Down Syndrome Program Research and Innovation

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We are excited to announce that the Down Syndrome Program's Research Team has received a grant from the John Merck Fund to study whether Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) can positively impact learning, memory, and behavior in preschoolers with Down syndrome. ABA therapy breaks complex tasks into simple pieces to help children learn and develop, and has been shown to have significant, positive impacts for young children with autism.  ABA may also have positive results for children with Down syndrome, however this still needs to be carefully studied, and we are excited to be the first research team to do so.  Our study, BOOST-DS (Behavioral Optimization and Outcomes Study in Down syndrome), will work with a large group of children in order to better determine the effectiveness of ABA therapy in children with Down syndrome.  The study will bring together experts from multiple departments at Boston Children's, including pediatric psychology, neurology, neurodevelopmental disabilities, developmental-behavioral pediatrics, and cognitive neuroscience.  This team approach will allow researchers to assess not just behavioral and intellectual impacts, but also whether ABA has the potential to impact brain function.  If ABA is shown to be effective in children with Down syndrome, it may increase access to ABA services for children with Down syndrome and their families.  We will post updates here and to our Facebook page once the study is underway  Please read on for more details about the BOOST-DS team!

Dr. David Stein is a pediatric psychologist within the Developmental Medicine Center at Boston Children's Hospital and an Instructor at Harvard Medical School. He specializes in neuropsychological testing and behavioral treatment of children with developmental disabilities.Dr. Stein Dr. Stein is the senior psychologist and Co-Director of Research for the Down Syndrome Program and completes neurodevelopmental evaluations, behavioral consultations, and parent training for children with Down syndrome. His research is focused on characterization of children with complex neurodevelopmental profiles, behavioral treatment, and outcomes. Dr. Stein began his work with children with Down syndrome during his own childhood as a volunteer with local disability support groups. A Boston native, he attended Tufts University where he majored in clinical psychology with a focus in child development. Dr. Stein then completed his doctoral degree in clinical psychology at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology. He completed his pre-doctoral internship in child psychology at Harvard Medical School-The Cambridge Hospital and his postdoctoral fellowship in pediatric psychology at Boston Children's Hospital.


Dr. Nicole Baumer is completing her training in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities at Boston Children’s Hospital / Harvard Medical School. Dr. Baumer has been working in the Down syndrome clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital since 2011. With training in both child neurologyDr. Baumer and developmental and behavioral pediatrics, she specializes in treatment of individuals with Down syndrome, autism, and neurobehavioral disorders. Dr. Baumer’s research involves characterization and diagnosis of neurodevelopmental profiles in Down syndrome, and studying educational, behavioral, and medical interventions for individuals with Down syndrome. Dr. Baumer has an older sister with Down syndrome, and has lifelong experience with individuals with disabilities. Dr. Baumer completed her undergraduate studies in biology and psychology at Skidmore College. She received her Medical Degree from Harvard Medical School. She trained in pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital, and in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Baumer also has a Masters degree in education from Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is a fellow in the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disorders (LEND) program at BCH/Harvard Medical School.


Dr. Walter E. Kaufmann is the Director of the Rett Syndrome Program, Co-Director of the Fragile X Program, and Co-DirectorDr Kaufmanof Research in the Down Syndrome Program, as well as Clinical Director of the Translational Neuroscience Center, at Boston Children’s Hospital. He is also a Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Kaufmann is an internationally recognized leader in translational and clinical research in the abovementioned disorders, exemplified by his pioneer work with Dr. George Capone in delineating autism spectrum disorder in Down syndrome. He also led the initial development of practice guidelines for Down syndrome for the American College of Physicians and served as a member of the Neurodevelopmental Disorders Workgroup of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fifth Edition (DSM-5).


Dr. Charles A. Nelson is a Professor of Pediatrics and Neuroscience at Harvard Medical School and the Director of Research iDr. Nelsonn the Division of Developmental Medicine here at Boston Children’s. An internationally recognized leader in the field of developmental cognitive neuroscience, Dr. Nelson has over thirty years of experience investigating brain and behavior development during infancy and childhood. His research interests center on a variety of problems in developmental cognitive neuroscience, including: typical and atypical memory development; the development of social perception; developmental trajectories to autism; and the effects of early adversity (including psychosocial deprivation) on brain and behavioral development. He chaired the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Early Experience and Brain Development, and served on the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panels that wrote From Neurons to Neighborhoods, and more recently, New Directions in Child Abuse and Neglect Research.  To learn more about Dr. Nelson and his work, click here.

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