July 22, 2014  

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Psychology Graduate Student Seeks Participants for Autism Research

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Elizabeth Fair

A University of Southern Mississippi Department of Psychology graduate student is soliciting participants for her research on the impacts of autism.

Elizabeth Fair, a doctoral student in clinical psychology from Mobile, Ala., is examining processing styles in children and adolescents with autism, including how they process information and how that relates to various behaviors and symptoms of autism.

Fair is seeking research participants ages 7-18 from the Hattiesburg area, Mobile, Ala. and Tuscaloosa, Ala. who have an autism spectrum disorder. According to the Mississippi State Department of Health’s website, autism is a developmental disability that usually appears early in life.

Children with autism disorder have problems with communicating, socializing, and attentiveness. They are overly dependent on routines, are often highly sensitive to changes in their environment, and typically show repetitive patterns of behaviors or highly restricted or fixated interests. There is no cure, but early treatment can help children to talk, play and develop more normally.

“I’m hoping to better understand some of the underlying factors that affect express behaviors, such as aggression anxiety and social deficits,” Fair said. “That knowledge can inform intervention strategies for individuals with autism.”

Fair’s research is conducted through the Department of Psychology’s Child Externalizing Behaviors Lab under the direction of associate professor Dr. Tammy Barry.  Students in the laboratory conduct research on biologically-based and contextual correlates of child externalizing behaviors, including ADHD, aggression, and disruptive behaviors associated with autism.

Factors examined in the lab’s research include neuropsychological functioning/endophenotypes, child temperament, parental psychopathology/stress, parenting practices, SES/neighborhood characteristics, and individual difference factors, among other variables. The lab’s research also focuses on the measurement and latent structure of externalizing behavior disorders.

Barry said Fair and the laboratory want to build relationships with families of children with autism that are mutually beneficial. “We are launching several studies on autism to build a data base, and we will keep participating families informed about services we provide that they can benefit from,” Barry said.

For more information, including how to participate in the research, contact Fair at elizabeth.c.fair@eagles.usm.edu or Dr. Barry at tammy.barry@usm.edu.  For more information about the Southern Miss Department of Psychology, visit www.usm.edu/psychology.