RehabWire - Volume 12, Number 3, April 2010


NIDRR research in Autism crosses almost every priority: Health and Function, Participation, Technology, and Employment Outcomes.

NIDRR Grantees on the Cutting Edge.

SEDL’s Vocational Rehabilitation Service Models for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders SEDL (H133A080007) led by John Westbrook, PhD. Leslie J. Caplan, PhD, Project Officer.
Abstract: This project creates a knowledge translation initiative to address the growing need for improvement in vocational rehabilitation (VR) and transition services for persons with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). This includes a multifaceted set of research activities to identify and document VR and transitional behavior management practices that are linked to employment successes for people with ASDs, to identify factors that are strongly predictive of such success, to study the activities and impact of a statewide VR service provider network, and to document examples of success among individuals with ASDs in long-term employment placements. Research activities include conducting two major systematic reviews, implementation of a rigorous process for identifying and validating VR best practices, a study of the university-based statewide network of CARD centers in Florida, and case studies of individuals with ASDs and their families. Additionally, this project develops and disseminates an array of information products to inform both policy and practice, and to support implementation of best practices in VR settings throughout the US with existing national VR, service provider, advocacy, and research networks.
Find out more at:

Vocational Rehabilitation Service Models for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (VCU ASC Career Links) Virginia Commonwealth University (H133A080027) led by Paul Wehman, PhD. Leslie J. Caplan, PhD, Project Officer.
Abstract: VCU ASD Career Links conducts evidence-based research on vocational rehabilitation (VR) service models for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). The scope of research covers four areas: (1) the impact of intensive, community-based work experiences on the employment outcomes of youth with ASDs; (2) the postsecondary school participation and ultimate employment of college students with ASDs; (3) the impact of personal digital assistants (PDAs) on the employment outcomes of individuals with ASDs; and (4) a longitudinal analysis of VR service delivery and employment outcomes among DRS clients with ASDs. While the primary target population is persons with ASDs, there is an emphasis on youth and young adults who are unemployed, under-employed, or under-served in postsecondary education. Additionally, this project targets persons from traditionally under- represented populations with diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Dissemination activities include web casts, fact sheets, evidence-based journal articles, and a toolkit on how to enhance VR employment models for youth with ASDs.
Find out more at:

Daily Living and Community Skills Video Game for Children with Developmental Disabilities The Sandbox Learning Company (H133G080151) led by Amy Maguire. Shelley Reeves, Project Officer.
Abstract: This project develops and evaluates an easy to use, economical, daily living skills video game which brings real world experiences and simulation to teach children with developmental disabilities, including autism and intellectual disabilities, skills for independence. The project teaches chained tasks in an engaging and effective game format. This system provides an innovative and inexpensive way to increase opportunities for instruction while providing correction procedures, giving multiple exemplars, monitoring progress, and including clips from each student’s community. A team of educational experts, technology experts, and parents of children with disabilities collaborate on the project to ensure the skills presented in the game are truly beneficial to individuals with developmental disabilities and the technology used will have the greatest reach.

“Autism is a disorder that is usually first diagnosed in early childhood. The main signs and symptoms of autism involve communication, social interactions and repetitive behaviors. Because people with autism can have very different features or symptoms, health care providers think of autism as a "spectrum" disorder. Asperger syndrome is a milder version of the disorder.” Source: Medline Plus

The Effects of a Bicycle Training Intervention on Health, Physical Activity, Sleep, and Community Participation in Youth with Down Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorders University of Michigan (H133G090006) led by Dale Ulrich, PhD; Joseph Hornyak, MD. Margaret Campbell, PhD, Project Officer.
Abstract: This three-year study involves a randomized trial design to determine the effects of an individualized bicycle training intervention on functional performance, time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity, patterns of sleep, and community participation and integration of youth with Down Syndrome (DS) and autism spectrum disorder. Participants who are randomly assigned to the Experimental group (EXP) receive the bicycle training during the first year while the Control group (CON) does not receive the bicycle training until the second year but receives alternative educational or community-based lessons while they wait. After receiving their bicycle training intervention, participants in the EXP and CON groups are monitored for 24 months to help determine the frequency of bicycle riding, environmental factors that influence the frequency of bike riding, the frequency of falls, their pattern of night time sleep, the amount of time they spend in sedentary, light, moderate, and vigorous physical activity, self and parent perceptions of their riding skill, with whom they ride, where in the community they ride their bicycle, and in what other activities they participate, in their community.
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Experimental Evaluation of the Online and Applied System for Intervention Skills (OASIS) Training Program Using Video-Conferencing for Parents of Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder University of Kansas (H133G090136) led by Linda S. Heitzman-Powell, PhD. Doris Werwie, PhD, Project Officer. Abstract: This project evaluates the Online and Applied System for Intervention Skills (OASIS) Training Program, a program that uses a Research-to-Practice Outreach Training model to teach parents of children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) how to implement empirically-based interventions with their children. The evaluation of the OASIS program includes two studies. The purpose of Study 1 is to: (1) conduct a between-group experimental analysis of the effectiveness of the final iteration of the OASIS training program developed during a previously funded development project, and (2) conduct a within subject analysis of the effects of OASIS on parent knowledge and skill fluency with implementation of behavioral techniques with their child, family quality of life, and child language and social engagement post treatment and during follow-up measures. The purpose of Study 2 is to assess the long- term impact of the OASIS program on parents and children who previously completed training. Study 2 continues collection of family outcome, intervention-specific, and child outcome data on families who have experienced the OASIS intervention as a part of the intervention development phase in order to obtain preliminary information about long term effects.
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Please note: These abstracts have been modified. Full, unedited abstracts, as well as any available REHABDATA citations, are available at

Did You Know? The National Institutes of Health funds 11 Autism Centers of Excellence coordinated by its Autism Coordinating Committee. “The ACEs are investigating early brain development and functioning, social interactions in infants, rare genetic variants and mutations, associations between autism-related genes and physical traits, possible environmental risk factors and biomarkers, and a potential new medication treatment.” For more information about NIH research in autism, visit

Current Literature: Selections from REHABDATA

Smith, F., Lugas, J. (2010) Vocational rehabilitation employment outcomes for transition-age youth with autism and other disabilities. Data Note. NARIC Accession Number: O17712. Project Number: H133A021503.
Abstract: This fact sheet compares vocational rehabilitation (VR) employment outcomes between 2003 and 2008 for two subgroups of transition-age youth: those with autism and those with all other disabilities. Four VR employment outcomes are summarized for the disability subgroups: (1) number of closures into employment, (2) rehabilitation rate, (3) average weekly hours worked, and (4) average weekly earnings. The data show that youth with autism had a higher rehabilitation rate (63 percent) than youth with all other disabilities (55.6 percent). However, in terms of weekly hours worked and earnings data, youth with autism demonstrated less favorable outcomes than youth with other disabilities, working 8t fewer hours per week and earning $120 fewer per week on average. These data suggest that analysis of VR outcomes needs to consider not only employment but also the number of hours VR customers are working and the degree to which employment offers the opportunity for greater economic self-sufficiency through earnings.
This document is available online at

(2010) Effectiveness of adult employment assistance services for persons with autism spectrum disorders. NARIC Accession Number: O17722. Project Number: H133A080007.
Abstract: This paper outlines the methodology for conducting a systematic review of empirical literature describing the effectiveness of adult employment assistance services for people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The purpose of this study is to increase knowledge about state vocational rehabilitation system-level characteristics and interventions that are significantly associated with successful employment outcomes for consumers with ASD. A wide variety of strategies and sources will be used to identify relevant studies, including online databases, evidence-based collections, journals, personal or published bibliographies, conference proceedings, book chapters, books, and grey literature. Each study collected for review will be appraised using the PEDro Scale, which consists of 11 criteria based on expert opinion of characteristics thought to be related to study quality. Included studies will be coded by two independent reviewers for methodological quality. Comprehensive meta-analysis software will be used to analyze the data. Outcomes from this study will increase awareness of current best practice in promoting successful employment of people with ASD.

Smith, L., Greenberg, J. (2008) Symptoms and behavior problems of adolescents and adults with autism: Effects of mother-child relationship quality, warmth, and praise. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 113(5), 387-402. NARIC Accession Number: J55125. Project Number: H133B031134. Abstract: Study investigated the impact of positive family processes on change in autism symptoms and behaviors. Specifically, the influences of maternal warmth, praise, and relationship quality on change in autism symptoms and behavior problems were examined using a cross-lagged panel design, which allowed researchers to test the stability of effects over time as well as the lagged effects across domain. Data were drawn from 149 mothers co-residing with their adolescent or adult child with. Maternal warmth and praise were measured using coded speech samples in which mothers talked about their son or daughter. Analysis revealed that a high level of relationship quality was associated with subsequent reductions in internalizing and externalizing problems as well as reductions in impairments in social reciprocity and repetitive behaviors. Maternal warmth and praise were also related to symptom abatement in the repetitive behaviors domain.

Van Wieren, T., Reid, C. (2008) Workplace discrimination and autism spectrum disorders: The national EEOC Americans with disabilities act research project. Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment, and Rehabilitation, 31(3), 299-308. NARIC Accession Number: J55564. Project Number: H133A060087.
Abstract: Study examined the employment discrimination experiences of Americans with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) using data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The allegations of employment discrimination brought under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act filed by people with ASDs were compared to allegations filed by individuals with other physical, neurological, or sensory disabilities. Researchers examined demographic characteristics of the charging parties; the industry designation, location, and size of employers against whom complaints are filed; the nature of the discrimination alleged to occur; and the legal outcomes of the complaints. Analyses revealed that individuals with ASDs were more likely to make charges of discrimination against retail industry employers. People with ASDs were also more likely to make charges of discrimination when they were younger, male, and/or of Native American/Alaskan Native ethnicity. The odds of charges resulting in meritorious resolution increased when the discrimination was encountered in service industries and by larger employers.

logo for the Cochrane Collaboration
The Cochrane Library The Cochrane Library features sytematic reviews of healthcare interventions designed to help practitioners make evidence-based decisions for their patients. Seven categorized reviews on ASDs are available free of charge at

Cadigan, K., Craig-Unkefer, L. (2006) Impact: Feature issue on supporting success in school and beyond for students with autism spectrum disorders. , 19(3). NARIC Accession Number: O16799. Project Number: H133B031116.
Abstract: This issue provides an overview of issues and activities related to autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Topics include: (1) identification and assessment of ASD, (2) ten things every child with autism wishes you knew, (3) navigating the maze of special education law and practice with students ASD, (4) providing culturally and linguistically appropriate services for students with ASD, (5) critical skill sets for special education teachers working with students with ASD, (6) early intervention for children with ASD, (7) effective transition planning for learners with ASD approaching adulthood, (8) teaching social skills to students on the autism spectrum, and (9) personal stories of individuals with ASD.
This document is available online at

Drager, K., Postal, V. (2006) The effect of aided language modeling on symbol comprehension and production in 2 preschoolers with autism. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 15(2), 112-125. NARIC Accession Number: J53145. Project Number: H133E030018.
Abstract: Study examined the effectiveness of aided language modeling (ALM) on symbol comprehension and expression in two preschool children with autism. ALM consists of engaging the child in interactive play activities and providing models of use of augmentative and alternative communication symbols during play. The ALM intervention used both graphic and verbal stimuli to teach new symbol vocabulary. Four vocabulary items were taught to each child. Both children demonstrated increased symbol comprehension and elicited symbol production and that these improvements could be maintained. The children’s performance on symbol comprehension and production, as well as on graphic stimuli alone or verbal stimuli alone, is discussed.

Wood, J. (2005) Student with low-incidence disabilities. In J. Wood (Ed.), Teaching Students in Inclusive Settings: Adapting and Accommodating Instruction (5th Edition) p56-87. Prentice Hall. NARIC Accession Number: J50201. Project Number: H133N000015.
Abstract: Chapter provides teachers with explicit instructions and examples for working with students with low-incidence disabilities, including mental retardation, autism spectrum disorders, sensory impairment, and significant orthopedic and other health impairments. The text describes the basic characteristics associated with each type of disability, presents instructional techniques and other strategies to help students learn, and offers guidelines for working with families.

Where Can I Find More? A quick keyword search is all you need to connect to a wealth of disability and rehabilitation research. NARIC’s databases hold more than 75,000 resources. Visit to search for literature, current and past research projects, and organizations and agencies in the US and abroad.