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Why participate in an ongoing study?

By participating, you will make an invaluable contribution to families, scientists, and clinicians interested in social, cognitive, behavioral, and brain development and intervention response in autism. You will additionally be compensated for your time and provided with a free parking spot.

Will my schedule be accommodated?

We are very flexible. Whether you are available during weekdays, weeknights, or weekends, we can typically accommodate our sessions to your schedule.

What will my child's role be in this research study?

Each project involves participants in a different way, so please visit the links to individual studies on the left for specific participation information.

Do you only study young children?

We study kids of all ages, typically ranging up to 17 years of age. We also study adults, including autistic adults. To see if you or your child is eligible for participating, please visit the individual study pages above.

What if I don't know whether my child is on the autism spectrum?

We provide a diagnostic evaluation for children who participate in our research; however, some of our studies require that children already have an existing diagnosis of autism. Dr. Faja, who is a clinical psychologist, will happily discuss any results of the diagnostic testing with you.

What is EEG/ERP?

EEG, or electroencephalography, is a way of recording brain activity. When neurons or cells in the brain activate, bits of electricity are released, which can be measured on the scalp. ERPs, or event-related potentials, are sections of the EEG recording that are linked in time to events during an experiment. One reason that EEG/ERP is so helpful is that it allows us to investigate the brain responses of individuals who wiggle lots or are bothered by loud sounds. In addition, EEG/ERP provides information about things an individual may not be able to tell us about directly. This is particularly valuable in studying infants and children who may not have the language skills necessary to communicate what they are thinking. EEG/ERP is very sensitive to changes in brain responding in real time, so it can also provide us with information about how processes unfold over time in the brain.

Are there any risks of participating in an EEG/ERP study?

During the session, the EEG cap, containing a series of tiny sensors, records the electrical activity in the brain like a microphone. The EEG cap passively measures electrical activity from the brain on the surface of the scalp. The net is soaked in a little salt water and baby shampoo. As the solution dries up, it may occasionally feel itchy. Adding a couple of drops of water to the sensors usually eliminates this feeling. As well, some individuals may feel that the sponges are fitting too snugly. The cap fits like a damp swim cap with a chinstrap. Sometimes, this can be adjusted so that it feels more comfortable.

Can I find out the results of the EEG?

Our research recordings are not conducted under the conditions that would be used to elicit clinical EEG recordings and a neurologist does not examine the recordings for clinical findings. Because we are using the EEG/ERP to learn new things about the average performance of groups of children, there is no way to interpret or use the EEG recordings we make on an individual level. Instead, we are happy to refer you to resources that could provide a clinical evaluation.

Are the studies difficult for children to participate in?

Not at all! We have designed all our studies to be engaging and age-appropriate in difficulty, and we take great care to ensure that each child is having fun by taking snack and rest breaks. Most of our participants have said that they had a lot of fun and would like to come back for another visit.

What if we decide to discontinue our participation in the study?

Your child's participation in our research is completely voluntary. You have the right to withdraw your child from at any time. Your choice of whether or not to have your child participate will not affect your current or future dealings with Boston Children's Hospital. If, during the course of this research study, there are new findings that might affect your willingness to be involved with the study, the researchers will inform you of those findings.

Why would I be taken off the study early?

Sometimes we will exclude your child from the study based on our behavioral measures or the results of our questionnaires. Your child may also be taken off the study if you/your child are unable to attend the study visits required or the Principal Investigator feels it is in the best interest of you/your child to be taken off this study.

Do people working in the lab have experience working with children?

The Principal Investigator, Susan Faja, is a clinical psychologist and started out in a camp setting for children with a variety of special needs nearly 20 years ago. She has extensive training with a wide range of ages of individuals with neurodevelopmental conditions from infancy to late adulthood, including over 10 years of experience collecting EEG/ERPs from infants, children and adults. Other members on the team have backgrounds in psychology, neuroscience and physiology and years of experience in working with children. All team members are carefully screened and receive in depth training.

What will happen to information obtained during this study?

All information obtained for the purpose of this study will be kept confidential. Reports published as a result of the study will not include any identifying information about you or your child.

Is my child eligible to participate in this study?

The participation criteria vary from study to study. Please visit the links to individual studies above for specific eligibility information. Please note that even if your child doesn't qualify for one of our current studies, he or she may qualify for a future study. If you are uncertain whether your child meets the criteria, please don’t hesitate to contact us.