I have two primary research interests: 1) characterizing features of verbal and non-verbal communication in individuals with autism; and 2) defining diagnostic features of autism in special populations.
The focus of my work on verbal and nonverbal communication includes examining how well individuals with autism understand gestural communication, and how these skills relate their ability to navigate in the social world. I am also interested in identifying underlying cognitive processes that impede communication for people with autism. In particular, I have conducted research on cross-modal integration of gesture and speech in individuals with autism. The overarching goal of this research is to define areas of communicative strengths and weaknesses, identify possible explanations for these weaknesses, and create interventions to support improved communication in autism.
My interest in diagnosis includes examining behavioral features of individuals in special populations and those with co-morbid mental health conditions, in order to increase the accurate diagnosis of autism in individuals with more complex developmental and psychiatric profiles. This research is also designed to decrease the misdiagnosis of autism in individuals who present with significant social and communicative difficulties of a non-autistic etiology. Current work includes a project designed to increase the accuracy of diagnostic information conveyed to families when their child is first diagnosed with autism. The goals of this study include improving patient-practitioner communication, increasing treatment compliance, and improving treatment outcomes for children with autism.