(Sept. 12, 2018) – UTSA, in collaboration with The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio and the Autism Treatment Center, have been awarded a two-year, $1,251,063 grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to develop an innovative, infant and toddler autism treatment program called Project PLAAY (Parent-Led Autism Treatment for At-Risk Young Infants and Toddlers).
This project will identify infants and toddlers at high-risk for developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and create a radical, innovative parent-assisted treatment program for infants as young as 6 months.
“The goal of this project is to identify autism as early as possible and treat symptoms before they progress,” said principal investigator, Leslie Neely, assistant professor of educational psychology at UTSA. “I often speak with parents who recognize symptoms in their second or third child and are looking for an early and effective treatment for their infants ‘at risk’ of autism. We aim to develop that treatment.”
To identify potential infants for this project, co-Principal Investigator, Dr. Melissa Svoboda of The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, will employ a new electroencephalographic (EEG) technique to isolate biomarkers correlated with later autism diagnosis. The cutting-edge EEG analytical approach, developed by key collaborator Dr. William Bosl of Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital, will be used to assess brain wave data and make predictions regarding autism diagnosis. In addition, Dr. Bosl will employ the EEG technology in a novel approach to identify changes in the developmental trajectory after the treatment program.
“If we have a way to identify these children early and monitor their development, we can make sure children get the intensive interventions they need to reach their maximum developmental potential,” said Dr. Svoboda, assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine.
The PLAAY research team is looking to recruit at least 75 infants and toddlers from San Antonio and surrounding areas. Infants will be seen at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, and toddlers will be seen at the Autism Treatment Center. Both groups will go through a series of assessments including neurological examination and neuropsychological testing led by Dr. Svoboda and her partner, Andrew Martinez of the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.
“Repeated and regular assessments will allow us to monitor for any changes associated with this novel treatment approach. It will also help us see whether this type of treatment can decrease or delay a diagnosis of Autism,” said Martinez, assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine.
Infants and toddlers, who meet the research criteria, will undergo a novel treatment developed by Neely and key collaborators, Amarie Carnett of UTSA and Jessica Graber of the Autism Treatment Center. The early intervention will focus on addressing key diagnostic criteria like behavior, social communication, and motor skills. Treatment will also include parents and caregivers participating in sessions to learn to use the therapeutic interventions at home.
“Research shows parents of children with developmental disabilities are often stressed and can feel isolated, so we are providing the resources and coaching they need to have positive interactions that are critical for their child’s development and to decrease the level of stress on the family unit,” said Graber.
“Involving caregivers is very important. If we can teach caregivers how to use these skills at home, they will hopefully practice with their child throughout the day. This is an approach that is not often considered in other treatments,” said Carnett, assistant professor at UTSA.
The team working on this project are all members of the San Antonio Applied Behavior Analysis (SAABA) research consortium and project. They have been collaborating on autism research, community outreach, and providing intensive therapy for over 3 years. SAABA’s mission is to improve outcomes for individuals with autism, intellectual, and developmental disabilities in school, home, and community settings. The SAABA Project was made possible through funding from the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) Autism Program and a grant from the John L. Santikos Charitable Foundation Fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation.
As a learning and research enterprise, UTSA fosters innovation and creative discovery by channeling its expertise into tackling critical societal issues of today and tomorrow. The UTSA College of Education and Human Development produces educators, administrators, counselors and health professionals with a global perspective of the educational, psychological, social and health needs of communities.
UTSA is ranked among the nation’s top five young universities, according to Times Higher Education.
Learn more about UTSA College of Education and Human Development.
Learn more about San Antonio Applied Behavior Analysis (SAABA) Project
Learn more about The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.
Learn more about Autism Treatment Center – San Antonio.
Project PLAAY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 210-704-3589.
In honor of UTSA's 50th Anniversary in 2019, the university is hosting Roadrunner Days Spring Edition - two weeks of semester-launching activities built around our deeply held values of student success, student involvement, community service and fun!Various locations, Main and Downtown Campuses
Opening Reception got exhibit featuring artists Miguel Aragon, Aaron Coleman, Sandra Fernandez, Annalise Gratovich, Marco Hernandez, Kristen Powers Nowlin, & Patricia Villalobos EcheverriaMain Art Gallery, Arts Building (ART 2.03.04), Main Campus
Tracy Cowden, Roland K. Blumberg Endowed Professor in Music and chair of the UTSA Department of Music launches the UTSA 50th Anniversary Scholars Speaker Series with Music as Medicine: The Power and Influence of Music on our Health.Radius Center, 106 Auditorium Cir. #120, San Antonio
UTSA African American Studies Program presents this series featuring Walter M. Kimbrough, president of Dillard University.Student Union Retama Auditorium (SU 2.02.02), Main Campus)
Join fellow Runners to walk for 10 minutes on the Main Campus. The event reminds us of the importance of exercise, diet and healthy habits in protecting our hearts.Outside the North Paseo Building, Main Campus
The annual event features authentic foods, music, dance, martial arts, shopping, games and entertainment from China, to the Indian Sub-continent, and the island nations of the Pacific. The Festival features two stages, a martial arts demonstration area, children’s hands on crafting area, anime activities, bonsai and ikebana displays, mahjong table and more.UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, Hemisfair Campus
UTSA Libraries will host Bryan Gervais, UTSA assistant professor in the Dept. of Political Science & Geography, for his presentation "Political Incivility in the Digital Age." Pizza will be provided to UTSA students while supplies last.John Peace Library Assembly Room (JPL 4.04.22)
Level up your career with a graduate business degree from the UTSA College of Business. Join us for this Open House to learn which of our 13 degree programs is right for you.Business Building (BB 2.06.04), Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
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