Elizabeth Crais, Ph.D.

Phone: (919)-966-9458
Fax: (919)-966-0100
Email: bcrais@med.unc.edu


  • Ph.D. University of Wisconsin 1987
  • M.S. Vanderbilt University 1974
  • B.S. University of Alabama 1972

Personal Statement

I joined the DSHS faculty in 1986 as a visiting assistant professor while finishing my dissertation. In 1987 I was fortunate enough to be selected to fill the position full-time. Currently, I am a professor, mother, wife, daughter, friend, volunteer in Girl Scout activities, and active in my children's school programs. I am an avid reader, who loves the beach and the mountains and so am very happy to live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina which is mid-way between the mountains and the beaches. I encourage you to visit (or better yet live) here in this Tar Heel side of heaven. Life is very good here.

Teaching Philosophy

Several years ago I encountered and was intrigued by the following quotation, "In teaching it is the method and not the content that is the message... the drawing out, not the pumping in" (A. Montague, 1990). I agree with Montague in that I believe strongly that the method is a primary element in teaching any content and that it is the "drawing out" that should be one of our primary goals. Thus, my own teaching attempts include as many "adult learning principles" as I can accommodate in my classes throughout the class activities, readings, assignments, and evaluation methods. Fortunately, there is a growing body of literature regarding how best to promote self-directed learning and the transfer of information. Our challenge as educators is to utilize those principles and methods in our classes, workshops, and clinical supervision. Returning to Montague's quotation regarding content, this is an area where we disagree. Although according to Montague, content may be secondary to method in teaching, I do not dismiss the importance of the content itself to the retention of what is learned and how it is applied. Within any academic area that also has a clinical component (e.g., my own area focused on the identification and assessment of and intervention with young children with communication disorders), the need is great to provide content and skills that are both relevant and applicable to working with "real children" and their families. Moreover, in valuing both content and method, a major part of our teaching mission becomes helping students and practitioners integrate new information with their existing knowledge base and challenging them to see the relevance and application of the material to "real life." In this way, as students and practitioners encounter new content, they will be prepared with the strategies to explore and master that content. As Pearl Buck once wrote "the secret of joy is contained in one word - excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it." I enjoy both my work and my life and I hope that there is some excellence in both.


Courses Taught:


  • SPHS 806 Communication Assessment and Intervention for Children Birth to Five
  • SPHS 864 Seminar in Language
  • EDUC 862 (co-teach) Teaching and Personnel Development
  • SPHS 802 Doctoral Seminar in Prelinguisitic and Early Linguistic Communication Behavior


Research Interests:


The kinds of research activities that I engage in are those that have direct application to providing services to young children with special needs and their families. Currently, I am working closely with Drs. Linda Watson, Grace Baranek, and Steve Reznick on a recently developed parent-report tool, the First Year Inventory (FYI), focused on identifying 12 month old children who are at risk for autism and other communicative disorders.  We have piloted the tool with over 1100 families and are working on following those children at 3 years of age to identify the sensitivity and specificity of the tool.  We have recently been funded to conduct a randomized controlled intervention study with young children identified as at high risk on the FYI to examine the effects of early intervention begun at 14 months. In addition, another project just funded will examine the effectiveness of a preschool intervention for young preschool children with autism.  The intervention is focused on facilitating joint attention and symbolic play skills in these young children within their preschool environments through working with their teachers and related service providers.  We have also been continuing our work in looking retrospectively at the gesture development of young children (9-12 and 15-18 months of age) who have been diagnosed with autism, have developmental disabilities, or who are typically developing. We are using videotapes collected of the children when they were in the first year of life and identifying the type and function of the gestures used by the children in communication with their parents.


Recent Publications:


Reznick, J. S., Baranek, G. T., Reavis, S., Watson, L. R. & Crais, E. R. (in press).  A parent report instrument for identifying one-year-olds at risk for an eventual diagnosis of autism:  The First Year Inventory. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. (62 manuscript pages).

Watson, L. R., Baranek, G. T., Crais, E. R., Reznick, J. S., Dykstra, J. & Perryman, T. (2007). The First Year Inventory: Retrospective parent responses to a questionnaire designed to identify one-year-olds at risk for autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37, 49-61.

Crais, E., Poston Roy, V., & Free, K.  (2006).  Parents’ and Professionals’ Perceptions of the Implementation of Family-Centered Practices in Child Assessments. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 15 (4), 365-377.

Crais, E., Watson, L., Baranek, G., & Reznick, S., (2006). Early identification of autism: How early can we go?  Seminars in Speech & Language, 27(3), 143-160.

Colgan, S., Lanter, E., McComish, C., Watson, L., Crais, E., Baranek, G.  (2006). Analysis of social interaction gestures in infants with autism.  Child Neuropsychology, 12(4):307-319.

Crais, E.  (2006). Gesture development from an interactionist perspective. In R. Paul (Ed.), Language Disorders from a Developmental Perspective: Essays Honoring Robin S. Chapman (141-162). Baltimore, MD: Paul Brookes

Baranek, G., Barnett, C., Adams, E., Wolcott, N., Watson, L., & Crais, E.  (2005). Object play in infants with autism: Methodological issues in retrospective video analysis.  American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 59(1), 20-30.

Crais, E., Douglas, D., & Campbell, C.  (2004). The intersection of gestures and intentionality.  Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 47(3), 678-694.

Crais, E., Boone, H., Harrison, M., Freund, P., Downing, K., & West, T.  (2004). Interdisciplinary Personnel Preparation: Graduates' Use of Targeted Practices. Infants and Young Children, 17(2), 82-92.

Crais, E. & Roberts, J.  (2004) Assessing communication skills. In M. McLean, M. Wolery, & D. Bailey (Eds)., Assessing Infants and Preschoolers with Special Needs (third edition) (345-411), Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill/Prentice Hall.

McLean, M. & Crais, E.  (2004).  Procedural considerations in assessing infants and toddlers with special needs.  In M. Mclean, D. Bailey, & M. Wolery (Eds.), Assessing Infants and Preschoolers with Special Needs (third edition), (45-70). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Able-Boone, H., Crais, E., & Downing, K.  (2003).  Preparation of early intervention practitioners for working with young children with low incidence disabilities.  Teacher Education, Special Education, 26 (1).

McWilliam, P., Winton, P., & Crais, E.  (2003). Estrategias Praticas para a Intervencao Precoce Centrada na Familia (Portugese translation of 1996 book Practical Strategies for Family Centered Early Intervention: Getting Down to Brass Tacks). Porto, Portugal: Porto Editora.

Crais, E. (2001). Identifying communication and related developmental disabilities in young children. In J. Roush, Identification of hearing loss and middle ear dysfunction (83-100). San Diego, CA: Singular Publishing.

Layton, T., Crais, E., & Watson, L. (Eds.). (2000). Handbook of early language impairment in children: Nature. Albany, NY: Delmar Publishers, Inc.

Watson, L., Crais, E., & Layton, T. (Eds.). (2000). Handbook of early language impairment in children: Assessment and treatment. Albany, NY: Delmar Publishers, Inc.

Crais, E.  (2000).  Ecologically valid communication assessment of birth to two year old children.  In Watson, L., Crais, E., & Layton, T. (Eds.),  Handbook of early language impairment in children: Assessment and treatment (1-38).  Albany, NY: Delmar Publishers, Inc.

Crais, E.  (1999).  Detecting communication difficulties in infants and toddlers with feeding difficulties.  In D.B. Kessler & P. Dawson (Eds.), Failure to Thrive in Infants and Children: A Transdisciplinary Approach to Nutritional Adequacy in Childhood (319-333).  Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Co.

Boone, H., & Crais, E.  (1999).  Strategies for achieving family-driven assessment and intervention planning  Young Exceptional Children, 3 (1), 2-12.

Crais, E. & Belardi, C. (1999).  Family participation in child assessment: Perceptions of families and professionals.  Infant-Toddler Intervention, 9(3), 209-238.