MSU researchers receive $3.7 million grant for autism research

From an article on MSUToday

A team of researchers at MSU has received a five-year, $3.7 million grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders to study language in young children with autism. 

This project will provide greater understanding of how these children process the language they hear from adults, said Courtney Venker, principal investigator and assistant professor in communicative and sciences and disorders in the College of Communication Arts and sciences.

"Many young children on the autism spectrum have language delays, which can make it hard for them to communicate, make friends and learn in school,” Venker said. “The goal of this study is to improve our ability to offer evidence-based clinical recommendations regarding how best to support language development in young children with autism.”

To conduct this research, Venker and team will bring in over 100 young children with autism and their families from Michigan to MSU’s Lingo Lab.

"As a practicing speech-language pathologist, I often give recommendations to parents and caregivers about how to support their child’s language development,” said Jenny Johnson, research speech-language pathologist in the Lingo Lab. “This project is exciting because it will help guide those recommendations so that we are providing the best available information to support positive outcomes for children.” 

Venker said the research findings will have a strong impact on theories of language development and clinical best practices for language interventions to help young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. These findings will also contribute to their long-term goal of evaluating early language interventions.

Other members of the project team include Brooke Ingersoll, associate professor of psychology in the College of Social Science, and Ryan Bowles, associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Social Science.

Researchers will soon be recruiting families of children with autism ages 2-4. Families can go to to learn more.