Dr. Connie Kasari awarded new NIH RO1 grants to study minimally verbal children and new autism intervention for toddlers

October 30, 2019

Dr. Connie Kasari

Dr. Connie Kasari has been awarded two new, National Institutes of Health RO1 grants. Personalized, Responsive Intervention Sequences for Minimally Verbal Children with Autism (PRISM) aims to find the most effective approach to intervention for children with autism who have limited-language skills at age four to six years old. The goal of this project is to reduce the numbers of children who are still minimally verbal by the time they enter Kindergarten. This multisite study, which includes the University of Oregon and the University of Rochester, will recruit children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), 48-59 months of age, and fewer than 20 words used functionally. The children will participate in a 20-week intervention where they will be randomly assigned to JASPER (Joint Attention Symbolic Play Engagement & Regulation) or DTT (Discrete Trial Training) in their school. After the first 10 weeks, each child will be assessed to monitor response to treatment. This will determine if the child stays with the same treatment, the treatment is intensified, or both treatments will be combined for the remaining 10 weeks. The overall goal is to develop and evaluate the sequence in which the child receives interventions in real-world settings and determine if language outcomes can be boosted for each child.

Community-based Adaptive autism Intervention for Toddlers (CAIT) also aims to determine the optimal sequence of interventions for improving social-communicative, language, and cognitive outcomes for toddlers with ASD. The study will recruit 2-3-year-old children with ASD already receiving community based, publicly funded interventions and who are attending the New York Center for Infants & Toddlers (NYCIT) in East Harlem and the Bronx. Teaching assistants and group leaders at NYCIT will be trained to implement JASPER. All children will receive JASPER throughout the study. The goal of this study is to vary how long to wait to assess response to treatment (six or twelve weeks). Early responders will continue receiving JASPER with an addition of JasPEER (JASPER with a peer). Slow responders will be randomized to receive structured teaching and JASPER or stay on course with JASPER. Overall, CAIT is designed to help children improve social communication, while also examining the barriers and obstacles staff at public institutions may encounter in implementing this intervention.

For more information on these studies and the work of Dr. Connie Kasari, contact: Consuelo Garcia at cogarcia@mednet.ucla.edu.