Dr. Connie Kasari and Dr. Catherine Lord Awarded New Grants to Study Treatment for Minimally Verbal Children with ASD and to Examine Language and Social Communication Skills for Children with ASD

Dr. Connie Kasari and Dr. Catherine Lord have been awarded two new grants, Boosting Language Outcomes of Minimally Verbal Children with Autism Spectrum Disoder (BLOOM) and Supported Play Research Outcomes Understanding Treatments (SPROUT).

Boosting Language Outcomes of Minimally Verbal Children with ASD (BLOOM) (funded by the National Institutes of Health) aims to gain further understanding of speech heterogeneity within autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and to inform intervention in order to develop more effective and personalized treatment. Researchers will investigate the effects of supplementing an evidence-based joint attention intervention (JASPER) with a motor-sound system intervention (PROMPT) compared to receiving only JASPER. These effects will be measured in terms of speech and language outcomes in participating children. Participants in this study will include limited language children with ASD between the ages of 4 and 5 1/2. Children who qualify will be randomized to JASPER (receiving play-based intervention only) or JASPER plus PROMPT (receiving both play- and speech-based interventions). Participating children will receive two, 60-minute sessions of intervention per week for 12 weeks, as well as assessments at entry, exit, follow-up, when the child turns 6 years old.

Supported Play Research Outcomes Understanding Treatments (SPROUT) (funded by the Simons Foundation) aims to promote language and social communication skills for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), while further substantiating two recently developed treatment outcome measures: the ELSA (Elicitation of Language Samples for Analysis), and the BOSCC (Brief Observation of Social Communication Change). These measures will be monitored over the course of JASPER (Joint Attention, Symbolic Play, Engagement, and Regulation) treatment, which seeks to improve core impairments of children with ASD. This multisite study constitutes research teams from UCLA, Weill Cornell, and Boston University, and will include 90 minimally verbal children with confirmed ASD diagnoses between 18 months and 5 years of age. At entry, participants will be randomized into JASPER facilitated by either a clinician or the caregiver. Participants will be re-evaluated after 10 weeks. Based on treatment response, participants will either remain the course for the following 10 weeks, or will be administered a combination of clinician and caregiver-mediated JASPER.

Amidst the unprecedented realities that we are all actively addressing in our own lives during the COVID-19 global pandemic, we are putting a temporary pause on our in-person events, including research activities that involve direct patient contact. Some clinical trials, particularly those that involve medication delivery, may be continued. Please contact the research study team for more information. In the meantime, our work has not stopped. We are continuing to work on analyzing research data that we have already collected, which is keeping us busy! Please contact us to learn more about enrollment: cogarcia@mednet.ucla.edu.