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Current Studies

Cognitive Change in Adolescents and Young Adults with Intellectual Disability

illustration of human brain

This NIH-funded study is in collaboration with The University of California, Davis. Memory, language, and nonverbal skills have different patterns of change over the lifespan, and there is concern that in intellectual disability (and in particular Down syndrome), the usual age-related declines may begin at a younger age than in the general population. In some cases, early declines are signs of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. The goal of this study is to identify aspects of cognition that begin to decline early as well as aspect of cognition that are still improving. Understanding the changes that occur during the adolescent-to-early adult years could lead to future treatments that could slow the decline. This study will be recruiting individuals with ID ages 15-25 years.

Spatial Malleability in Down Syndrome

four puzzle pieces

This NIH-funded study is in collaboration with Montclair State University in New Jersey. Previous research has shown that individuals with Down syndrome (DS) often struggle with finding their way to a destination. There may be many reasons for this, but this study looks at underlying spatial abilities as a reason. The purpose of the study is to find out if underlying spatial abilities can be improved through experience with games, puzzles, and Legos. The study, led by Dr. Ed Merrill, is being done online and thus, can be done from anywhere. It is recruiting individuals with DS, ages 10-25 years and typically developing children ages 4-9 years.

Reading Comprehension in Children with Down Syndrome and other Intellectual Disability

boy reading a book on a library floor

The Universities of Mississippi, Alabama, and Nebraska are collaborating on this NIH-funded study of reading comprehension skills in individuals with intellectual disability. Often, children with intellectual disabilities do much better with word identification than with reading comprehension. This study looks at why, by examining the relation of language skills to reading comprehension. Understanding the reasons for difficulties in reading comprehension may lead to better ways to teach reading to children with intellectual disabilities. This study will be enrolling participants with intellectual disability, ages 10-15 years, as well as participants who are typically developing, ages 6-10 years.

Parenting Styles and Stress Study

man holding a baby

This is an online survey study exploring how parenting styles, emotions, stress and coping may differ between parents of children with Down syndrome and parents of typically developing children. We are also studying how these parenting experiences affect children with Down syndrome in particular, including their behavioral strengths and challenges. To be eligible, you must be a parent of a child with Down syndrome age 4 to 12 years who is able to communicate with you. To learn more or complete the surveys, please read the Parenting Styles & Stress Informed Consent Form.

Numerical Skills in Young People with Down Syndrome

scattered assortment of numbers

Researchers have begun to examine the most basic numerical skills in children with Down syndrome (DS). Non-symbolic numerical skills relate to judging quantities (e.g., more or less) without number symbols. Symbolic numerical skills relate to understanding number symbols and the quantities they stand for. For her master’s thesis, Kristina Baggett will examine both types of numerical skills by comparing participants with DS and participants who are typically developing at the same vocabulary level. Identifying potential differences between these groups could lead to ways of improving these skills. This study uses a remote format and is recruiting children with DS ages 9-16 years and typically developing children ages 4-7 years.

Project Pathways at the University of Nebraska Lincoln

The Learning Lab for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities at the University of Nebraska Lincoln is conducting a study titled, Project Pathways. The purpose of this study is to assess the reading and writing profiles of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Participants must be middle or high school students (ages 13-21 years) with intellectual and developmental disabilities and must be fluent in English and have internet access to participate. Your children would be completing a series of standardized reading, writing, and cognitive tasks that assess their literacy and learning skills. Participation is conducted entirely via Zoom and will take approximately two hours; however, participation can be spread over multiple days if needed. Your children would also receive a $20 gift card for completing the study.