted July 2021)

Abbeduto, L., Klusek, J., Taylor, J.L., Abdelnur, N., Sparapani, N., & Thurman, A.J. (September 2021). Utility of expressive language sampling in treatment studies: Evidence of associations with functional outcomes for adolescents and adults with Fragile X Syndrome, Brain Sciences, 11(9), 1179. https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11091179

Sparapani, N., Reinhardt, V., Hooker, J., Morgan, L., Schatschneider, C. Wetherby, A.M. (May 2021). Evaluating teacher language within general and special education classrooms serving elementary students with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities; 10.1007/s10803-021-05115-4. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10803-021-05115-4

Nuske, H., Shih, W., Sparapani, N.,…. Mandell, D., Kasari, K. (April 2021). Emotion regulation skills predict friendship quality in children with autism. International Journal of Developmental

Sparapani, N., Solari, E., Towers, L., McIntyre, N., Henry, A., Zajic, M., (2020). Secondary analysis of interactions between students with autism and their interventionists within a scripted reading curriculum. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research.

McLean, L., Sparapani, N., Day, S., Connor, C.M., (2020). Students’ problem behaviors and teachers’ warmth, responsiveness, and classroom control as predictors of students’ classroom instructional experiences in first grade. Contemporary Education Psychology.

Connor, C.M., Kelcey, B., Sparapani, N., Petscher, Y., Siegal, S.W., Adams, A., Hwang, J.K., Carlisle, J.F. (2019). Predicting second and third graders’ reading comprehension gains from analysis of teacher and student talk during reading lessons. Scientific Studies of Reading

Sparapani, N., Connor, C.M., Day, S., Wood, T., Ingebrand, S., Mclean, L., Phillips, B. (2019). Profiles of foundational learning skills among first graders. Learning and Individual Differences.        http://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2016.07.008

Sparapani, N. Carlisle, J., Connor, C.M. (2018). Observations of vocabulary activities during second- and third-grade reading lessons. Education Sciences, 8, 198; doi: 10.3390/educsci8040198

Morgan, L., Hooker, J., Sparapani, N., Reinhardt, V.P., Schatschneider, C., & Wetherby, A.M. (2018). Cluster randomized trial of the classroom SCERTS intervention for elementary students with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ccp0000314

Sparapani, N., Connor, C.M. McLean, L., Wood, T., Toste, J., Day, S. (2018). Direct and reciprocal effects among social skills, vocabulary, and reading comprehension in first grade. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 53, 159–167. doi:10.1016/j.cedpsych.2018.03.003

McLean, L, Sparapani, N., Toste, J.R., Day, S., Connor, C.M. (2016). Classroom quality in first grade settings predicts students’ time spent in non-instructional activities and subsequent literacy achievement. Journal of School Psychology, 56, 45–58. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2016.03.004

Connor, C.M., Day, S., Phillips, B., Sparapani, N, Ingebrand S., McLean, L., Barrus, A., Kaschak, M. (2016). Reciprocal effects of reading, vocabulary, and executive functioning in early elementary school. Child Development. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12570

Sparapani, N, Morgan, L., Reinhardt, V.., Schatschneider, C., Wetherby, A.M. (2016). Evaluation of active engagement in elementary students with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 1–15. 10.1007/s10803-015-2615-2

Connor, C.M., Ingebrand, S., Sparapani, N. (2015). What does effective teaching really look like? In: Taylor & Francis. Evaluating Literacy Instruction, 151–175. Routledge., New York, NY.

Research Presentations

Nuske, Smith, T.,…Sparapani, N.,…Kasari., C. (May 2021). Outcomes of a community-partnered school transition intervention for students with autism. Oral presentation at the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) annual meeting, Virtual

Sparapani, N., Tseng.,..Wood., T. (May 2021). Teacher-student interactions within mathematics instructional contexts in classrooms serving students with autism. Poster uploaded to the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) annual meeting, Virtual

Sparapani, N., Tseng, N., Towers, L., & Wood, T. (April 2021). Classroom math learning opportunities provided to students with autism. Interactive posted presented at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual conference, Virtual

Hochheimer, S., Castellon, F.,…Sparapani, N., Stahmer, A., Vejnoska, S., & Kasari., C. (May 2020). Timing of Placement and Transition Practices in Primary and Secondary School Transitions of Children with ASD. Poster presented uploaded to the International Society for Autism Research Annual Conference, Virtual

Towers, L. E., Sparapani, N. & Tseng, N. (2020, Apr 17 – 21) Coder Characteristics and Observational Coding of Emotion Regulation in Students With Autism [Symposium]. AERA Annual Meeting San Francisco, CA http://tinyurl.com/umea8l5 (Conference Canceled)

Butler, D. & Sparapani, N. (March 2020). Investigating Whether Implementation of MTSS and UDL Frameworks Correlate to Teachers’ Attitudes, Knowledge, and Confidence in Teaching Students with Autism in Mainstream Classrooms. Paper uploaded to and published by the California Council on Teacher Education SPAN, Virtual.

Vega Garcia, J., Fann H., Towers, L., & Sparapani, N.(January 2020). Examining Teachers’ Responsiveness with Preschool-3rd Grade Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder during Classroom Activities. Poster presented at the University of California Center for Research on Special Education, Disabilities, and Developmental Risk Annual Conference, Los Angeles, CA.

Birkeneder, S.L., Mundy, P.C., Sparapani, N. (January 2020). Joint Attention in School-Aged Children with ASD and Frequencies Related to Child Features. Poster presented at the University of California Center for Research on Special Education, Disabilities, and Developmental Risk Annual Conference, Los Angeles, CA

Towers, L., Karimi, S., Sparapani, N., (January 2020). Supporting Emotion Regulation in Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder across Classroom Contexts. University of California Center for Research on Special Education, Disabilities, and Developmental Risk Annual Conference, Los Angeles, CA.

Mcllraith, A., Cooper, C., Dodge, K., Farquharson, K.., Hall, J., Hutchins, C., Sparapani, N. Towers, L. (November 2019). Understanding and Overcoming Persistent Barriers to Effective EBP Implementation. Oral presentation presented at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Annual Convention, Orlando, FL.

Towers, L., Sparapani, N., Traser, J., Karimi, S, & Gao, Xu. (November 2019). Observations of Communication Initiations and Teacher Language Supports within Classrooms Serving Students with Autism. Poster presented at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Annual Convention, Orlando, FL.

Kasari C., AIRB3 Team (July 2019). Measuring the Impact of AIR-B III Community Collaborations using Social Network Analysis. Autism CARES Meeting, Washington DC

Sparapani, N., Reinhardt, V., Traser, J., Stahmer, A., & Mundy, P. (May 2019). Latent Profiles of Classroom Social Interaction and Patterns of Teacher Responsiveness in Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Poster presented at the International Society for Autism Research Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.

Sparapani, N., Tseng, N., Wood, T., Karimi, S., Rodriguez, J., & Singh, K. (May 2019). Classroom Mathematical Learning Opportunities for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Oral presentation presented at the International Society for Autism Research Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.

Nuske, H., Shih, W., Mandell, D., Stahmer, A., Sparapani, N., Atkinson-Diaz, Z., Fischer, E., & Kasari, C. (May 2019). Emotion Regulation Skills Predict Friendship Quality in Children with Autism. Poster presented at the International Society for Autism Research Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.

McLean, L., Sparapani, N., Connor, C.M., Day, D. (March 2019). Student Problem Behaviors and Teacher Warmth, Discipline Predicting Student Classroom Instructional Experiences in First Grade. Poster presented to the Society for Research in Child Development Bi-Annual Conference, Baltimore, MD

Wood, T., Tseng, N., & Sparapani, N. (January 2019). Mathematics Learning Opportunities for Students with Autism: A Classroom Observation Approach. Poster presented at the University of California Center for Research on Special Education, Disabilities, and Developmental Risk Annual Conference, Davis, CA.

Jimenez-Silva, M. & Sparapani, N. (January 2019). Determining Capacity to Prepare Teachers to Meet the Needs of Complex Learners and English Learners within General Education Classrooms. Spoken paper presented at the Hawaii International Conference on Education, Waikiki, Hawaii.

Sparapani, N., Koziol, N., Mackintosh, B. (October 2018) Measurement Invariance of Foundational Learning Skills in Kindergarten Boys With and Without Autism: A Secondary Data Analysis. Oral presentation presented at the Society for Research in Child Development, Special Topic Meeting, Phoenix, AZ

Connor, C.M., Kelcey, B., Sparapani, N., Petscher, Y., Ingebrand, S., Adams, A., Hwang, J., Carlisle, J. (July 2018). Talking in class? Talking predicts students’ reading gains. Spoken paper presented at the Society for Scientific Study of Reading Annual Conference, Brighton, United Kingdom.

Sparapani, N., Towers, L., Traser, J., Suhrheinrich, J., Rieth, S., Stahmer, A., (2018 May). Analysis of Teacher-Student Interactions within Classroom Activities: Implications for Effective Instructional Practices. Poster presented at the International Society for Autism Research Annual Conference, Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Fitton, L., McIlraith, A., Hooker, J., Sparapani, N., Wood, C., & Adlof, S. (2017, November). Adapting to the modeling revolution: A guide to SEM & HLM. Oral panel presented at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Annual Convention, Los Angeles, California

Sparapani, N., Solari, E., McIntyre, N., Zajic, M., Henry, A. (2017, June). Analysis of instructor-student interactions within a listening comprehension intervention for children with autism: Implications for instructional effectiveness. Poster presented at the Society for Scientific Study of Reading Annual Conference, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Sparapani, N., Solari, E., McIntyre, N., Zajic, M., Henry, A., Mundy, P. (2017, May). Strategic reading comprehension intervention for children with ASD: Developing an observational tool to identify patterns of active engagement and instructional support. Poster presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research Annual Conference, San Francisco, CA.

Connor, C.M., Sparapani, N., Vandell, D., (2017, April). Using Assessment and the OLOS Observation system to inform and promote effective early learning opportunities for young children. Oral panel presented at the Society for Research in Child Development, Austin, TX.

Connor, C., M., Sparapani, N., May, H., Wood, T., Fishman, B., Morrison, F. (2016, July). From research to practice: Supporting teachers’ efforts to individualize literacy instruction using A2i technology. Paper presented at the Society for Scientific Study of Reading Annual Conference, Porto, Portugal.

Sparapani, N., Reinhardt, V., Morgan, L., Schatschneider, C., & Wetherby, A. (2016, May). Latent profiles of classroom active engagement among early elementary students with autism spectrum disorder. Presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research Annual Conference, Baltimore, MD.

Sparapani, N., Ingebrand, S., Day, S., Wood, T., McLean, L., Connor, C.M. (2015, November). Developmental profiles of early elementary students. Paper presented at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Annual Convention, Denver, CO.

Sparapani, N., Ingebrand, S., Wood, T., Day, S., Connor, C.M. (2015, October). Latent profile growth models of literacy skills in elementary students at-risk or identified with learning disabilities. Poster presented at the Council for Learning Disabilities Annual Conference, Las Vegas, NV.

Sparapani, N., Ingebrand, S., Day, S., Connor, C.M. (2015, July). Latent profiles of school readiness in a sample of first grade students. Poster presented at the Society for Scientific Study of Reading Annual Conference, The Big Island, Hawaii.

McLean, L., Sparapani, N., Toste, J., Connor, C.M. (2015, July). Classroom quality as a predictor of student time in non-instructional activities and literacy achievement in first grade. Poster presented at the Society for Scientific Study of Reading Annual Conference, The Big Island, Hawaii.

Morgan, L., Reinhardt, V., Sparapani, N., Schatschneider, C., & Wetherby, A. (2015, May). Randomized controlled trial of the classroom SCERTS intervention project for students with ASD. Paper presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, UT.

Sparapani, N., McLean, L., & Connor, C.M. (2014, November). The influence of social skills on vocabulary and reading outcomes in elementary students. Paper presented at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Annual Convention, Orlando, FL.

Sparapani, N., Morgan, L., Reinhardt, V., & Wetherby, A.M. (2014, July). Instructor language and student active engagement in elementary students with autism spectrum disorder. Poster presented at the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading Annual Conference, Santa Fe, NM.

Carlisle; J., Connor, C.M., Kelcey, B., Petscher, Y., Sparapani, N., Ingebrand, S. (2014, July). Development of an observation system: creating opportunities to learn from text. Paper presented at the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading Annual Conference, Santa Fe, NM

Morgan, L., Sparapani, N., & Wetherby, A.M. (2013, February). Classroom active engagement for students with autism spectrum disorder: The classroom SCERTS intervention project. Paper presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research Annual Conference, San Sebastian, Spain.

Wetherby, A.M., Woods, J., Brown, J., & Sparapani, N. (2012, November). Effects of the early social interaction project for toddlers with autism spectrum disorder. Paper presented at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Annual Convention, Atlanta, GA.

Morgan, L., Sparapani, N., & Wetherby, A.M. (2012, November). The CSI project: classroom SCERTS intervention for students with autism spectrum disorder. Paper presented at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Annual Convention, Atlanta, GA.

Morgan, L., Sparapani, N., Ramos, J., & Wetherby, A.M. (2012, June). A confirmatory factor analysis of the classroom SCERTS intervention measure of transactional support for students with autism spectrum disorder. Paper presented at the International Conference on Innovative Research in Autism, France.

Sparapani, N., Morgan, L., & Wetherby, A.M. (2012, May). Evaluation of classroom performance in students with autism spectrum disorder. Poster presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research, Toronto, Canada.

Sparapani, N., Morgan, L., Bartley, J., Reinhardt, V., & Wetherby, A.M. (2011, May). Evaluation of active engagement in toddlers with autism spectrum disorder. Poster presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research, San Diego, CA.

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