Dr. David Hessl, project PI at the University of California at Davis, and site PI’s Dr. Karen Riley, Dean and Professor at the Morgridge College of Education, University of Denver, Dr. Elisabeth Berry-Kravis at Rush University, Drs. Richard Gershon and Aaron Kaat at Northwestern University, and Dr. Craig Erickson from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital were awarded the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute Of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health grant of $3,921,088. Dr. Jeanine Coleman Associate Clinical Professor in the Teaching and Learning Sciences department at the Morgridge College of Education, is co-principal investigator. Drs. Korrie Allen, Douglas Clements and Julie Sarama will also be engaged in the project at the DU site. The grant will span five years, October 2020 – September 2025.

A multi-university team has been evaluating the utility and sensitivity of the National Institutes of Health Toolbox – Cognitive Battery (NIHTB-CB). Standardized cognitive and educational assessments of individuals with intellectual disability (ID) provide crucial information for parents, researchers, and educators. Understanding the unique developmental strengths and challenges of an individual with ID is imperative to determining appropriate educational placements, developing intervention plans, and measuring growth. Unfortunately, there is a paucity of research regarding administrative procedures that yield valid standardized assessment results with this population, which this project serves to rectify.

In addition to evaluating the NIHTB-CB as an appropriate assessment for ID in general, the results demonstrate the sensitivity of the battery to known syndrome-specific cognitive phenotypes. A critical remaining question is the degree to which the battery is sensitive to change, especially to effects of intervention as such the team is currently collecting longitudinal data on all participants so that they can create typical trajectories and so that change can accurately be measured. Studies of the performance of the battery in older adults with ID are needed, especially focusing on those experiencing cognitive decline or dementia. Overall, the present validation study represents an important step toward providing an objective, scalable, and standardized method for successfully measuring cognition and tracking cognitive changes in ID. This award is the second for this team of researchers and extends the initial study.

Dr. Riley said “The importance of this type of research cannot be overstated. We need to have effective tools to measure the groundbreaking interventions that are currently being developed and implemented. The individuals with ID deserve our best work in this area, as it could literally be life changing for them and their families.”

Pictured above: Dr. Karen Riley (top left), Dr. Jeanine Coleman (top right), Dr. Doug Clements (bottom left), Dr. Julie Sarama (bottom right).

Children in rural America face a unique set of health and education disparities.  In comparison to urban students, rural youth demonstrate higher levels of mortality; suicide; obesity; tobacco, alcohol, and illegal substance use; drinking and driving; teen births; and carrying weapons. They also have lower rates of school readiness, proficiency on standardized tests, and math performance.

Tailored solutions are needed to address these challenges particularly since more than half of US school districts are located in rural settings. These and other challenges fueled MCE’s decision to launch the Center for Rural School Health & Education to be led by rural expert, Elaine Belansky, PhD.

Belansky is a community-based participatory researcher who has been working in rural, low-income schools for 19 years.  She studies how universities and communities can work together to make schools healthy places. Her team developed a strategic planning process called “Assess. Identify. Make it Happen.” (AIM) which helps schools implement school-based environment and policy changes that support physical activity, healthy eating, mental health, and school engagement and decrease bullying, high risk sexual behavior, and drug use. Currently, her team is partnering with rural schools in Colorado to create comprehensive health and wellness plans that ensure students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged.

Belansky has received over $13 million in grants from the CDC, NIH, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and The Colorado Health Foundation. She will begin her duties at Morgridge College May 1. Her six-person team will join her June 1. The research team includes:

  • Shannon Allen – Research Faculty
  • Ben Ingman – Research Faculty
  • Shirley Berg – Business Manager and AIM Facilitator
  • Jerry Jones – AIM Facilitator and Community Coordinator
  • Carla Loecke – Director of Curriculum and Training
  • Susan Portner – AIM Facilitator

The team of rural experts will engage rural school and community partners in Colorado and beyond to identify and address the most pressing issues facing rural education. The goal of the Center for Rural School Health & Education is to be the catalyst for achieving health and academic equity in rural communities across the nation.

Now Recruiting Research Participants

Are you or your son/daughter between the ages of 6 and 25 years old? Do you like playing computer games? Your participation in this study could help us learn more about thinking and reasoning in individuals with intellectual disability.

The purpose of this research is to evaluate specialized tests for tracking cognitive changes.

wHO cAN pARICIPATE?1-29-16 MCE Research Measuring Cognitive Development in Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities Photo 2

  • Individuals with a confirmed diagnosis of intellectual disability caused by Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, or another cause.
  • Males and females, between 6 – 25 years old
wHAT dOES THE sTUDY iNVOLVE

  • Cognitive and behavioral evaluations during 2-­‐3 visits. These visits typically last about 4-­‐4.5 hours scheduled over a two-day period.
wHAT wILL i RECEIVE?

  • The study will provide $30 compensation for your time and effort for the 1st study visit, $20 for the 2nd study visit, and $50 for the 3rd study visit.
  • One of our research psychologists will provide feedback on cognitive assessment results.
  • We can offer reimbursement for lodging and travel to the University of Denver from your home
aDDITIONAL iNFORMATION

The University of Denver is a private university dedicated to the public good.

All studies take place at the Morgridge College of Education which is located at 1999 E. Evans Ave. Denver, CO 80210.

Sign Up for rESEARCH

To learn more about participating in research, call Jeanine Coleman at 303-­‐871-­‐2496 or email
Jeanine.coleman@du.edu.


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