Congratulations Chandler and Erin!

Congratulations Chandler and Erin!

Congratulations to NDD Lab members, Chandler and Erin, on matching for their doctoral internships! Chandler, a graduate student in the School Psychology doctoral program, first joined the NDD Lab as an undergraduate student in 2016 and will now be joining the UNC Chapel Hill Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities. Erin, a graduate student in the Clinical-Community doctoral program since 2019, will be joining the Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. We will miss them both but are excited to watch them embark on the next steps of their career!

Undergraduate Students Present at Discover USC

NDD Lab undergraduate students presented their research at this year’s Discover USC symposium. We are incredibly proud of our amazing young researchers! Check out more about their presentations below.

  • Assessing Family Environment in Infants with Fragile X SyndromeEvelyn Leary
  • Physiology, Anxiety, & Parenting Stress in Mothers of Children with Neurodevelopmental Disorders Nhi Ngo
  • Temperamental Precursors to Separation Anxiety: Sex Differences in Shyness and Fear among Preschoolers with ASD and Elevated Likelihood for ASD Laura Torres
  • Characterizing the relationship between baseline heart rate and sleep quality across children with fragile X syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, and typically developing controls Sarah Walker
  • Relationship between Language Development and Anxiety in Children with an FMR1 Mutation Avery Phelps
  • Cardiac Autonomic Measures of Frustration in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder Eden Wellons

Evelyn Leary

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Rachel Hantman Awarded NIH Grant

Congratulations to graduate student Rachel Hantman! Rachel has been awarded an F31 grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Her project, Maternal-Child RSA Synchrony in Infants with Fragile X Syndrome, will investigate how mothers and children with an FMR1-associated condition impact each other’s social and physiological states and how this relationship and a child’s environment impacts their social development. We are excited to see this project unfold!

Congratulations Dr. Katie Bangert!

Dr. Katie Bangert joined the Neurodevelopmental Disorders (NDD) Lab and the SC Family Experiences Lab as a postdoctoral fellow in 2020, following the completion of her Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Bangert was a vital member of the NDD Lab, overseeing the management of physiological data processing and providing oversight to undergraduate students volunteering in the lab. While at the UofSC, her research focused on language development in individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders and the relationship between language and physiological regulation. Following the completion of her postdoctoral fellowship in the summer of 2022, she accepted an Assistant Professor position in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Wisconsin – River Falls. She will be missed at the lab, but we are all excited to see what Dr. Bangert does next!

National Fragile X Day 2022

July 22 is National Fragile X Day, and this year, we were excited to celebrate the day again person! Staff and students from the NDD Lab joined researchers, families, and community advocates at the South Carolina Statehouse to hear July 22 be declared Fragile X Awareness Day in South Carolina. Thank you to everyone who came out for the proclamation and to everyone who has played a role in raising awareness, advocating for policy, and building a strong community!

To learn more about Fragile X Awareness Day in South Carolina, check out news coverage of the event and view the proclamation below.

Conner Black at 2019 Gatlinburg Conference

Graduate Student Conner Black Joins Nationwide Children’s Hospital

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Conner Black, a doctoral student in the School Psychology program and a valued member of the Neurodevelopmental Disorders Lab team, has accepted an internship at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Conner Black, also known as “Mr. Conner,” joined the NDD Lab in 2017. During this time, Conner has completed over 85 assessments, authored 16 conference presentations, and authored, or co-authored, four papers.

During his time at the NDD Lab, Conner’s primary research interests were investigating prodromal features of social anxiety in infants with fragile X syndrome and the utilization of ERP methodology to assess neurophysiological markers of anxiety. In 2019, he was awarded a SPARC Graduate Research Grant entitled “Biological Mechanisms Related to Social Anxiety in Young Children with Fragile X Syndrome.”

Conner will be missed at the NDD Lab, but we are excited to see what he does next!

Erin Hunt

Erin Hunt Awarded SPARC Grant

Erin Hunt, a Clinical-Community Psychology Doctoral Student in the NDD Lab, was awarded a Support to Promote Advancement of Research and Creativity (SPARC) Graduate Research Grant from the UofSC Office of the Vice President for Research. Erin’s project, “Inhibitory Control in Children with Fragile X Syndrome: Biological Underpinnings, Familial Predictors, and Functional Outcomes,” investigates the development of inhibitory control in children with fragile X syndrome and its relationship to executive functioning.

Check out the full list of 2022 SPARC awardees (including former NDD Lab research specialist Carly Moser) on the Office of the Vice President for Research’s webpage!

Conner Black, Elizabeth Will, and Kayla Smith

Recent Publications from the NDD Lab

Three members of the NDD Lab received notification that their submitted papers were set to be published! Conner Black, doctoral student, had his paper “Early behavioral and physiological markers of social anxiety in infants with fragile X syndrome” published in the Journal for Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Dr. Elizabeth Will, postdoctoral researcher, had her paper “Associated Mechanisms of Goal Directed Behavior in Infants and Young Children with Down Syndrome” published in Advances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Kayla Smith, research specialist, had her paper “Attention Bias and Prodromal Anxiety Symptoms in Toddlers With Fragile X Syndrome and Down Syndrome” published in the American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

Keep an eye out in future Research Round-Ups for summaries of these new publications!

Man reading a book to child

Research Round-Up #8

Autism Spectrum Disorder-Associated Behavior in Infants with Down Syndrome
Approximately 20% of children with Down syndrome (DS) meet the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which suggests that children with DS are at elevated risk for ASD. In this study, researchers were interested in analyzing how infants with DS and typically developing (TD) infants differed in terms of ASD-associated behavior. Participants included 18 infants with DS, aged 7 to 18 months, and 18 TD infants, aged 9-14 months. The researchers used a play-based observation to observe ASD-associated behavior, along with a standardized assessment to measure developmental skills. The data collected showed that 7 out of 18 infants with DS were at risk for ASD, while only 2 TD infants met criteria for ASD-risk. The results of this study provide further evidence for the claim that children with DS are at an elevated risk for co-morbid ASD. In addition, these results suggest that early screening for ASD in children with DS may be a necessary measure.

Parent Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication Integration for Children With Fragile X Syndrome: It Starts in the Home
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is used to assist children who have language impairments. However, few studies have analyzed the use of AAC and its effectiveness in children with FXS, who also exhibit difficulties with communication. In this study, researchers analyzed the home-use of AAC in five children with FXS, aged 4 to 12 years old. The researchers collected data using home visits to observe the children using AAC and conducted interviews with the children’s mothers to gain a better understanding of whether or not AAC benefited their child. The AAC tools used by the children in this study included devices with vocabulary presented on a grid display, Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS), and visual supports. The mothers reported that AAC was useful when the children had simple requests and found that it contributed to their communication development. On the other hand, the mothers did have some concerns about the devices, including their language simplicity, cost, and portability. All mothers wanted the AAC tools to foster deeper conversations rather than simple requests. In addition, they found the devices to be costly and not practical when traveling outside the home. Despite these limitations, the mothers found AAC to be beneficial in supporting the children’s communication and language development. The results of this study suggest AAC interventions could be beneficial for children with FXS, but the technology accessibility could be improved.

Brief Report: A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effects of RECALL (Reading to Engage Children with Autism in Language and Learning) for Preschoolers with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Shared book reading can contribute to the development of oral language and literacy skills. However, previous research has shown that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) spend less time on shared book reading and enjoy it less compared to their peers. To combat this, an intervention known as Reading to Engage Children with Autism in Language and Literacy (RECALL) was created to support reading and language development in children with ASD. In order to analyze its effectiveness, researchers recruited 31 preschoolers with ASD, aged 3 to 6 years, and their caregivers and had them participate in the RECALL intervention. Seventeen parent-child dyads were randomly assigned to the experimental group and 14 were assigned to the control group. Parents in the experimental group attended training workshops in which they were trained on how to read to their child using the RECALL method, while parents in the control group did not receive training. Both groups were provided with the same reading materials and were asked to read to their children twice per week for 6 weeks.

Data was collected on emotion situation knowledge, responsiveness and engagement in reading session, and receptive vocabulary both before and after the 6-week period. Results showed that children in the experimental group improved more on emotion situation knowledge and story comprehension compared to children in the control group. When comparing scores before and after the intervention, results showed that children in the experimental group improved in receptive vocabulary, reciprocity in verbal communication, and engagement in shared book reading. On the other hand, children in the control group only improved in receptive vocabulary. Overall, the results of this study suggest that children with ASD could improve their reading and language development through shared book reading and the use of RECALL.

Felicia McGill

NDD Lab Undergrad Felicia McGill Named Goldwater Scholar

We are so excited to share that Felicia McGill was recently named a Goldwater Scholar! Felicia joined the lab as a freshman and has quickly proven herself to be a passionate researcher and motivated scholar. In addition to her research experience in the NDD Lab, Felicia had a summer research opportunity at Princeton University and a Spanish-immersion study abroad at University of Puerto Rico. She is also the recipient of a Gilman Scholarship for study abroad. She plans to study for a doctorate in neuroscience and continue autism research, focusing on language development and bilingualism.

Congratulations, Felicia!

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