Opportunities for families to participate in treatment studies:

Navigating the world of autism treatment can be perplexing and overwhelming.  Autism Partnership is dedicated to promoting evidence based procedures through research that focuses on developing quality treatment for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Currently, the research department is conducting a range of studies to evaluate and develop effective means of teaching social skills to children of all ages, evaluate the use of group teaching, gain a better understanding of treatments that lead to greater skill acquisition, evaluate ways to better support parents and train staff, and look at a wide range of strategies related to applied behavior analysis and autism treatment.

For more information about our research and how you can participate in a current or future Autism Partnership Study please contact Justin Leaf, Ph.D. at

                                    Current Projects

Increasing Social Behavior Studies

One of our main objectives in our clinical work and our research projects is to improve the social skills for individuals diagnosed with autism. When children with autism have better social skills they tend to do better and like school more, develop richer friendships, and have an overall better quality of life. Therefore, it is important that we teach social skills to our children and explore the best way to teach those skills. We are currently running several studies which look to improve our children’s general social behavior. These studies use and evaluate instructional methods using discrete trial teaching, “cool versus not cool”, or a teaching interaction procedure to teach several different social skills. Depending on an evaluation of which social skills are your child’s area of need, he or she may participate in a study that focuses on developing valuable social skills.

Comparing Social Stories to Teaching Interactions

Today there are several interventions implemented to teach social skills to individuals diagnosed with autism. One of these procedures is Social Stories. Social stories are brief scenarios created to describe a desired social skill.  A second method that is commonly implemented is the “Teaching Interaction” procedure.  This study compares social stories to the teaching interaction procedure to teach social skills to students diagnosed with autism.  Children will be randomly selected to receive intervention using either social stories or teaching interactions to teach a wide variety of social skills. The benefits for your son or daughter are that they will learn different social skills, can improve their overall quality of life, and we can discover the best way to teach your son or daughter.

Evaluating the importance of Explaining Why (Rationale)

Parents and professionals commonly provide explanations as to why their son, daughter, or student should engage in an appropriate behavior.  We commonly hear parents saying “You should eat your vegetables because it will make you big and strong” or a teacher saying “You should share with your toys because your friend will want to play with you.”  What is unknown is how effective providing these rationales are in changing and maintaining an individual’s behavior. This study will compare the use of rationales as part of a comprehension teaching strategy that includes an explanation, demonstration, and practice.   The primary purpose of this study is to gain a greater understanding of the importance of providing a rationale when teaching a new skill.

Prompting Studies

When teaching individuals diagnosed with autism it is common that some level assistance will be necessary to ensure the student displays the correct behavior. This assistance is commonly referred to as a “prompt.”  It is often difficult for teachers and professionals to know when to provide a prompt, what type of prompt to provide, when not to provide a prompt, and most importantly, how to fade a prompt once it is used.  The research department has several studies looking to see the best way to provide assistance/prompts to individuals diagnosed with autism while continuing to focus on developing greater independence.

Reinforcement Studies

One of the hallmarks of behavioral therapy is the use of reinforcement/rewards to help motivate students to display pro-social behavior. Today, a wide variety of reinforcers are typically used when teaching children with Autism, ranging from edibles, toys, social praise, electronics, and privileges. Unfortunately, we often hear that children with ASD often have an extremely limited range of interest, making it difficult for professionals and parents to identify potentially effective reinforcement.  A primary aspect of our research focusing on reinforcement is to evaluate effective ways to create and develop new interests and expand the array of potential reinforcers. Additionally, we want to look at ways to identify and evaluate which items may be most reinforcing at any given time.  Finally, we have studies which evaluate whether or not our students understand why they are receiving reinforcement and looking at ways to teach them about reinforcement. The benefits for your son or daughter are that we will better be able to identify items that your son or daughter would like, increase the amount of reinforcers which can be used to help teach your son or daughter new skills, and create new interests for your son or daughter. 

Discrete Trial Teaching Studies

Discrete trial teaching is one of the most commonly implemented teaching procedures to individuals diagnosed with autism.  Despites discrete trial teachings wide use there remains many different beliefs of how it should be implemented.  At Autism Partnership we will be conducting a variety of studies at looking at what is the most effective way to implement discrete trial teaching to individuals diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. The benefits for your son or daughter are that we will not only find the most effective way to teach your son or daughter but we will also be able to teach your son or daughter a variety of new skills