Mazurek Awarded $3.8 million NIH Grant for Autism Impact Measure Project
Micah Mazurek, PhD, Assistant Professor in the MU School of Health Professions Department of Health Psychology, has been awarded a 3-year NIH R01 grant for more than $3.8 million.
Dr. Mazurek and collaborators Stephen Kanne, PhD, University of Missouri Thompson Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders; Janine Stichter, PhD, University of Missouri Department of Special Education; Mary Baker-Ericzen, PhD, Autism Discovery Institute, Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego; Eric Butter, PhD, Ohio State University Nationwide Children’s Hospital; Daniel Coury, MD, Ohio State University Nationwide Children’s Hospital; Coleen Carlson, PhD, University of Houston have received funding for a project titled “The Autism Impact Measure: A New Tool for Treatment Outcome Measurement.”
“As a child psychologist at the Thompson Center, my research and clinical work focus on helping children and families affected by autism,” Mazurek said. “A few years ago, Center Director Dr. Stephen Kanne and I were developing and testing treatment but had difficulty finding measures to track short-term improvements in children’s symptoms.”
Studies of behavioral and pharmacological treatments for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are increasing at a rapid pace. However, demonstration of treatment effects has been limited by a lack of psychometrically sound measurement tools that are sensitive to change in core symptoms of ASD. In order to meet this need, the current team of researchers has developed a new tool, the Autism Impact Measure (AIM), which uses a novel approach designed to be sensitive to incremental changes in ASD symptoms.
“First, we tested the AIM at the Thompson Center with 102 children with autism and their parents. Encouraged by the ease and usefulness of the questionnaire, we knew more research was needed to ensure it was a valid and reliable assessment tool,” Mazurek said. With funding from the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, the team collaborated with autism experts and centers across North America to test the questionnaire with 440 children and their families.” The results of the initial project were very promising.
Unlike existing ASD measures, the AIM assesses the frequency of symptom occurrence using a 2-week recall period and a 5-point response format, allowing the measure to track incremental change over shorter periods of time. In addition, the AIM assesses the impact of ASD symptoms, allowing for identification of symptoms that have the most significant impact on actual functioning. This novel two-pronged approach has the potential to inform both treatment outcome research and clinical practice.
The aims of the current project funded by the NIH grant are 1) to further examine construct validity, 2) to examine the measure’s sensitivity to change following treatment, and 3) to begin development of a modified teacher-report version. Data will be collected across three sites nationwide, and sensitivity to change will be established by collecting data pre-, during, and post-treatment among three different well-established treatments for ASD.
The AIM represents a novel measurement approach in the autism field, and is highly relevant to clinical care and research. A major goal across federal health agencies is to improve the lives of children with ASD by developing interventions that target core symptoms of the disorder, and the development of a reliable and valid treatment-outcome measure has the potential to enhance the pace of treatment-outcome research.