Dr. Ward's areas of clinical research interest include the following:
1. My Life as an Epic Win: Evaluation of a Transition to Adulthood Program for Teens and Young Adults. Over the past three years, Dr. Ward with her students and community partners (Woodview Mental Health and Autism Services, Autism Ontario Niagara, Bethesda Services, Community Living Port Colborne) have designed, delivered and are now evaluating the Epic Win course, looking at its impact on transitional skill acquisition, self-determination, transition-related anxiety and self-esteem in youth with high functioning ASD. M.ADS. and M.A. students can assist in the project delivery, in partial fulfillment of practicum hours, or as the focus of their MA thesis work.
2. Prospective Study of Infants At-risk for Autism. In collaboration with the Autism Spectrum Disorder Canadian-American Research Consortium (ASD-CARC), Dr. Ward and Dr. Maurice Feldman are investigating developmental outcomes for infant siblings of children who have diagnoses of autism. MA students may get involved in a study comparing the prevalence of early signs of autism in infants at increased risk for ASD to those infants who do not have an older sibling with autism. As well, students may participate in the development and implementation of very early intervention for those infants at-risk who are showing signs of ASD before the age of two years.
3. Social Thinking to Social Skills.
Following in the clinical work of Michelle Garcia Winner (www.socialthinking.com
), this research focuses on the evaluation of the "social thinking" curriculum and its generalization to social skills in daily living for children and youth with high functioning autism (HFASD). MA students may participate in research to evaluate this model of social intervention and look at methods for integrating behavioural teaching strategies into teaching of social thinking to promote social skill acquisition and generalization.
4. International Development of ABA. CADS faculty have an interest in making Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) services available to more families of children, youth and adults with disabilities in Canada and beyond. M.ADS. and M.A. students interested in developing their ABA clinical skills outside of Canada can speak to Dr. Ward or other faculty about opportunities abroad (e.g., India, China). MA students may also consider research related to the dissemination and use of ABA in other countries.
Feldman, M.A., Hendry, A.M., Ward, R.A., Hudson, M. & Li, X. (2015). Behavioral development and sociodemographics of infants and young children at higher and lower risk for autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45, 1167–1175.
Feldman, M.A., Ward, R.A., Savona, D., Regehr, K. Parker, K, Hudson, M, Penning, H., Holden, J. (2012). Development and initial validation of a parent report measure of the behavioural development of infants at risk for autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42, 13-22.
Ward, R. & Yu, D. (2000). Bridging the gap between visual and auditory discrimination learning in children with autistic-spectrum disorders. Journal on Developmental Disabilities, 7(2), 142-155.