Anna A. Allen

Anna AllenRehabilitation Sciences (MGH Institute of Health Professions)

Background: I received my Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Smith College, and my MS in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the MGH Institute of Health Professions. I then worked for several years as a full-time SLP in a public elementary school and per diem in skilled nursing facilities. Experiencing these settings both before and after the release of the iPad, I became interested in the effectiveness of mobile technologies for communication intervention, and in families’ perceptions and expectations of these technologies. The school where I worked had a sub-separate program for children with moderate to severe ASD, and getting to know those individuals inspired my interest in working with this population.

Current Interests: My doctoral research focuses on the effect of visual supports, presented via iPad, on direction-following in children with moderate to severe autism. Additionally, via caregiver questionnaires, I am exploring other factors that may influence responsiveness to visual cues in the direction-following task, specifically, parent stress level and time spent using screen media in the home. I am especially interested in the impact of the mobile technology revolution on families of children with autism; in health literacy and caregiver training within the AAC field; and in research that investigates communicative functions other than requesting in children with complex communication needs.

Sample Presentation/Publication: Allen, A. A., & Shane, H. C. (2014). Autism spectrum disorders in the era of mobile technologies: Impact on caregivers. Developmental Neurorehabilitation, 17, 110-114. This paper discusses connections in the literature on AAC, caregiver stress, and use of mobile technologies for persons with autism. It is the intersections of these areas that I hope to focus on in my research career.

Dissertation Chair: Dr. Howard Shane

Additional Information

ThinkTank presentation topic: I will present the study I am currently working on for my dissertation, “The Effect of Cue Type on Speed, Accuracy, and Independence of Direction-Following in Children with Moderate-Severe Autism Spectrum Disorder.”  Data on the pre-existing skills of the participants, gathered before administration of the direction-following task, will be analyzed in relation to dimensions of direction-following performance in various cueing conditions. Specifically, the analysis will explore relationships between participants’ time, accuracy, and prompting scores on the direction-following task, and their performance on pre-assessment tasks of preposition knowledge, motor imitation, nonverbal cognitive, and match-to-sample (MTS) skills.  Identifying such relationships could provide insight about which cue types to use with clients of particular skill levels.  The study is currently in the pilot phase of data collection.

Discussion topic: In conducting research with participants who have complex communication needs along with a particular diagnosis (e.g., autism spectrum disorder), how do we weigh and balance recruitment challenges with the need to keep inclusion/exclusion criteria as specific as possible?

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