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VT Center for Autism Research

    Welcome to VTCAR
    Welcome to VTCAR


Interested in participating in research?  Here are some opportunities!


Identifying the Needs of College Students with ASD

We are conducting a survey on the challenges and strengths of young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) related to transition out of high-school and into higher education.  We are conducting this study to determine how best to support young adults with ASD through the development of a new transition support program.

Participation involves completion of a brief, anonymous online survey.  We are enrolling parents of children/adults with ASD who are between 16 and 25 years of age. Participants receive a $5.00 gift card for their time upon completion of the survey (the survey takes about 15-20 minutes).

If you would like to complete the survey, please send an email to

We are recruiting for the Virginia Tech Autism Clinic Sibling Study - now open to siblings up to 9th grade!

Who: Children in grades 1-9 with a sibling with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (Autism, Asperger’s, or PDD-NOS). Children must currently live in the same home, and sibling without ASD must attend a public school. Participating parent must be primary caregiver, but other parent is welcome to participate, too!

What: Phase I: Complete surveys in the clinic or by mail (60 minutes). Phase II: Participate in a focus group or one-on-one interview (30-60 minutes). Compensation provided for each phase.

Where: Blacksburg or Roanoke. Phone or Skype options also available!

Contact: Tyler Hassenfeldt - or (412) 600-8304

This study aims to better understand the experience of siblings and parents of individuals on the Autism Spectrum. De-identified results will be used in Ms. Hassenfeldt’s dissertation and may be published. Focus groups/interviews will be audio recorded for transcription purposes.

Stepped Transition in Education Program for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder: How do we make the transition to college successful for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

We are conducting a study on a new program that targets successful transition of students with ASD from high school to post-secondary education. Enrollment is now open.

Participation in this study involves active involvement in a 16-week research intervention. We are enrolling high school students with a present ASD diagnosis who are at least 16 years old and interested in pursuing post-secondary education. The postsecondary transition support program involves in-person training meetings, online resources, teacher training sessions, and a campus immersion experience for the student. Students will also identify a trusted school personnel in order to help advise them through the transition process as well as involvement from their parents. Participation in the program is free, and students, parents, and school personnel are paid for completing assessments as part of the study. Students are randomly assigned to either Transition as Usual or the STEPS program. Those students who complete the Transition as Usual followed by the STEPS program can receive up to $115.00. Those who receive STEPS alone can receive up to $70.00 for completing study assessments.

If you would like more information concerning the research, please send an email to

Project website:
Email:   Phone: 540-231-6744


Study on Facial Emotion Expression in Adolescents

We are enrolling teenagers (12 to 17 year olds) to participate in a research study on facial emotion expression. Involvement in the study will require completion of computerized task asking participants to label and express emotions as well as filling out of few questionnaires. The study will take approximately 1.5 hours to complete, and every participant will receive $20 for their participation.

Currently, we are recruiting adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as typically developing adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 years old.

If you are the parent of a teenager between the ages of 12 and 17 and you consent to have your child participate, please contact Andrea Trubanova at atruban@vt.eduor 540-231-2024 to obtain more information and to sign-up for the study.


Moms and Mindfulness: How do you interact with your child? 

We are searching for families with children ages 7 to 10 years of age to participate in our study on physiological responses to parent and child interaction. This study involves a 45 minute long visit to the VT Autism Clinic. You will be asked to complete questionnaires and then participate in an activity with your child. We will collect physiological information from mothers only. Your child will receive a small toy and you will be entered in a raffle for three $50 gift cards as compensation. 

If interested in learning more, please contact us at or call (540) 231-2053.


Support group for siblings of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

In collaboration with Yale University School of Medicine, the Virginia Tech Autism Clinic will be offering a new support group for siblings of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)!

The study will be held in Blacksburg, and is for children (5-17 years old) with a sibling with an ASD, such as autism, PDD-NOS, or Asperger’s.

  • Group participants must not have an ASD diagnosis.
  • This group for siblings is designed to increase your child’s knowledge of ASD and improve his/her relationship with his/her sibling with ASD
  • Groups will consist of 4-8 children, grouped by similar ages.
  • The group will consist of ten 90-minute sessions, plus a pre-treatment screening and a post-treatment interview, beginning at the end of January.
  • Screenings for eligibility will begin in mid-January.
  • Day and time will be determined by group consensus.
  • There is no cost for support group services, and kids will be compensated with a $12.50 gift card for completing the pre- and post-group interviews.

If you are interested in participating, please contact Lauren Delk at, or at the VT Psychological Services Center at (540) 231-6914.


Stepped Transition in Education Program for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder: How do we increase the chances of success in college for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

We are conducting a research intervention to promote success of students with ASD in post-secondary education. 

Briefly, participation involves active involvement in a 16-week research intervention. We are enrolling students with a present ASD diagnosis who are 16-25 years old and enrolled in participating post-secondary educational institutions. The psychosocial intervention involves weekly individual coaching sessions, online resources, and outings within the campus community. Participants in this project receive a maximum compensation of $115.00 for their participation in assessments, awarded throughout the study’s duration. 

If you would like more information concerning the research, please send an email to

Project website:


Phone: 540-231-6744


Upcoming and Recent Events at VTCAR

VTCAR Spring 2015 Speaker Series


VTCAR holds a Speaker Series to encourage collaboration across current and interested affiliates, and to reach out to the community. We are pleased to invite all affiliates and the community to attend these talks. They are held on selected Fridays, from 12:30-1:30pm at the North End Center (NEC) on the Blacksburg VT campus, with a small Meet & Greet social reception starting at 1:30pm. Below is our series of speakers with exact dates and room numbers. We hope to see you there!

Non-VT guests can park on the 3rd floor or higher in the NEC parking lot, and must obtain validation for free parking.


 Speaker Series Overview

Alpay Ozcan, Ph.D., Hongxiao Zhu, Ph.D., 

Carla Finkielstein, Ph.D., & Tom Williams, Ph.D.
January 30, NEC room 2470

Cara Pugliese, Ph.D.
February 27, NEC room 2200

Dori Berger, Ph.D.
March 27, NEC room 2200


Dana Yarbrough
April 17, Squires Hall



VTCAR Researchers Receive NIH Grants


Title: Development and Testing of a Novel Neurotechnology to Promote Emotion Recognition in Autism

Investigators: Susan White (PI, Psychology) and Co-PIs John Richey (Psychology), Martha Ann Bell (Psychology), Denis Gracanin (CHCI), Stephen LaConte (VTCRI), and Inyoung Kim (Statistics) 

Description: The goal of this project is to develop an assistive technology to promote facial emotion recognition in ASD. The investigators propose that facial emotion recognition can be rehabilitated using a brain-computer interface device.  The investigators plan to create a facial emotion recognition, which would be a virtual reality-based iPad application to assist users with emotion recognition by manipulating the avatar’s emotion intensity until it is recognized by the user at the neural level. The interface is user-friendly and game-like, to promote ease of use and eventual dissemination. The purpose of this randomized controlled trial is to assess feasibility including acceptability of the intervention, recruitment and randomization procedures, intervention implementation, blinded assessment procedures, and participant retention within the context of a randomized controlled trial.

Title: Data Mining for Autism Endophenotypes in a Large-Scale Resting State fMRI Repository

Investigator: John Richey

Description: The purpose of the current proposal is to use computational neuroscience to empirically identify endophenotypes of ASD in a large scale resting-state fMRI (rs-fMRI) repository (the Autism Brain Imaging Exchange [ABIDE], N~1,112 [ASD N=539]). Specifically, we propose to use resting-state connectivity maps in conjunction with group iterative multiple model estimation (Gates & Molenaar, 2012) and community structure detection (Newman, 2006) to generate empirically-derived subgroups of ASD who share similar brain network properties. The rationale for this approach is as follows. It has been widely acknowledged that ASD is a vastly heterogeneous disorder (e.g. Volkmar et al., 2004). It is also increasingly accepted that ASD is a “network-disorder”, involving complex degradation of brain networks. However, prior work in network-analysis of ASD has generally ignored this heterogeneity, and proceeded in traditional between-groups (ASD vs. Control) comparison. Our objective here is to determine if heterogeneity within ASD can actually be useful information, which facilitates the identification of subgroups (communities) whose brain network properties are similar [AIM 1], and whose symptoms cluster together [AIM 2]. Our target network will be the Default-Mode Network (DMN), a brain system that is 1) anchored in the posteromedial cortex, and 2) involved in multiple forms of social cognition that are known to be disrupted in ASD. Based on recent, well-conducted studies of DMN in autism, (e.g., Lynch et al., 2013; Rudie et al., 2012; Washington et al., 2013), we hypothesize that DMN has a heterogeneous connectivity profile in ASD, and that connectivity within the DMN can be used to parse subtypes of autism. We further predict that these individual patterns of connectivity are strongly related to individual differences in the phenotypic presentation of ASD based on the topography of connections. Our approach represents a substantially different way of using heterogeneity, and we provide extensive simulations to demonstrate the computational feasibility of endophenotype generation, and also the method by which endophenotypes will be linked to behavioral data available through ABIDE. We feel that our novel approach, in combination with the largest ASD resting-state fMRI repository ever created will stimulate vertical progress by overcoming problems associated with small sample size, univariate approaches and missing or inconsistent phenotypic data.

Title: STEPS: Stepped Transition in Education Program for Students with ASD

Investigator: Susan White

Description: Young adults who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) without co-occurring intellectual impairment face a fairly unique set of challenges as they transition out of secondary school. These students are often quite capable of succeeding in higher education and many of them have interest in pursuing advanced degrees, but the nature of their disability and associated deficits (e.g., poor time management and poor self-regulation) may impede success. Individualized, appropriately timed, and developmentally sensitive transition and support services may promote realization of optimal outcomes for these young people. The goal of this project is to develop a comprehensive program to promote successful transition of students with ASD from high school to post-secondary education. We propose to refine and then evaluate a novel transition support and intervention program for adolescents and young adults with ASD: STEPS [Stepped Transition in Education Program for Students with ASD]. By targeting improved self-regulation (SR) and self-determination (SD) in young people with ASD, we assert that this program may have positive outcomes with respective to college adjustment and functional behavior.

Congratulations to these VTCAR investigators!



In need of an ASD assessment?


VTCAR offers various Assessment Options.  Please visit our Assessments page for additional information.

*We are especially looking for children and adults who are interested in completing an ADOS-2 with one of our trainees.  You will receive a full clinical summary of the ADOS-2 as a result of participating in this training with us. Contact us for additional information and available appointments.


The VTAC/VTCAR Autism Research Registry

VTCAR is looking for individuals to be a part of the VTCAR Autism Research Registry .  The Registry serves as a database for VTCAR researchers that can be used for participant recruitment.  If you are interested in being contacted for participation in our research, please complete the Registry survey.

Contact Information

Address: 460 Turner Street, Clinical Science Suite (Suite 203), Blacksburg VA
Phone: 540-231-8747


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