Innovative research funded by ITR seed grants

We are excited to announce the recipients of the 2016 Collaborative Seed Grant Program. These grants — $20,000 or less with a one-year time frame — support small research projects that address pressing issues in children’s mental health in partnership with communities in Minnesota. The goal of the program is to kickstart innovative ideas that have a likely chance of becoming larger, sustained research projects with external funding to improve mental health outcomes among Minnesota’s children.

Our mission at the Institute for Translational Research in Children’s Mental Health (ITR) is to advance quality research, train practitioners in evidence-based practices, and disseminate information to help bridge the gap between research and practice in our field.

Trauma in Autism Spectrum Disorder
Community Principal Investigator: John D. Hoch, Postdoctoral Psychology Fellow, Fraser
ITR Principal Investigator: Adriana M. Youssef, Research Associate, ITR

This exciting research seeks to better understand trauma in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and address the challenges in identifying issues in current screening and assessment tools that identify trauma exposure in these children.

Excerpt from the abstract:

“The path from trauma exposure, to trauma effect, to trauma treatment is relatively well understood for typically developing children, but not for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Differences in core diagnostic features of ASD (e.g., language, cognitive functioning, social communication, and aberrant behaviors) confound self report and parent report of traumatic events. Paradoxically, trauma exposure rates for children with ASD are estimated to be lower than those for children with disabilities without ASD (estimates are 26-30% for ASD, 60% for developmental disabilities ASD. Current screening and assessment tools might be a poor fit for children with ASD, since many behaviors indicative of trauma effect such as social withdrawal, are part of the diagnostic criteria for ASD.

The project aims to document currently identified prevalence and risk factors for trauma exposure in ASD, leading to the research question: What is the prevalence of trauma reporting in a clinical population referred for ASD assessment under Unstructured Assessment (UA; clinician specific, unstructured interview) methods?

The project also aims to improve detection of trauma exposure and traumatic stress reactions in ASD. An autism focused screening and assessment package will be developed combining psychometrically valid tools (e.g. Trauma Symptom Checklist for Young Children consultation between Fraser’s ASD expert clinicians and trauma content experts from the Ambit network.”

Read the full abstract here.

Project ESCAPES (Evidence-based System for Children with Anxiety Problems in Educational Settings)
Community Principal Investigator: Valeria Silva, Superintendent, St. Paul Public Schools
ITR Principal Investigator: Faith G. Miller, PhD, LP, Assistant Professor, UMN School of Educational Psychology

This project aims to translate research breakthroughs in effective interventions for children’s mental health for use in school settings, frequently the most common providers of mental health support for youth.

Excerpt from the abstract:

“Because schools are commonly the most accessed providers of mental health support for youth setting for the identification and treatment of mental health problems. Translation of evidence-based mental health treatments to the school context is challenging, as most have been developed for delivery in a predictable sequence of multiple (e.g., 12–14) 50-min sessions in outpatient clinical settings. Thus, there is a critical need to address this problem through early identification and intervention efforts in school settings.

To this end, project ESCAPES (Evidence-based System for Children with Anxiety Problems in Educational Settings) will focus specifically on developing an assessment-to-intervention (ATI) system to guide the selection and delivery of appropriate interventions for upper elementary students with identified anxiety symptoms that interfere with their emotional and academic well-being.

Anxiety problems are among the most prevalent mental health concerns among children and adolescents. These efforts are particularly needed, given input from our partner regarding the lack uniformity, coordination, and effectiveness in implementing evidence-based practices (EBPs). Moreover, our partner reports that no EBPs for anxiety-related problems are currently used within their schools.”

Read the full abstract here.