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Center on Human Development and Disability

CHDD at the University of Washington

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News from the Center on Human Development and Disability at the University of Washington Health Sciences Center

Current Issue

2021 Issue#3 - For Autism: Asking Why a Gene Mutation’s Symptoms May Vary by Catherine Arnold
Through the use of electronic health record mining and family studies, Rachel Earl is investigating variability in autism spectrum disorder.

2021 Issues

2021 Issue#2 - Using Big Data to Treat Epileptic Seizures by Catherine Arnold
Nicholas Poolos is leveraging multiple sources of big data as well as labwork into the molecular causes of epilepsy to bring relief to those experiencing severe epilepsy that doesn’t respond to current medications.

2021 Issue#1 - Building a Down Syndrome Atlas by Catherine Arnold
By examining early Down syndrome brain development, researchers Kimberly Aldinger, Ian Glass, and Daniel Doherty hope to help individuals live fuller lives.

2020 Issues

2020 Issue#3 - New Research Affiliates Join CHDD by Michael Guralnick
CHDD Research Affiliates are University of Washington faculty members with special interest and expertise in the field of neurodevelopmental disorders. This issue introduces twelve new Research Affiliates who have joined the CHDD and provides details of their widely diverse areas of expertise.

2020 Issue#2 - Understanding How Low Levels of Domoic Acid Affect Brain Development by Catherine Arnold
Thomas Burbacher’s research on chemical exposures (such as domoic acid) in the developing brain influences policy creation.

2020 Issue#1 - Sequencing Genes in a Complex Disorder: Decoding The Genetics of Epilepsy by Stacey Aggarwal
Heather Mefford directs a research program to discover how genetic changes influence the etiology of epilepsy. Mefford believes that better understanding of the molecular mechanisms of epilepsy will help move research towards new and better treatment strategies.

2019 Issues

2019 Issue#6 - Replacing Dystrophin to Treat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: A Promising Viral Vector Approach by Stacey Aggarwal
Jeffrey Chamberlain hopes that his research will improve the outlook of those with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The Chamberlain lab has developed an engineered virus to introduce replacement dystrophin to the muscles of the body.

2019 Issue#5 - Preventing Epileptogenesis with Investigational New Treatments by Stacey Aggarwal
H. Steve White is actively engaged in the discovery and development of novel therapeutics for the treatment of epilepsy. White leads a broad-based research program aimed at gaining a further understanding of the factors that contribute to the expression and prevention of seizure activity.

2019 Issue#4 - Investigating Basic Mechanisms in Early Brain Development to Discover New Treatment Avenues by Stacey Aggarwal
Kathleen Millen is interested in the genetic basis of early brain development, with particular focus on the developing cerebellum.

2019 Issue#3 - Understanding the Heterogeneity in Children with ADHD Through Neurophysiologically Defined Subtypes by Stacey Aggarwal
Anne Arnett’s research focuses on identifying subtypes of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with the ultimate goal of achieving more personalized intervention approaches.

2019 Issue#2 - Forging a Path to Early Autism Screening and Intervention for Underserved Children by Stacey Aggarwal
Wendy Stone is improving outcomes for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and family quality of life through early intervention, with a focus on underserved communities.

2019 Issue#1 - Exploring How Aberrant Signaling Pathways Contribute to Neurodevelopmental Disorders by Stacey Aggarwal
Smita Yadav is interested in understanding the molecular and signaling pathways important for brain development, and elucidating how aberrations in these pathways lead to neurodevelopmental disorders including autism and intellectual disability.

2018 Issues

2018 Issue#4 - Searching for Genetic Clues Underlying Developmental Brain Abnormalities by Ellen Kuwana
Ghayda Mirzaa is investigating the genetic causes for developmental brain disorders, especially megalencephaly, microcephaly and brain malformations. Greater understanding of these disorders gained through her work on the protein products and pathways involved in them provides for improved diagnoses and treatments, and may even lead to cures.

2018 Issue#3 - New Research Affiliates Join CHDD by Michael Guralnick 
CHDD Research Affiliates are University of Washington faculty members with special interest and expertise in the field of neurodevelopmental disorders. This issue introduces three new Research Affiliates who have joined the CHDD and provides details of their widely diverse areas of expertise.

2018 Issue#2 - Customizing an App to Foster Communication Between Researchers and Families of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder by Ellen Kuwana
Raphael Bernier is piloting the use of an app called GroopIt for families who have a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with a single gene variant called ADNP. By improving communication with families, he and his team hope to learn what research priorities these families have and if the pace of research can be advanced through use of the app.

2018 Issue#1 - Helping Parents Learn to Nurture Their Children Improves Child Welfare Outcomes by Christine Waresak 
Monica Oxford is studying the effectiveness of the Promoting First Relationships® program in improving child welfare outcomes for vulnerable families. Families who participated in Promoting First Relationships® experienced greatly reduced removal from home compared to families who participated in the control program. These benefits were still being felt one year after the end of the program.

2017 Issues

2017 Issue#6 - In the Wake of Zika: Injury to the Fetal Brain and a Path to New Therapies by Christine Waresak 
Kristina Adams Waldorf led the first study to show that the Zika virus caused fetal brain injury in a nonhuman primate. Establishing causality in an animal model will be a crucial piece of the puzzle to preventing infant brain damage.

2017 Issue#5 - Discovering How Reading Intervention Changes the Brains of Children With Dyslexia by Christine Waresak 
Jason D. Yeatman is working with children with dyslexia to better to understand the underlying mechanisms of the disorder in the children’s brains. By studying how the reading circuitry in the brains of children with dyslexia develops in response to intensive reading instruction, he hopes to eventually develop personalized programs that target an individual’s unique difficulty with reading.

2017 Issue#4 - Apex Summer Camp – A Camp for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Related Disorders by Kate Forster 
At Apex Summer Camp, director Ben Aaronson, Ph.D. and his counselors help kids who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other related disorders build social skills and self-esteem through structured learning and recreational activities.

2017 Issue#3 - Image Analysis Stretches the Boundaries of Brain Imaging by Kate Forster 
Thomas Grabowski leads a team that assists investigators to navigate the brain imaging space – from the way data are acquired and prepared for analysis to the way data are interpreted.

2017 Issue#2 - New Research Affiliates Join CHDD by Michael Guralnick 
CHDD Research Affiliates are University of Washington faculty members with special interest and expertise in the field of neurodevelopmental disorders. This issue introduces six new Research Affiliates who have joined the CHDD and provides details of their widely diverse areas of expertise.

2017 Issue#1 - Understanding How Childhood Trauma Impacts Development and Mental Health by Kate Forster
Katie McLaughlin hopes that by studying the neurodevelopmental processes that are impacted by early experiences of trauma, she can find a neurobiological explanation for why children are at risk for developmental problems and mental illness later in life. By using MRI scanning, she wants to identify the neurodevelopmental processes that underlie early experiences of trauma.

2016 Issues

2016 Issue#10 - Broadening Our Understanding of ASD in Girls by Kate Forster
Sara Webb is conducting research on girls with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in order to determine whether current screening and diagnostic tools apply to how ASD presents in girls.

2016 Issue#9 - The Human Electrophysiology Component of the CHDD Brain Imaging Core by Kate Forster
Director Neva Corrigan and research scientist Mark Pettet help and collaborate with CHDD research affiliates who want to use the Human Elecrophysiology Component in their investigations related to intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

2016 Issue#8 - Showing How Project DATA Helps Children with ASD Succeed by Kate Forster
Ilene Schwartz, director of the Haring Center, is working toward developing an evidence base for Project DATA, a school-based model of intervention for children with ASD.

2016 Issue#7- Using a Computer Model to Improve How Cochlear Implants Perform by Kate Forster
Jay Rubinstein is working on a computer model that simulates how a person with hearing loss hears in an effort to predict how cochlear implants will perform before they are surgically implanted. The findings will inform a better cochlear implant design.

2016 Issue#6 - UW LEND – Training the Next Generation of Leaders in ASD by Kate Forster
The CHDD LEND training program provides a hands-on, interdisciplinary curriculum that prepares professionals for leadership roles in the field of autism spectrum disorder and related developmental disabilities. One third of LEND graduates go on to work primarily in the field of autism.

2016 Issue#5 - A Genetic Approach to Diagnosing and Treating Epilepsy by Kate Forster
Heather Mefford is working to understand the genetic causes of childhood epileptic encephalopathies (CEE). Her work will help inform early diagnostic approaches and new treatment options for these most severe forms of epilepsy. Her long-term goals are to find the genetic mutations for CEE and to find the researchers who’ve developed functional studies to test known and new drugs to see if they work on those mutations.

2016 Issue#4 - Database Helps Diagnose and Prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Worldwide by Kate Forster
Susan Astley, Ph.D., created and maintains the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Diagnostic and Prevention Network database, one of the world's largest and most comprehensive databases on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). She is using the data visualization platform, Tableau, to make this dataset available worldwide.

2016 Issue#3 - Understanding Language Learning in the Autistic Brain by Kate Forster
Patricia Kuhl wants to uncover the brain mechanisms involved in young children with ASD, especially as it relates to language learning. By studying the activity in the brain of young children both with ASD and those who are typically developing, Kuhl hopes to characterize the underlying mechanisms involved in language learning and develop a deeper understanding of how the brain works in young children with ASD.

2016 Issue#2 - New Research Affiliates Join CHDD by Michael Guralnick
CHDD Research Affiliates are University of Washington faculty members with special interest and expertise in the field of neurodevelopmental disorders. This issue introduces six new Research Affiliates who have joined the CHDD and provides details of their widely diverse areas of expertise.

2016 Issue#1 - Understanding the Mechanisms Underlying Joubert Syndrome by Kate Forster
Dan Doherty is working to find new genetic causes of Joubert syndrome, a rare disorder that causes intellectual and developmental disabilities. It is one of a class of disorders that affect the cilia, and through his research, Doherty hopes to shed light on the other ciliopathies. Taken together, ciliopathies affect about one in 1,000 individuals.

2015 Issues

2015 Issue#11 - Making an ImPACT on Siblings of Children with ASD by Kate Forster
Wendy Stone is studying the effects of ImPACT, a behavioral intervention program, on younger siblings of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These children are greater risk for developing ASD as well as delays in language and cognitive development.

2015 Issue#10 - Finding the Underlying Mechanisms of and Developing Treatment for Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome by Kate Forster
Libin Xu studies the role of oxidized sterols (oxysterols) in the pathophysiology of Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLOS), a cholesterol biosynthesis disorder that affects central nervous system development. SLOS manifests in a broad spectrum of phenotypes including multiple congential malformations, neurological defects, intellectual disability, and behavior problems. Over 70% of SLOS children display autism spectrum disorder. Xu's research contributes to a broader understanding of intellectual and developmental disabilities, particularly disorders of metabolism that affect brain function and development.

2015 Issue#9 - Promoting First Relationships to Help with Postnatal Maternal Depression and Newborn Development by Kate Forster
Susan Spieker is working with four community health centers in King County and the nonprofit, Wellspring Family Services, to deliver the intervention, Promoting First Relationships, to newly-delivered mothers with depression within the Hispanic community.

2015 Issue#8 - The Small Animal Imaging Component of the CHDD Brain Imaging Core by Kate Forster
The CHDD Small Animal Imaging lab is one of several components of the larger Brain Imaging Core (BIC), part of CHDD’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC). It serves as a multidisciplinary resource for researchers who are affiliated with the IDDRC and want to use animal brain imaging as a tool for their work in understanding and developing treatments for intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

2015 Issue#7 - Interdisciplinary Professional Training in Developmental Disabilities: An Update by Kate Forster
Highlights recent updates to the LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities) program at CHDD, under the direction of Beth Ellen Davis, MD, MPH. With Dr. Davis at the helm, LEND at the CHDD has increased the number of participants by over 50 percent and has expanded its geographical reach. In addition, a new outreach program increases its involvement in the community. Several interdisciplinary programs and personnel are featured.

2015 Issue#6 - Defining an Autism Subtype through Genetics by Kate Forster
Raphael Bernier and Evan Eichler collaborated with researchers from 13 institutions worldwide to verify that a mutation in a specific gene called CHD8 causes a specific subtype of autism spectrum disorder.

2015 Issue#5 - Promoting First Relationships in Native American Communities by Kate Forster
Cathryn Booth-LaForce is collaborating with UW Partnerships for Native Health to bring Promoting First Relationships—a strengths-based program designed to promote healthy caregiver-child relationships in at-risk populations, to Native American communities.

2015 Issue#4 - Understanding the Connection Between Intellectual Disability and Juvenile Justice by Kate Forster
Sharan Brown wants to identify youth with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities within the juvenile justice system to find out whether they are receiving the services and support they need and are required by law.

2015 Issue#3 - New Research Affiliates Join CHDD by Michael Guralnick
CHDD Research Affiliates are University of Washington faculty members with special interest and expertise in the field of neurodevelopmental disorders. This issue introduces six new Research Affiliates who have joined the CHDD since our recent award from the NICHD.

2015 Issue#2 - Working on a Cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy by Kate Forster
Jeffrey Chamberlain is developing and refining a gene therapy approach to treat and cure Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the most common form of the disease. Chamberlain’s specific focus is using vectors derived from adeno-associated viruses (AAV) as a delivery shuttle for a new synthetic gene.

2015 Issue#1 - Language Development in Children with Fragile X Syndrome and ASD by Kate Forster
Sara Kover is setting up a lab where she plans to study how children with fragile X syndrome (FXS) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) learn language. With the data she gathers, she hopes to lay the groundwork for successful intervention when it comes to language learning for children with disabilities.

2014 & 2013 Issues

2014 Issue#1 - A Borrowing Library of Technology by Sally James
Washington Assistive Technology Act Program or WATAP assists people of all ages with disabilities and rehabilitation professionals receive hands-on demonstrations and short-term loans of assistive technology (AT) devices. WATAP helps them make informed decisions about using AT devices and related services as well.

2013 Issue#5 - Brain Imaging and Autism by Sally James
Steven Dager and collaborator Annette Estes have found a very distinct longitudinal pattern of brain chemical alterations in children with autism between 3 and 10 years of age that differ from patterns in the brains of typically developing children and in children with developmental delays by using sophisticated magnetic resonance imaging techniques.

2013 Issue#4 - Testing Adults for Genetic Causes of Autism by Sally James
Fuki Hisama and Gary Stobbe have expanded autism genomics information to help families whose children are now adults. Rapid changes in current genetic knowledge mean that those individuals diagnosed just a few years ago may not know as much about possible genetic underpinnings as those diagnosed today.

2013 Issue#3 - A Neuroprotective Agent for Extremely Preterm Infants by Sally James
Sandra Juul has spent 18 years researching a way to help minimize the health and developmental effects for babies who are born too early or sometimes suffer low oxygen before, during, or after birth. She hopes to improve the lives of the babies and their families by utilitzing a hormone produced in the kidneys and widely available in a synthetic form–erythropoietin (also shortened to Epo).

2013 Issue#2 - Intractable Epilepsy and Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities by Sally James
Nicholas Poolos is a neurologist specializing in epilepsy and a CHDD Research Affiliate. He and his colleagues at the UW Regional Epilepsy Center are working to help about one-third of patients who do not respond to current treatments to reliably prevent seizures and associated brain damage. These "refractory" epilepsy patients may benefit from the combination lamotrigine/valproate treatment.

2013 Issue#1 - Mouse Model of Epileptic Syndrome Yields Discoveries That May Illuminate Autism Spectrum Disorders by Sally James
William Catterall leads a team of researchers studying mice with the Dravet syndrome mutation.Their research raises hope that the prescription medications in the same family as clonazepam may one day be of value for children with Dravet Syndrome and possibly disorders along the autism spectrum.

2012 Issues

2012 Issue#9 - New Study Puts Parents at Center of Helping Toddlers with Autism by Sally James
Highlights CHDD Research Affiliate Annette Estes' new study called Parents and Toddler at Home, or PATH. This study is designed to refine and enhance training parents to help their young children with autism using an evidence-based approach called the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM). ESDM is effective when provided by trained practitioners at 20 hours a week, the potential benefits of parent-delivered intervention is the goal.

2012 Issue#8 - New Center on Written and Oral Language to Help Children with Specific Learning Disabilities by Joel Schwarz
Virginia Berninger is the principal investigator of a five-year grant that created a new Center for Defining and Treating Specific Learning Disabilities in Written Language. The center aims to define specific learning disabilities in writing and/or reading that emerge during the preschool and elementary school years.

2012 Issue#7 - Picture This: Researchers Try to Build an Atlas of How Human Brain Develops In Utero by Joel Schwarz
Colin Studholme is leading a group of researchers that is trying to create a three-dimensional and four-dimensional map of how the human brain develops before birth.They hope to use this knowledge to better detect, understand and perhaps treat developmental and related disabilities at the very earliest stages of growth.

2012 Issue#6 - Hunting for the Complicated Mechanisms Behind Multiple Sclerosis by Joel Schwarz
Highlights Joan Goverman is working to discover the clinical spectrum and various subsets of pathways leading to Multiple Sclerosis. She and her colleagues have discovered that there are critical differences in how inflammation is regulated in different regions of the central nervous system. Their hypothesis is that a small number of people may carry genes that may make them susceptible to developing MS from a common virus that up to 90 percent of people have been exposed to.

2012 Issue#5 - A Fruit 'Flyful' Line of Research Looks at Genetic Causes of Intellectual Disabilities by Joel Schwarz
Jay Parrish focuses much of this work on the morphology, or the form and structure, of dendrites, the structures that extend from a neuron cell body in distinctive branch-like patterns. He believes the fruit fly may help unlock the genetic causes of a number of diseases that contribute to human intellectual and developmental disabilities including autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and Down, Rett, Fragile-X and Angelman syndromes.

2012 Issue#4 - Hair Cell Regeneration Could Change Way World Sounds and Feels for Millions by Joel Schwarz
Jennifer Stone studies cellular and molecular mechanisms of hair cell production that may someday improve hearing and balance in humans with hearing loss. Dr. Stone and a number of CHDD research affiliates working in the University of Washington's Bloedel Center are working on several aspects of audiology research.

2012 Issue#3 - Genetics Can Provide Answers for Parents on the 'Diagnostic Odyssey' by Joel Schwarz
Highlights Fuki Hisama's use of recent advances in medical genetics to help clinicians in some cases to give parents solid answers on their "diagnostic odyssey"--looking for reasons why their child has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Dr. Hisama is the medical director of the University of Washington's Genetics Medicine Clinic based at the CHDD and has established an Autism Genetics Clinic.

2012 Issue#2 - Using the Canary of the Mind to Find Genes Causing Brain Malformations by Joel Schwarz
Kathleen Millen PhD, and colleague William Dobyns, MD, use genome technology to find genes that may be damaged. Millen's specific focus is congenital malformations of the cerebellum –structural birth defects that are relatively common and visible on brain imaging studies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

2012 Issue#1 - LENDing a Helping Hand to Children with Neurodevelopmental Disabilities by Joel Schwarz
Highlights the LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities) at CHDD and the new director, Beth Ellen Davis, MD, MPH. With Dr. Davis at the helm, LEND at the CHDD is planning to increase the number of participants by 50 percent in the next five years as well as expand the program's geographical reach. Several interdisciplinary programs and personnel are featured.

2011 Issues

2011 Issue#6 - Preventing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders by Joel Schwarz
Highlights the Parent-Child Assistance Program (PCAP) directed by CHDD Research Affiliate Therese Grant. PCAP is designed to reduce the incidence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), a range of lifelong neurodevelopmental disorders that includes fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), a disorder caused by heavy prenatal exposure to alcohol. Today it is serving clients in 10 locations throughout Washington state, two similar PCAP programs in California, one in Michigan and more than 40 throughout Canada.

2011 Issue#5 - Epo May Provide Breath of Life to Newborns Experiencing Severe Oxygen Deprivation by Joel Schwarz
CHDD Research Affiliate Sandra Juul is searching for a treatment for perinatal asphyxia (or severe oxygen deprivation). Erythropoietin (Epo), a hormone produced in the kidneys that controls and stimulates the production of oxygen-transporting red blood cells, may mitigate and even reverse some of the devastating neonatal brain injuries caused by asphyxia as well as by stroke and intracerebral hemorrhage.

2011 Issue#4 - Academic Performance and Cognitive Abilities in Children with ASD by Joel Schwarz
CHDD Research Affiliate Annette Estes investigated the IQ scores of high functioning nine-year-old children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and how they scored on standardized tests that measured reading, spelling, and mathematics. The research has implications for interventions to assist children with ASD as well as a number of future directions for researchers to explore.

2011 Issue#3 - Enzyme Inhibitors May Block Injury from Stroke, Promote Recovery by Joel Schwarz
Highlights CHDD Research Affiliate Richard Morrison's investigation of the potential of Histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors to block cell death in the nervous system caused by stroke. Stroke is one of the top 10 causes of death in the first year of life. HDAC may also help by assisting white matter cells recover potentially reducing permanent neurological deficits in children who survive a stroke.

2011 Issue#2 - Unraveling the Puzzle of Epilepsy by Joel Schwarz
Edward J. Novotny, M.D., a CHDD Research Affiliate, is using new imaging techniques that enable the study of epilepsy–a syndrome encompassing more than 40 disorders characterized by episodic abnormal brain activity. Novotny, also the head of the epilepsy program at Seattle Children's Hospital, expects even greater progress in the study of the brain at the molecular level in coming years.

2011 Issue#1 - Improving Teaching in Head Start by Joel Schwarz
A new Center on Quality Teaching and Learning is designed to improve teaching practices in Head Start programs. Co-director Susan Sandall, Ph.D., focuses on developing effective teaching practices for young children with disabilities and how to prepare teachers and other Head Start personnel to work them.

Outlook Archive (2005-2010)

For more information, contact:

University of Washington • Center on Human Development and Disability Box 357920 • Seattle WA 98195-7920 USA • 206-543-7701 •