Creating Opportunities for Parental Empowerment (COPE)
Research shows that parents of children with autism suffer from the highest levels of parenting stress, relationship difficulties and psychological distress compared with parents of children with a variety of disabilities. A high level of parental distress significantly impacts a parent’s ability to effectively manage their child’s behavior and has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of early teaching interventions for autism spectrum disorders. Currently services for families with autism focus almost entirely on the child and their particular needs – there is little attention given to helping parents deal with the psychological distress they face on a daily basis. COPE provides parents of children with ASD effective, research-based resources, education and support to combat family stress. Effective support services have many benefits, including enabling parents to more effectively manage their child’s behavior, as well as improving overall wellbeing.
Autism Research Group is leading the way in connecting autism research to the hopes and aspirations of families affected by autism. Most parents of individuals with autism express frustration that autism research often does not directly benefit people with autism. In addition, parents are often dismayed that their opinions and perspectives are not addressed by the vast majority of autism research. The Autism Research Group Parent-Generated Research Initiative is a first step toward closing this gap. Take our survey now and tell us what you think matters in autism research. We will use the results of the survey to design research projects that directly address the real-life needs of families. Click here to make your voice heard and take the survey now!
Equal Access for Underserved Populations
Autism spectrum disorders affect 1 in every 88 US children and affects children across ethnic, cultural, and economic backgrounds. Unfortunately, there is a large disparity between groups in terms of access to early diagnosis and evidence-based treatment. Economically disadvantaged groups, as well non-native English speaking groups, receive far less access to desperately needed services. At Autism Research Group, we believe this disparity is unacceptable and that our society has a moral obligation to do something about it. We are currently developing research initiatives aimed at identifying the causes of the disparity as well as practical steps that can be taken to address it.
Independent Living and Adaptive Skills
Individuals with autism often have difficulty with skills needed for living independently and safely in their daily lives. Research by ARG scientists focuses on making people with autism spectrum disorders safer and more independent, by addressing topics such as teaching stranger-safety skills, pill-swallowing skills, teaching children to tolerate dental procedures, and increasing household safety, among others.
Individuals with autism often have difficulty with complex language and cognition, including attention, memory, self-control, problem-solving, emotional understanding, and perspective taking. Unfortunately, most of the scientific community believes that these challenges are due merely to brain deficits and so treatment is not possible. However, nothing is further from the truth. Cognition consists of complex skills that can be taught. Research by ARG scientists focuses on topics such as teaching children with autism perspective-taking skills, working memory, the ability to understand rules and conditionality, the ability to understand non-literal language, such as sarcasm, metaphor, and analogy, and the ability to solve problems.
Pediatric Feeding Disorders
Individuals with autism spectrum disorders often have difficulties related to eating. Difficulties can range from being a picky eater to refusing food entirely. Effective treatment for feeding disorders is critical for ensuring each individual can eat a wide variety of nutritious foods, thereby enhancing their health. Feeding disorders are also a major source of stress for parents and effective treatment therefore also contributes to overall family well-being. Research by ARG scientists focuses on implementation of the most effective but least intrusive treatment procedures for feeding disorders, in real-life settings such as family homes.
Assessment and Treatment of Challenging Behaviors
Challenging behaviors such as aggression, disruption, and self-injury are common in individuals with autism and can have a negative impact on quality of life for the individual and their entire family unit. Research on challenging behavior at ARG is oriented toward finding effective ways to decrease challenging behaviors while at the same time increasing independence. Such research focuses on establishing positive relationships of mutual respect between individuals and their caregivers and loved ones.