College of Education study evaluates autism

Laura Lee McIntyre, director of the School Psychology program
Laura Lee McIntyre, director of the School Psychology program

Autism spectrum disorder is the fastest growing group of neurodevelopmental disorders, affecting an estimated 1 in 88 individuals.

Now a UO team of researchers is evaluating different approaches to early intervention in this and other cases of developmental disabilities.

A team led by Laura Lee McIntyre, associate professor and director of the UO College of Education’s School Psychology program, is being funded by a $3.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The five-year study began in 2011.

Autism spectrum disorder describes a small subgroup of developmental delays that are loosely defined, difficult to diagnose, and even more difficult to treat. Traditional early intervention focuses on the affected individual, with a team of professionals from several disciplines working together to develop an individualized family service plan to address the needs of the child.

McIntyre's study asks whether family-focused intervention improves child and family outcomes above and beyond the effects of children's special education and related services. Her findings could eventually be combined with the College of Education's core strengths in family and human services, special education and other areas to create a new paradigm for early intervention.

“The time is now to think creatively about supporting children and families in our community,” says McIntyre. “We need to partner with researchers and practitioners who are devoted to studying prevention and intervention with children with autism and other developmental disabilities.”

More than 80 families in Lane County have been enrolled in McIntyre’s study, dubbed the Oregon Parent Project. Half are invited to participate in a 12-week group-based intervention, with the other half participating in a range of interventions provided in the community.

For more information on ASD, visit the CDC's ASD site. To learn more about the Oregon Parent Project contact Angie Relling or visit the Child and Family Center.

- by Cody Pinkston, UO College of Education