Our Research Strengths
At Juniper Gardens Children’s Project, our research focuses on improving the care and educational experiences of children. We leverage a combination of federal and state research awards and private philanthropic support for a wide variety of research projects, and we offer training to professionals, educators and parents as a part of that research focus. Specific areas of our research include:
- Learning and development in young children
- Social, behavioral and academic school success
- Improving evaluation and practice in home, classroom and community settings
- Technology, accessibility and inclusivity in schools
- Community-engaged research
- Autism and other developmental disabilities
Browse our current research projects below, or explore recent news about our research.
Exploring Predictors of Response to Peer Mediated Communication Intervention for Minimally Verbal Preschoolers with ASD
Project Title: Predictors of Response to a Peer-Mediated Communication Intervention for Minimally Verbal Preschoolers with ASD
Funding Agency: NIH, National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
Award: $343, 000
Primary Investigator: Dr. Kathy Bourque, PhD, CCC-SLP
The main goal of this project is to determine what role early social skills play in predicting children’s success following a peer-mediated intervention called Stay-Play-Talk with iPad. Peer-mediated interventions (PMIs) are a widely-used and evidence-based approach to teach social communication to young children with autism. Recent studies have documented the benefits of incorporating speech-generating devices into PMIs for children with limited or no spoken language to increase communication and interactions with peers in inclusive settings. Children’s social competence with peers is considered a fundamental developmental process that contributes to later language, social-emotional development, and academic achievement. Determining child behaviors that predict gains in communication may shed light on why PMIs are more effective for some children with autism than others, and what is needed to individualize strategies to meet the needs of a range of children with different skills. Early social skills we believe may predict communication success with peers include initiating and responding in play, social attention (e.g., paying attention to a peer and what a peer is doing), and interest in peers (e.g., showing joint attention and imitating peers). The second goal is to determine the influence of the assessment context on child outcomes by observing child behaviors in structured play, natural classroom settings (i.e., snack, small group, free play), and orientation to people or objects during an eye-tracking evaluation.
As of May 2022 we have successfully completed the first year of the study with 9 children with autism and 17 peer partners. We are recruiting up to 20 children with autism and 40 peer partners in the fall of 2022 and winter of 2023 in local preschools throughout the KC/MO metro area.