Funded Projects

Examining the Mental Health of Autistic College Adults
PI: Brian Freedman, PhD, Senior Associate Director, University of Delaware Center for Disability Studies, DE

Aims: 1) Examine the internal construct validity and reliability of a commonly used mental health instrument in college counseling centers, the Counseling Center Assessment of Psychological Symptoms-62 item (CCAPS-62), for students on the autism spectrum; 2) understand the specific mental health needs of college students on the autism spectrum when compared to college students with other disabilities and no disabilities; 3) explore predictors of mental health needs of autistic college students.

Long-term Goal: to increase educational supports for those with ASD in collegiate settings

Total Awarded: $9,360. Research institution’s match: $15,000

Examining Cognitive Accessibility and Clinical Applications of the VIA Character Strengths Survey
PI: Ariel Schwartz, PhD, OTR/L, MGH Institute of Health Professions

Aims: 1) Examine the comprehensibility of the VIA Character Strengths Survey, when used by adults with IDD and 2) Describe how knowledge of character strengths is used in clinical practice with adults with IDD.

Long-term Goal: This work is designed as a first step towards deploying the VIA Survey in an electronic application, which be filled out by persons with IDD, and design of strengths-based intervention for those with IDD.

Total Awarded: $11,360. Research institution’s match: $15,000

Positive Mental Health and Autism Spectrum Disorders
PI: Luke Kalb, PhD, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Johns Hopkins University, MD

Aims: Examine the: 1) profiles of well-being among parents raising a child with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD); 2) psychometric characteristics of the PERMA-Profiler, a measure of well- being, among adults with ASD; 3) profiles of well-being among adults with ASD; and 4) correlates of well-being among adults with ASD and caregivers of children with ASD.

Long-term Goal: To advance research and measurement of well-being on among those with ASD and their families. This is a major gap in the literature. Previous research is highly focused on deficits.

Total Awarded: $7,000. Research institution’s match: $15,000

Using Mixed-Reality Simulation to Train School-based Mental Health Professionals how to Support Students with Developmental Disabilities with Co-occurring Mental Health Concerns
PI: Emily Graybill, PhD., Director, Center for Leadership in Disability, Georgia State University

Goals: Through this project, we will train 20 school psychology students and 20 school counseling students on how to build the competence to support the mental health concerns of students with developmental disabilities (MH/DD) in schools. We will measure their attitude, knowledge, and skills related to receiving training on supporting students with MH/DD. 

Aims: 1) Increase awareness of mental health concerns in students with developmental disabilities; 2) Increase knowledge of signs and symptoms of mental health concerns of students with disabilities; and 3) Increase skills in supporting students with developmental disabilities who are showing signs of mental health concerns.

Total Awarded: $15,000

Psychological flexibility in adults with ASD: Psychological distress in the context of COVID-19 
PI: Ty B. Aller, PhD, LMFT, Utah State University Center for Persons with Disabilities/UCEDD

Aims: 1) Explore how psychological flexibility influences psychological distress in adults with ASD in the context of COVID-19 with a pilot epidemiological study; 2) Establish the dimensionality, internal consistency, test-retest reliability, and the concurrent and convergent validity of the Acceptance and Action Questionnaire II (AAQ-II) in adults with ASD; 3) Establish the dimensionality, internal consistency, test-retest reliability, and the concurrent and convergent validity of the Brief Experiential Avoidance Questionnaire (BEAQ) in adults with ASD; 4) Provide research opportunities for undergraduate and/or graduate research assistants and UCEDD trainees to learn more about the intersection of mental health and intellectual/developmental disabilities.

Beat It: US Based Pilot Evaluation of the Behavioral Activation Intervention, Beat It, for Young Adults with ID
PIs: Dave Buck, PhD, Chattanooga Autism Center, TN; Roberto Blanco, MD, UNC School of Medicine, NC

Aims: 1) Ensure suitability of the Beat It intervention and accompanying manualized materials in the US; 2) Ensure that the research group can administer Beat It with fidelity for up to 20 individuals with IDD identified as having low mood or meet clinical criteria for depression; and 3) Evaluate the experiences and outcomes for patients and therapists.

Long-term Goal: To bring an evidenced-based depression intervention, from the UK, to the US. This pilot work will lay the ground needed for a large, randomized trial in the future