Current Research Projects

Reading Comprehension: The Universities of Mississippi, Alabama, and Nebraska are collaborating on this NIH-funded study of reading comprehension skills in individuals with intellectual disability. Often, children with intellectual disabilities do much better with word identification than with reading comprehension. This study looks at why, by examining the relation of language skills to reading comprehension. Understanding the reasons for difficulties in reading comprehension may lead to better ways to teach reading to children with intellectual disabilities. This study will be enrolling participants with intellectual disability, ages 10-15 years, as well as participants who are typically developing, ages 6-10 years.
Social Exclusion of Youth with Down syndrome: There is not much known about how typically developing youth reason and choose to include or exclude a peer with Down syndrome. This study is looking at the ways that a person's age, past experiences, and their use of moral reasoning impact how inclusive they are. This study is Jenna Reardanz's dissertation project and data collection will being early Fall 2020.
Signs of Cognitive Changes in Adolescents and Young Adults with Down Syndrome: This study is funded by the NIH and is in collaboration with The University of California, Davis. It examines cognitive change in individuals with intellectual disability (ID). Memory, language, and nonverbal skills have different patterns of change over the lifespan, and there is concern that in intellectual disability (and in particular Down syndrome), the usual age-related declines may begin at a younger age than in the general population. In some cases, early declines are signs of developing Alzheimer's Disease. In this study, the researchers will identify aspects of cognition that begin to decline early as well as aspect of cognition that are still improving. Understanding the changes that occur during the adolescent-to-early adult years could lead to future treatments that could slow the decline. This study will be recruiting individuals with ID ages 15-25 years. To view a informational video click here.
Numerical Skills: Researchers have begun to examine the most basic numerical skills in children with Down syndrome (DS). Non-symbolic numerical skills relate to judging quantities (e.g., more or less) without number symbols. Symbolic numerical skills relate to understanding number symbols and the quantities they stand for. Some studies suggest that children with DS are better with non-symbolic numerical skills than with symbolic number skills. For her master's thesis at UA, Kristina Baggett will examine both types of numerical skills by comparing participants with DS and participants who are typically developing at the same vocabulary level. Identifying potential differences between these groups could lead to ways of improving these skills. This study is being converted to remote format to begin in late Fall 2020. It will be recruiting children with DS ages 9-16 years as well as typically developing children ages 3-6 years.
Spatial Malleability: This NIH-funded study is in collaboration with Montclair State University in New Jersey. Previous research has shown that individuals with Down syndrome (DS) often struggle with finding their way to a destination. There may be many reasons for this, but this study looks at underlying spatial abilities as a reason. The purpose of the study is to find out if underlying spatial abilities can be improved through experience with games, puzzles, and Legos. The study will be recruiting individuals with DS, ages 10-25 years and typically developing children ages 4-9 years.

If you are the parent of or an individual with ID and are interested in participating in one of these studies, email or, or call (205)348-4253!