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Recently Completed Projects

Study on Anxiety and Stress Among Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Mindfulness-Based therapy for Adults with ASD

We were seeking young adults (ages 18-25) with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (such as Asperger’s) to participate in a pilot study of a mindfulness-based intervention for adults with ASD.

Briefly, eligible participants completed 6 weekly mindfulness-based therapy sessions targeting emotional difficulties.  In addition, participants were compensated for assessment sessions which they attended before the 6 weekly sessions and after they were completed.

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Study on Higher Education Interventions in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Do you have a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) between the ages of 18 and 25? Is your child currently enrolled in a post-secondary institution (i.e. university, community college, or technical/vocational school)? If so, we want to hear from you!

The Virginia Tech Psychosocial Interventions Lab is looking for parents of young adults with ASD to participate in a brief interview about your child’s challenges and strengths in an educational context. Results of the study will inform the development of consumer-driven and evidence-based transition programming for college students with ASD.  The study will achieve this by taking a caregiver-centered research approach to higher education interventions.

If you are interested in participating, please contact Rebecca Elias at:  relias@vt.edu or call 540-231-2024 for more information.

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iGeneration: Thinking About Ourselves

We are enrolling adults (age 18 and up) with an Autism Spectrum Disorder to participate in a research project about self-care and self-harm behaviors. The study involves completing an anonymous online survey, which should take approximately 45 minutes. All participants will receive a $10 gift card for completing the survey. This project, supervised by Susan White, Ph.D., has been approved for data collection by Virginia Tech's institutional review board.

Please e-mail bmaddox7@vt.edu or call 540-231-6744 if you would like to access the online survey or learn more about the study.

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Situation Interpretation in Mothers and Children

This study was recently conducted exploring how we tend to anticipate threat in situations that later turn out to be harmless. This project examined how this tendency might change in mothers and children after mothers have completed a computer training task. It also looked at how mothers and children interact before children give a speech, and how children ultimately do on the speech. Mothers whose children were between the ages of 7 and 12 were recruited, and we were primarily interested in mothers who, at times, experience worries and/or fears themselves. The purpose of this study was to help us better understand how we can prevent anxiety in children.

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Child Phobia Project

Treatment for phobias in children was based on cognitive-behavioral therapy principles to help parents and their child build skills through education, modeling, and gradual exposure to the phobic object or situation. Common phobias treated included, but were not limited to, fears of dogs, snakes, storms, heights, costumed characters, and the dark. Qualifying families in the study were assessed prior to treatment, throughout treatment, and following treatment at 1-month, 6-months, and 1-year intervals.

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Treatment of Oppositional Behaviors in Youth

This project examined two different psychological treatments for children ages 8 to 14 with symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder. The first type of treatment was Collaborative Problem Solving - a treatment based on work recently completed by Dr. Ross Greene at Harvard University. This treatment taught parents how to help their child identify and regulate his/her emotions and to solve behavior problems together. The second treatment was Parent Management Training and taught parents how to respond consistently and appropriately to their child's positive and negative behaviors. Children participating in the study were assessed prior to treatment, throughout treatment, immediately following treatment, and 1 year thereafter.

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Treating Worry and Arguing Children

This project was designed for children aged 10-14 who express worry and are difficult to manage. The families involved had the opportunity to participate in an experimental treatment lasting approximately 12 weeks. The treatment involved an emotion focused cognitive behavioral therapy, focused on helping the child identify and regulate their emotions. In addition, the family learned to identify patterns of unsolved problems which lead to the child's negative behaviors, and how to work together to solve these problems.

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Treatment of Nighttime Fears in Children

This project aimed to treat fears of the dark in children between the ages of 5 and 7 using our One-Session treatment (OST) and another form of treatment called bibliotherapy. With bibliotherapy, we provided treatment through the use of a fun, age appropriate book. The treatments were based on cognitive-behavioral therapy principles and helps parents and their children build skills through education, play activities, and graduated exposure to the dark.

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The Intensive Pediatric OCD Program

The Intensive Treatment Program for Pediatric Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder was designed to assist children, ages 7-14 years of age, in overcoming their OCD symptoms. The program provided an intensive form of cognitive behavior therapy of children with a primary diagnosis of OCD. This intervention used Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy for OCD, which was condensed into a 5-day program. The program also involved parents in order to assist them in helping their child with their OCD symptoms after completing the program.

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Longitudinal Prediction of School Dropout

The Montgomery County Dropout Prevention Project (MCDPP) through a joint effort by the Office of Student Services, MCPS, and the Child Study Center, Virginia Tech, under the auspices of Ms. Judy Rutherford and Dr. Thomas Ollendick. The initial aim of the MCDPP was to identify risk factors associated with school dropout - the ultimate goal was to recommend intervention programs to encourage school completion in our community. To accomplish these goals, several educational, psychological, and sociological instruments were administered. This comprehensive approach has produced a wealth of information collected through self- and peer-report data, school reports, and, most recently, the generation of dropout profiles from students. Specifically, the MCDPP gathered data on academic and school related performance, social status and interpersonal behavior, as well as psychological measures of anxiety, depression, aggression, and cognitive style. All students enrolled in the sixth grade were assessed during that year as well as at two-year intervals thereafter (i.e., in eighth, tenth, and twelfth grade). The assessments administered over the course of the study were designed to measure a variety of areas of student functioning.

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Treatment of Conduct Problems and Depression in Youth

In a recently completed project, middle school students who had symptoms of depression and conduct problems were treated. Symptoms of these disorders included irritability, argumentativeness, oppositionality, sadness, loneliness, and behavior problems. Youth and their primary caretakers received 11 sessions of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) - a therapy that is directive and action-oriented and teaches both the adolescent and his/her parents new skills to manage and cope better with depression and conduct problems.

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Childhood Outcomes Study

This was a follow-up study of social and emotional development in a normative sample of 9-year-old children. These children have been followed since 8 months of age with regard to temperament, cerebral activation patterns, and regulation of physiological arousal during challenging tasks. Originally assessed in Dr. Martha Ann Bell's Developmental Laboratory, we tracked the development of social anxiety problems in these youngsters.

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Social Anxiety Among Socially Anxious Children in Iceland

A study was recently conducted among Icelandic schoolchildren to examine the relationship between social anxiety and beliefs about social skills, assertion, self-efficacy, and expected outcomes of familiar and unfamiliar social situations. Data were collected from parents, teachers, and children (age 10-14). Results indicated that children who had higher social anxiety had just as much self-confidence in their ability to assert themselves in situations with friends as children who were less anxious. However, they expected worse outcomes and had lower self-efficacy when interacting either with friends or strangers compared to low-anxious children. Although children who had higher social anxiety had doubts about their social skills, parents and teachers rated them as being just as skilled as non-anxious children. These issues are currently being explored in youth in America.

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Internal & External Attentional Biases in Social Anxiety: The Effect of Effortful Control

A recently completed study was conducted among Virginia Tech undergraduate student volunteers to explore the attentional processes involved in social anxiety. Data were collected online and in the lab, using a modified dot-probe experimental paradigm. Results indicated equivocal evidence for a self-focused attentional bias as well as an attentional threat bias among individuals high in social anxiety. These results were not moderated by effortful control of attention.

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Family Expressivity and Social Anxiety in Children: The Potential Mediating and Moderating Roles of Emotion Regulation

This is a study that was recently conducted examining the role of children's emotion regulation in relation to their family's emotional expressiveness and social anxiety in a sample of clinic-referred children. Effects of mediation or moderation were not observed. However, results indicated that family expressiveness was marginally related to social anxiety.

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Treatment of Social Anxiety Disorders in Adolescents

We are no longer recruiting adolescents and families for this NIMH-sponsored project. It was a 3-year project and enrolled approximately 75 adolescent and their families.

Social Anxiety Disorder, also referred to as Social Phobia, is one of the most common problems in teenagers, occurring in 5% to 10% of youth. Above all else, adolescents who are socially anxious fear negative evaluation from others – parents, teachers, friends, and others from the community. For example, socially anxious youth might be fearful or wary of meeting new people, attending social functions, going to the mall, going out to eat in public, using the telephone, public speaking, or being assertive and standing up for their own rights. Left untreated, these fears and worries can lead to school refusal, other anxiety disorders, depression, and even substance use and abuse.

This study examined two different levels of a new treatment for social anxiety called Attention Training.  Basically, individuals who are socially anxious tend to focus on situations in their environment that are socially threatening ... at the expense of attending to less threatening and more positive events going on around them.  They tend to look for negative things going on and they find them! In this study we explored different doses of Attention Training – a treatment that is designed to help these individuals orient to the positive things around them and attend less to the negative things.
The project enrolled teens between 12 and 16 years of age. We believe our study will help us better understand social anxiety in adolescents and inform us about ways to address these problems.

The study consisted of an assessment prior to the treatment, after the treatment, and 3 months following the treatment. Each of the assessment sessions lasted between 2 and 3 hours. We asked the adolescent and her or his parents a number of questions related to social anxiety and to complete some questionnaires about everyday functioning, as well as some additional computer tasks designed to measure attention processes.  We also asked the teen to take part in a speech task, something she or he had a chance to plan for ahead of time.  Lastly, we asked the adolescent to answer questions about the speech task. The treatment itself was conducted at the Child Study Center and consisted of two 30-minute sessions a week for five weeks. There was a total of 10 treatment sessions. The treatment sessions were free and participating families received $50 for each of the three assessment sessions and the three-month follow-up, for a total of $200.00.