Current Studies
Wayfinding study
This study is being conducted by Dr. Ed Merrill at the University of Alabama and is designed to look at how individuals learn to navigate through an environment, a skill known as wayfinding. Past research has shown that wayfinding is difficult for individuals with intellectual disability. This study will help researchers understand how wayfinding knowledge develops with the long-term goal of developing ways of training individuals with difficulty in this area.
Signs of Cognitive Change in Adolescents and Young Adults with Down Syndrome
This study will be conducted by the Conners Lab at the University of Alabama as a pilot study for a potential grant-funded study in the future. One characteristic of Down syndrome is accelerated aging, which can include declines in memory and other cognitive skills. Another is heightened risk for Alzheimer’s Dementia. In this study, we are trying to identify very early signs of cognitive change in people with Down syndrome. Identifying these could lead to future treatments that could slow the decline. The goals of the study are 1) to identify early changes in memory and language, 2) to identify early behavioral changes (like sleep patterns and social engagement), and 3) to link the first two goals to symptoms of mild cognitive impairment. Mild cognitive impairment is a diagnosable condition and a risk factor for Alzheimer’s Dementia.

Communication and the Social Experience of Adolescents with Down Syndrome
Little is known about the social experiences of adolescents with Down syndrome (DS). Jenna Reardanz, a graduate student in the Conner’s Lab, is conducting a study to see how language communication is related to children’s social experiences with peers, the way they deal with their emotions, and how they feel about themselves. The results of this study could potentially contribute to efforts to reduce negative social experiences, specifically the creation of school interventions.

This study, which will take between 1 ½ - 2 hours to complete, involves the young person with DS talking with the research team about their social experiences and completing two tasks. One task involves telling a story based on a picture book while the other task asks participants how they would respond in certain social situations. In addition there are a few questionnaires for the parent/guardian to complete. This study will begin in the fall.