Past Research Projects





IL AWARE 2.0 was a comprehensive, cross-sector, multi-tiered, public health plan to support the mental health needs of all Illinois students. This program aims to address mental health disparities in the state by streamlining access to care and embedding mental health systems within schools. IL AWARE 2.0 was funded through SAMHSA (FOA No. SM-20–016) and its primary aim is to develop and implement a state-wide plan that provides critical guidance and support regarding the selection and implementation of essential components of a mental healthcare model embedded within school systems. The model is intended to be flexible enough that each community can develop and implement the model in a manner that is responsive to the unique demographics, needs, and resources of that community. RNBC clinical and research staff served as consultants on the grant to conduct initial program evaluation data to engage both local and state coalitions in a parallel and sustainable process of data-based decision-making. Throughout our time on this project, we assisted with data analysis, interpretation, and reflection.

Exploring relationships between SELweb and early neural processing of social-emotional information

This study was funded by the Children’s Foundation and involved measuring the relationship between brain processing of speech sounds, nonverbal emotion recognition, and other social-emotional comprehension skills in both typically-developing children and children with a range of clinical diagnoses (e.g., ASD, ADHD, reading disorders, language disorders) who are in grades K‑3.

Auditory brainstem response and social information processing

This study was funded by the Schweppe-Armour bequest at RUMC and involved measuring the relationship between brain processing of speech sounds, social language, and social reasoning skills in typically-developing children who are between 6–10 years old.

Development of SEL Assessment Strategies for Pre-School Children

This project, funded by the McCormick Foundation, is focused on the development of assessment strategies for pre-school children. This area of inquiry is important because identifying and addressing problems intervening early in a child’s development often yields the greatest improvement. There are, however, few instruments for assessing the skills and deficits of children younger than five, when interventions could be extremely effective. This study is designed to help address that limitation.

Development of SEL Assessment Strategies for School-Aged Children: School Study

One study, funded by the Buntrock Family Foundation, involved general education students in grades K through 8. This study was focused on evaluating the reliability and validity of social-emotional learning assessments. A second goal of the project was to better understand normal age-related changes in children’s social-emotional learning skill. A final important goal of this project was to better understand normal variation in social-emotional learning skill among typically-developing children.

Development of SEL Assessment Strategies for School-Aged Children: Clinic Study

Children with a wide variety of neurobehavioral disorders frequently have social difficulties. A second study funded by the Buntrock Family Foundation examined SEL assessments among children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism-spectrum disorders, and reading disorders. One goal of this project was to understand whether SEL assessments have the same reliability and validity in clinic-referred children. A second goal of the project was to understand the unique patterns of social-emotional strengths and weaknesses in different diagnostic groups.



Facial Affect Recognition Training Study

This research study investigated the efficacy of a coach- and computer-assisted intervention to train children with autism spectrum disorders to more quickly and accurately recognize emotions from facial expressions.  We expect that the application of the results of this study will impact the development of intervention programs for a wide range of children with difficulties in these areas.

Other studies sought to answer the question: When children have social challenges, what can be done to help them succeed? With funding from the Buntrock Family Foundation and the William and Katherine Devers Foundation, we studied the effects of social development group interventions on children with social challenges.

Our social development group therapy model targeted multiple skills that can interfere with social functioning among children with a range of clinical diagnoses. Children with social challenges can have difficulty regulating their behavior, reading social cues, understanding and using language to achieve social goals, and engaging in effective social problem-solving.

Clinic-Based Social Development Groups

We have completed a brief pilot social development groups and a year-long social development group, both for 7th grade boys, at RNBC.  We have collected extensive data before, during, and after the group to understand how children responded to the treatment.

School-Based Social Development Groups

We recently completed a year-long social development group with third-graders whose teachers felt that they were struggling socially. We collected extensive data to assess the impact of the group on children’s social functioning.