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Early Connections Study
Funded by the National Institutes of Health

UW Autism Center

What is the purpose of this study?

Dr. Sara Webb, Dr. Annette Estes, and researchers at the University of Washington want to learn more about the benefits of early intervention with young siblings of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The information gained in this study may improve methods of early detection and intervention for infants who may be at risk for developing autism and lead to better outcome for these young children and their families.

Who can participate? What are the criteria?

Families with

  • a child who has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder AND,
  • a younger sibling 12 months old or younger*

*Both children must have the same biological parents

What does participation in the study mean?

  • Comprehensive infant evaluations at the University of Washington Autism Center at 6 months, 12 months, 18 months and 24 months of age.
  • Developmental screening for the older sibling.
  • Completion of questionnaires and phone interviews for parents.
  • If you live within one and a half hours of the University of Washington, you may also be eligible for randomization into an intervention group, or into an Assessment and Monitoring group (see Intervention Options section).

What is the time commitment for participation in the study?

You will be asked to complete several questionnaires, respond to a number of questions over the phone and participate in assessment visits at the UW Autism Center when your infant is 6, 12, 18 and 24 months old. At each time point, the questionnaires will take approximately two hours, each phone call lasts approximately two hours, and we will ask that you schedule four one-hour visits at the University of Washington.

What will my family get out of the study?

  • Families will receive developmental evaluations of their infant at 6, 12, 18, and 24 months along with a detailed clinical report.
  • All families will receive advice regarding appropriate intervention services.
  • Information regarding your children’s developmental profile that can be used in educational planning.
  • Advice and referral information regarding your children’s development and behavior.
  • Compensation for parking, up to $200 dollars, and small toys for your infant.

Intervention Options

  • If you live within one and a half hours of the University of Washington, you may be eligible for randomization into an intervention group, or into an Assessment and Monitoring group.
  • If you are eligible for randomization, you may choose to participate in the randomized portion of the study in addition to the activities described above. If you decide to do this, you will be randomly assigned to either an assessment and monitoring group or a University of Washington intervention group.
  • If your infant is randomly assigned to the UW intervention group, you will participate in nine to 10 hours of parent-delivered intervention when your infant is eight or 14 months old.

What are the risks to participating in this study and what safeguards are in place to minimize any risks?

There are no known psychological or physical risks associated with any of the procedures. One potential risk is that your infant or child may become bored or fussy during the session. All researchers are experienced in working with children with autism and young infants and every effort will be taken to keep your child engaged and minimize boredom or frustration. You or your child may indicate a desire to discontinue a task or withdraw from the study at any point during participation for any reason and your wish will be honored immediately with no consequence to you or your infant.

Who are the researchers participating in this study?

Ben Aaronson
Karen Burner, MA
Annette Estes, PhD
Jessica Greenson, PhD
Craig Harris
Emily Jones, PhD
Jean Kelly, PhD
Bryan King, MD
Rachel Lowy
Andrew Meltzoff, PhD
Mike Murias, PhD
Kaitlin Venema
Vanessa Rivera
Tanya St. John, PhD
Sara Webb, PhD

Whom should I contact to get involved?

To learn more about any of our studies, please contact our project scheduler at 1-800-994-9701.

University of Washington
Early Connections Study
Box 357920, Seattle, WA 98195

*Please remember we cannot guarantee the confidentiality of email.

Click to learn more about studies for families with typically developing children.

We are also looking for younger siblings (under 12 months of age) of children with autism to participate in our new study examining brain development. Please visit the link below for more information regarding this study and how to participate.