Dr. Frazier’s research and work focuses on the development of a Neurobehavioral Evaluation Tool (NET) for autism and related genetic conditions
UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, OHIO – Thomas Frazier, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, autism researcher, and professor of psychology at John Carroll University, has received a 2022 Human Cognitive and Behavioral Science Grant from the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI). Grants awarded are intended to produce foundational knowledge about the neurobehavioral differences associated with the autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Dr. Frazier has spent more than 17 years in evaluation, treatment and research, with a focus on improving autism identification. His work seeks to better identify and diagnose autism and related conditions through webcam technology, with a focus on reducing the burden for patients and caregivers.
Dr. Frazier’s ongoing development of a neurobehavioral evaluation tool (NET) was originally funded by PTEN Research Foundation, (www.PTENresearch.org), a charity that funds and facilitates research with the aim of developing new and better treatments for the rare genetic condition PTEN Hamartoma Tumor Syndrome (PHTS). Data collected as part of the PTEN research award was instrumental in securing the SFARI grant, which will focus on ensuring the validation of an online neurobehavioral evaluation tool across large autism cohorts. Dr. Frazier’s project was awarded through SFARI’s “Expansion” track, which supports more mature projects with evidence of feasibility and preliminary validity, for which goals such as scalability, generalizability, and/or “real-world” validity are now the most relevant outcomes.
“I am incredibly grateful to both PTEN Research for supporting our initial work and SFARI for supporting the expansion of this research to make a difference for patients and families. Our work aims to improve the accuracy and availability of early identification measures for autism and related conditions,” said Frazier. “The support from PTEN Research was instrumental in developing new measures and for testing whether they might be useful for children with neurodevelopmental genetic syndromes. The SFARI grant is focused on ensuring that these new measures can be used in large scale samples of people with autism. Eventually we hope these measures might also make an impact on clinical practice by providing easier and more objective ways to collect data from children and their parents.”
He continued, “John Carroll is ripe for clinically relevant research because of our emphasis on social impact. We're in a perfect spot for this research because we have so many autism and developmental disability programs within a short distance of our campus. That makes it easier to collaborate and have an immediate clinical impact. The projects also present meaningful research opportunities for our students, many of whom care deeply about autism and developmental disabilities."
The SFARI grant will support Frazier in collecting data from 1,000 individuals in the SPARK (Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research for Knowledge) community, an autism research initiative that aims to recruit, engage and retain individuals with autism and their family members, and 300 individuals from a local clinical specialty care center at MetroHealth Medical Center (150 with ASD, 150 without ASD) to evaluate newly-created measures that assess cognitive skills and behaviors in people with autism.
The new online measures include 11 caregiver-report questionnaires and 11 webcam-collected patient performance measures. The measures are briefer than existing measures, were developed with input from patients and families, and were designed to better assess and monitor progress in people with ASD. In both groups, the measures will be collected at first patient contact, 1-month follow-up, and 6-month follow-up to better understand each measure's reliability and sensitivity to change.
The project will also collect normative data so that the measures can be used in future research, and potentially in clinical practice, to understand where a child or adolescent stands relative to their peers.
“If the project is successful, the new measures will be more efficient and useful than existing measures, by virtue of being administered online and at-home,” said Frazier. “This will decrease patient and family burden, minimize the need for travel to expert centers, and increase the power of monitoring progress during interventions and across development.”
The project is actively seeking participation of individuals affected with PHTS aged 3-45 and their families. More information and contact information is available here.