Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities

Juniper Gardens has over 20 years of research focused on supporting the needs of children with autism and their families. As we continue to learn more about how to support the evolving needs of children with neurodevelopmental conditions, such as autism, our scientists at Juniper Gardens develop new innovations and investigate the effects of existing interventions in novel contexts and with diverse populations. This work includes investigations of interventions delivered in community, school, and home-based settings.

Mother looking at elementary aged child who is looking at a pink tablet computer

Research Highlights

A child seated on a carpeted floor and viewed from above is pointing at the words on a page of a book with cartoon fish

Project: The Peer Interventions for Preschoolers with Autism (PIPA)

The Peer Interventions for Preschoolers with Autism (PIPA) study examines evidence-based peer intervention approaches for autistic preschoolers with limited or no spoken language. The intervention focuses on teaching neurotypical peers to be responsive social partners and incorporates an iPad as a speech-generating device. We will examine the effectiveness of adapting peer-mediated social communication interventions to meet the individual needs of autistic children who may respond at a different pace. This 5-year NIH-NIDCD is a multi-site study collaborating with the University of North Carolina. Participants are recruited from preschools in the KC metro area and central North Carolina region.
Linzi Shriner and her daughter Baylee

News: Exploring Predictors of Response to a Peer-Mediated Interventions for Preschoolers with Autism and Limited or No Spoken Communication

JGCP Investigator Dr. Kathy Bourque recently presented results of a 2-year study funded by NIDCD at the Gatlinburg annual conference in Kansas City and the International Society of Autism Research (INSAR) conference in Stockholm Sweden. Within five districts over the last 2 years, the research team provided a peer-mediated intervention (PMI) to 24 preschoolers with autism with limited or no spoken language, along with 47 peer buddies. The goal was to explore what child characteristics may predict response to a peer-mediated intervention that taught peers to be responsive communication and play partners. Preliminary outcomes for 18 children show that change in how often children communicated to peers in structured play after PMI was significantly related to higher receptive language at baseline. Further, change in how often children took turns communicating and engaged in longer exchanges with peers in free play was significantly related to higher expressive language at baseline. Identifying child behaviors is important to be able to tailor PMIs to be most effective across different preschool social settings.
Janet Weaver

Featured Researcher: Janet Weaver

Janet is a Research Project Coordinator at Juniper Gardens Children’s Project. She is the coordinator for Peer Interventions for Preschoolers with Autism (PIPA) project. Janet earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Emporia State University and received her Master of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology from Webster University. She has clinical experience working in community mental health administering psychological testing and providing evidence-based therapy interventions to children ages 3-22.