Autism Researchers Adapt Studies For a Socially Distant World

Published by: Spectrum
Written by: Laura Dattaro

When the coronavirus pandemic first forced universities and labs to close, research teams raced to save their work and adjust to a socially distant world. Now, weeks into the crisis, many scientists are moving their investigations to virtual and online formats, a shift that may bring lasting changes to autism research.

Some researchers are adapting existing studies to the new realities. Others are initiating entirely new projects that can be conducted remotely, including some related to the pandemic.

Antonio Hardan’s team switched gears after closing a laboratory preschool that serves autistic children and suspending at-home therapy visits. Hardan, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University in California, seized the opportunity to launch a previously planned study. The study is intended to evaluate the effectiveness of remotely training parents to use a therapy called pivotal response treatment (PRT), which helps minimally verbal autistic children communicate1.

The team had been running a small uncontrolled trial on remote PRT for the previous two years. In August, Hardan and his collaborator, Grace Gengoux, received institutional review board approval to conduct a larger, controlled trial. Click here to read the rest of the story.

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