Sensory Experiences Project

Principal Investigator:

Grace Baranek, Ph.D., OTR/L, Division of Occupational Science


Co-Investigators:boy apple

Aysenil Belger, Ph.D., Director of Neuroimaging Research in Psychiatry
Brian Boyd, Ph.D., Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
Virginia Dickie, Ph.D., OTR/L, Division of Occupational Science
Linda Watson, Ed.D., Division of Speech & Hearing Sciences

 *This project is now in the data analysis phase and is not currently recruiting participants*

THE SENSORY EXPERIENCES PROJECT (SEP) is funded by the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (#42168) to examine the development, functional impact, and cause of various sensory features in children with autism, developmental delay, and/or typical development, ages 2-12 years.

The project consists of six interrelated STUDIES:

Study 1
, Prospective Developmental Study, examines the stability of sensory features over time and the functional impact of these features on child and family outcomes. Target enrollment is 45 children with autism and 30 children with developmental delay.

Study 2
, Developmental Study of Infants, also known as The Infant Behavior Project (IBP), analyzes videos of the infancy period (9-18 months) to determine what specific infant behaviors are precursors of established sensory response patterns in the preschool/school-age years, and to what extent they predict other developmental and functional outcomes. We expect to acquire infant video footage on 109 children, 48 children with autism, 25 children with developmental delay, and 36 children with typical development.

Study 3
, Observational and Experiential Study, uses a combination of personal accounts of parents and verbal children, and in-home behavioral observations to learn about what sensory experiences are like in the home environment and how they impact child and family functioning. The target enrollment is 45 children with autism, 2 to 12 years of age.

Study 4
, Neurocognitive Mechanisms, uses electroencephalography (EEG) to measure brain activity while a child watches a video and listens to gentle novel sounds to help determine potential causes of unusual sensory response patterns. At total of 85 children (35 with autism, 20 with developmental delay, and 30 with typical development), ages 4-12 years, is expected to complete this study.

Study 5
, Sensory Phenotypes, aims to determine various sensory subtypes in children with autism using a longitudinal online study with 1,000 families across the United States.  The study will also extend the original aims of the Sensory Experiences Project to determine how sensory features may change across time, and how these features may impact children's functional skills and social participation. This study is no longer enrolling participants. Click here to see the Poster Presentation from Study 5 at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) in 2011.

Study 6, Eye Tracking Study of Children's Visual Attention, examines children's ability to look at and shift attention while watching pictures and videos on the computer and explores the relationship between their attention and sensory responses.  We are enrolling 20 children with autism, 20 children with developmental delay and 20 children with typical development, ages 2-12 years.

New participants will receive a free summary of results from developmental and sensory assessments.
Time commitment varies for each participant and study. Financial incentives are based on time requirements ranging from $25 to $250.

For more information contact John Bulluck