Because my training is in child clinical psychology,
the research I do is different than the research carried out by other members
of the Psychology Department. Whereas many of my colleagues are able to utilize
undergraduates as participants in their research, the three samples of
participants I use in my research are: children with autism, children who have
been exposed to domestic violence, and children who
have been abused. I have been actively involved in research at
For a complete overview of my research, please click on the link to my Vita on the home page. Below I will summarize some of the research I have conducted in each of my three main areas of research.
My interest in autism research began when I was asked by my husband, Steve, to assess the intelligence of children with autism in association with work he was doing through his research center, the Center for the Study of Autism. Often, parents would ask Steve about who could assess their child with autism. Steve would refer the families to me. I used to conduct thorough assessments of the children and discovered a very interesting finding: my assessments of the intelligence of the children with autism did not necessarily coincide with the results of prior assessments; my assessments often revealed that the child was more intelligent than had previously been determined. This led me to think about the differences in how I approached the intellectual assessment of a child with autism in relation to how other evaluators had. The first thing I noticed was that most evaluations of children with autism relied on verbally-based or timed measures of intelligence. Children with autism often have communication and attention impairments that make reliance on these measures inappropriate. The measures I used were nonverbal and untimed, and it seemed that this was accounting for the differences in the assessment outcomes. While I discontinued assessing children with autism clinically after the birth of my second child in 1995 (one only has so much time in the day!), I continued investigating issues in the assessment of intelligence in individuals with autism.
Two papers I published assessed the appropriateness of using the Test of Nonverbal Intelligence (TONI) in individuals with autism. The first paper was published in 1998 in Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities and presents data from a study in which we assessed the intelligence of over 250 individuals with autism. The results indicated that the average score on the TONI was approximately 90 (in the low average range of intelligence). We found that approximately 20% of our sample scored in the mentally retarded range; this was considerably lower than reports from other studies using more verbally-based or timed measures of intelligence. For this study, we attempted to assess nearly 400 individuals–thus, the data collection process spanned many years from 1992-1997. However, we were lucky enough to piggyback on the data collection process of another study. This is why we were able to obtain such a large sample in a relatively short period of time. Early reports from this study were presented in 1992 and 1994 at the Western Psychological Association conference.
The second paper, also published in Focus on
Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities in 1998, reports a replication
study using a sample of autistic individuals from
I have continued my research regarding the relationship between autism and intelligence. I recently completed a research project in which I investigated whether real-world knowledge deficits affect the determination of intelligence in individuals with autism. The short answer is: yes! This research is in press at Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities. Another study, under review at Focus, investigated the claims in the literature that the majority of individuals with autism are also mentally retarded. This research was archival in nature and involved reading hundreds of journal articles, chapters in edited books, and books to find any that made claims about the prevalence rate of mental retardation in persons with autism and then to evaluate the evidence in support of those claims.
A second line of research in which I am involved is the
Moms Helping Kids (MHK) project, an intervention developed by my colleague at
Dr. Hokoda and I have
submitted the MHK curriculum for publication consideration to Haworth Press, Inc.
We also have a paper in press at the Journal
of Family Violence that examines the differences in responses to domestic
Research on Abused Children
The third strand of my research agenda involves
studies related to the abuse of children. Debbie Joa,
intake coordinator at Liberty House, a child abuse assessment center, and I
recently completed a study evaluating the outcomes of children seen at