Elizabeth Crais, PhD

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


  • PhD, University of Wisconsin 1987
  • MS, Vanderbilt University 1974
  • BS, 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, sister, friend, volunteer in Boy Scout activities, the student Autism Speaks U chapter at UNC-CH, and active in my neighborhood association. 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

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 or applied component (e.g., my own area focuses on the identification and assessment of and intervention with young children with communication disorders, particularly autism), 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 Currently Taught:

  • SPHS 864 Seminar in Language (MS level)
  • EDUC 862 (co-teach) Teaching and Personnel Development (Doctoral level)
  • SPHS 802 Doctoral Seminar in Prelinguisitic and Early Linguistic Communication Behavior (Doctoral level)

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, Steve Reznick, and Lauren Turner-Brown on a 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 have followed those children at 3 years of age to identify the sensitivity and specificity of the tool (Turner-Brown et al., 2012). We are conducting a randomized control trial 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 led by Dr. Brian Boyd is examining the effectiveness of a preschool intervention developed by our team 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 (Dykstra et al. 2012). We have also continued 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 (Watson et al. 2012). We have used videotapes collected of the children when they were in the first year of life and identified the type and function of the gestures used by the children in communication with their parents. Finally we have also been involved in conducting focus groups and a survey in North Carolina of primary care physicians’ perceptions of screening for autism at 12 months of age.

Training Grants

I am also the Co-PI on two MS and two doctoral level grants funded by the Department of Education to help prepare students in specialty areas. The master’s grants focus on autism (grant ending May, 2013) and multicultural services (grant ending May, 2016) and both have been interdisciplinary (Speech-language pathology & Occupational Science/Therapy). The doctoral grants have focused on autism and translational research and both have been interdisciplinary (Speech-language pathology, Occupational Science/Therapy, & Early Childhood Special Education, and for the autism grant, including Developmental Psychology).

Recent Publications (current or former students indicated with *):

Turner-Brown, L. M., Baranek, G. T. Reznick, J. S., Watson, L. R. & Crais, E. R. (published online 10 July 2012). The First Year Inventory: A longitudinal follow-up of 12-month-olds to 3 years of age. Autism: The International Journal of Research & Practice. DOI: 10.1177/1362361312439633.

Watson, L.R., Crais, E.R., Baranek, G.T., *Dykstra, K. & *Wilson, K. (2012). Communicative gesture use in infants with and without autism: A retrospective home video study. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, published 30 July 2012, 10.1044/1058-0360(2012/11-0145.

*Wilson, K., *Dykstra, J., Watson, L., Boyd, B., & Crais, E. (in press). Coaching in Early Education Classrooms Serving Children with Autism: A Pilot Study. Early Childhood Education Journal.

*Dykstra, J, Boyd, BA, Watson, LR, Crais, ER, Baranek, GT (2012). The impact of the Advancing Social-Communication and Play (ASAP) intervention on preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder. Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practices, Volume 16 (1), 27-44.

Crais, E. (2011). Testing and Beyond: Strategies and Tools for Evaluation and Assessment of Infants and Toddlers. Language, Speech, Hearing in Schools, 42, 341-346.

*Flippin, M., & Crais, E. (2011). The Need for Effective Father Involvement in Early Autism Intervention: A Systematic Review and Recommendations. Journal of Early Intervention, 33 (1), 24-50.

*Abraham, L.M., Crais, E.R., Vernon-Feagans, L. (in press). Predictors of Maternal Language Use in Families from Low Income and Rural Environments during Book Sharing Interactions. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology.

Crais,E. (2010). The Bayley-III language scale. In L.G. Weiss, T. Oakland, G. P. Ayland (Eds.), Bayley-III Clinical Use and Interpretation (47-75). New York, NY: Elsevier.

*Hollingsworth, H. L., Boone, H. A., & Crais, E. R. (2009). Individualized inclusion plans at work in early childhood classrooms. Young Exceptional Children, 13(1), 19-35.

Crais, E., Watson, L., & Baranek, G. (2009) Use of Gesture Development in Profiling Children's Prelinguistic Communication Skills. AJSLP, 18, 95-108.

Crais, E. (2008). Working with Families of Young Children with Communication and Language Impairments: Identification and Assessment. In N. Watts Pappas & S. McLeod’s (Eds.) Working with Families in Pediatric Speech-Language Pathology (pp. 111-130). San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing.

Reznick, J. S., Baranek, G. T., *Reavis, S., Watson, L. R. & Crais, E. R. (2007). 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, 37, 1691-1710.

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. (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.

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.

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.