Research Highlight: Autism Spectrum Disorders

The Faculty of Education is leading the field with research in autism spectrum disorders through the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research and Collaboration (CIRCA).

Pat Mirenda, CIRCA Director and Professor in the Faculty of Education

Pat Mirenda, CIRCA Director and Professor in the Faculty of Education

CIRCA offers a full program of research and knowledge transfer through diverse events and research projects that continue to mobilize researchers, trainees, professional practitioners, and people with autism spectrum disorder and their families.

Special Events

CIRCA continues its very successful Colloquia series this year, featuring lectures on such diverse topics as evidence-based interventions for stereotypic behavior (October 2, 2012), customized employment for adolescents and adults with autism (November 5, 2012), and supporting community-based swimming instruction for children with autism (December 3, 2012).

An all-day event on October 27, organized jointly by CIRCA, the BC Association for Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists (BCASLPA), and the BC Association for Applied Behaviour Analysis (BC-ABA) brought together professionals from these two organizations to talk about interdisciplinary collaboration. The workshop’s capacity of 280 participants was reached within two weeks of advertising, evidence that the topic is both timely and necessary! Some of the workshop’s key discussions are available through the CIRCA website.

In March 2013, CIRCA will again co-sponsor the annual conference of BC-ABA, and is planning additional professional collaborations.

Graduate Research

Graduate students affiliated with CIRCA have participated in a wide range of research studies over the past year. Two Master’s students, Sari van Delft and Katie Rinald, benefited from Mitacs Accelerate internships to support their research projects in the community. Sari investigated factors related to self-efficacy in parents of children with autism, while Katie evaluated the effectiveness of a rapid toilet training workshop that she delivered to parents of children with autism and other developmental disabilities. In addition, Kaori Ohashi was appointed to a traineeship through the national Pathways in ASD project, and completed a study comparing language development on young children with autism who were raised in monolingual and bilingual homes. Both Katie and Kaori presented their research at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Toronto last May, and both of their studies have been published in top-tier journals.

Current student projects include an examination of teachers’ attitudes about including students with autism and other developmental disabilities in general education classrooms, a study examining the effectiveness of support groups for fathers of children with autism, and an evaluation of the impact of iPad applications on social interactions between students with autism and their peers.

The Centre for Interdisciplinary Research and Collaboration in Autism (CIRCA) was established in 2009 in UBC’s Faculty of Education. CIRCA brings together faculty, students, provincial service providers, policy makers, and both basic and applied researchers, to address issues of common concern that are relevant to improving the lives of individuals with autism spectrum disorders and their families.

Learn more about CIRCA here.

Photo Credit: Martin Dee and UBC Public Affairs