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Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology & Special Education

Office of Rehabilitation Counseling

Research in Autism, Intellectual and other Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (RAIND)

                                                                                                                         Link to RAIND: Click Here

The Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies at Michigan State University has also established a new interdisciplinary program of Research in Autism, Intellectual and other Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (RAIND). This cross college, interdisciplinary research program was created in response to MSU’s work as a founding partner in the DOCTRID Research Institute on autism and intellectual disability, which has stimulated high interest and commitment in this area of research at MSU. RAIND will serve as a coalition of scholars and researchers from throughout the university already engaged in these areas of research to address critical needs in the area of autism, intellectual and other neurodevelopmental disabilities in order to make important, meaningful and sustainable impact on the quality of life of individuals with these disabilities on a global basis. Dr. Michael Leahy and Dr. Nigel Paneth are the Co-director of RAIND.

A faculty work group from across the university developed five comprehensive research themes that represent the capacity at MSU to address these needs consistent with research priorities established at the state, national and international levels, and parallel to the research mission of the DOCTRID Research Institute. The five themes, which are displayed in detail below, include: (1) Evidence-based Assessment and Diagnosis, (2) Evidence-based Treatment and Interventions, (3) Lifespan Developmental Issues, (4) Family, Societal and Environmental Issues, and (5) Epidemiology.


Other unique features and approaches that cut across the thematic areas that distinguish the scope of work at MSU includes a focus on the entire age continuum, including adult populations, and our work within the entire functional spectrum, including those with the most significant disabilities. Our applied work will also occur in natural settings (e.g., schools, rehabilitation centers, community agencies, home settings) and utilize, where appropriate, cutting edge technology in order to maximize translation of evidence-based findings to practice, and to fully take into consideration the impact of the environment on interventions and services for individuals with autism, intellectual and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.


A new website is being designed for RAIND that will include biographical information and research interests for the faculty, across colleges at MSU, that are involved in this interdisciplinary initiative. In July, the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies put out an internal request for proposals for innovative interdisciplinary research projects that address the thematic research areas identified by RAIND. The Provost, the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies and the Colleges of Education, Human Medicine and Social Science, funds this competitive grant program. Pre-proposals were due in mid August and full proposals will be due on November 15. The anticipated starting for those projects selected for funding will be January 2014.

Theme 1: Evidence-based Assessment & Diagnosis

  • Classification and severity (e.g., impact of changes in DSM-5, differential diagnosis)
  • Cross-cultural evaluation tools and diagnostic procedures (e.g., CARS2, MIGDAS, ADOS-2, ADI-R, ASRS)
  • Sensitive measures for ongoing monitoring of treatment progress
  • Accommodation for assessment
  • Development and validation of scales/checklist/other measures (incl. self-report and caregiver-report)
  • ASD behavioral profile
  • Functional behavioral assessments and analyses aimed at developing and implementing more precise and effective communication interventions for those with ASD.
  • Assessment of current services, practices, and general issues associated with the transition from K-12 programming to adult programming

Theme 2: Evidence-based Treatment & Interventions

  • Psychoeducational interventions (e.g., social skills and competence, empathy skills and competence, self-care skills, independent living skills, coping skills)
  • Behavioral Interventions (e.g., applied behavior analysis (ABA), cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), imitation training, joint attention training, pivotal response training, peer-mediated interventions).
  • Technology-based interventions and supports (e.g., augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), computer applications and software, picture exchange communication systems (PECS), social robots, teleconferencing, video modeling, virtual reality, and wearable sensors)
  • Educational and therapeutic tools (e.g., communicative augmentative devices; apps for tablet devices/iPad/iPhone)
  • Application or development of strategies to decrease problem behaviors often observed in children and adults with ASD and ID
  • Vocational rehabilitation and rehabilitation counseling interventions and services
  • Sensory-based therapies (e.g., sensory integrative therapy, motor therapy)
  • Medical/pharmacologic (e.g., antidepressants, antipsychotics, hormones, and stimulants)
  • Other complementary/alternative therapies (e.g., dietary and nutritional supplements, mindfulness-based training, adaptive meditation, music/art/pet therapy)

Theme 3: Lifespan Developmental Issues

  • Independent living and community participation/mobility
  • Education/learning across life span
  • Youth transition to adult service delivery settings
  • Social support group/social clubs
  • Employment/vocational rehabilitation (assessment, job readiness, supported employment)
  • Psychosocial adjustment and coping strategies
  • Health issues (incl. physical & mental health)
  • Impact of aging on function and needs of those with ASD and ID
  • Quality of life

Theme 4: Family, Societal & Environmental Issues

  • Exploration of community needs relative to supporting young adults with ASD and ID
  • Community readiness for the wave of individuals who will soon transition (recent diagnostic increases came from increase at school-age)
  • Application of technology to disseminate evidence-based practices
  • Access to services and resources for children and adults
  • Impact on family (incl. caregiver & siblings)
  • Learn about parent/caregiver perspectives on the nature of educational and adult services (e.g., satisfaction/dissatisfaction with services)
  • Identify the type of training obtained by educational professionals who provide services and supports to those with ASD and ID (e.g., special educators, general educators, paraprofessionals)
  • Societal stigma and bullying issues
  • Policy and legislation (e.g., implication of autism state plan)
  • Advocacy
  • Cultural impact on assessment and intervention (e.g., global comparison)

Theme 5: Epidemiology

  • Registry system
  • Incidence and Prevalence rates
  • Comorbidity (e.g., ASD, ID, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, ADHD, anxiety, depression, emotional/behavioral disorders)
  • Environmental risk factors
  • Genetic risk factors and epigenetic processes
  • Longitudinal studies of neurocognitive and neurobehavioral profile
  • Longitudinal studies of healthy pregnancies and infants prior to recognition of autism and/or intellectual disability to assess environmental risk factors
  • Applied research with neuroscience components (e.g., utilize brain imaging techniques to monitor brain developmental over the course of intervention).



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