Current Research

This project, titled “Implications of COVID-19 on Service Delivery, Health, and Well-Being for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities,” will address significant health disparities and marginalization experienced by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The project will elucidate the impact of COVID-19 on the health and well-being of people with IDD, evaluate current responses to address this impact, and provide recommendations to guide service delivery to better meet the needs of this often-underserved population.

This project is funded through the Wisconsin Partnership Program’s COVID-19 Response Research and Education Grant Program, through the Partnership Education and Research Committee, that supports innovative research and education projects that address a wide range of ongoing health consequences of the pandemic.

Young boy with autismThe goal of this proposal is to develop and pilot a parent-mediated intervention for feeding challenges in children with autism building on our recent research and current successful models already being used. A parent-mediated intervention would occur in the home environment, working with the parent to establish the goals and implement the intervention based on their specific child’s needs. No other studies have targeted feeding behaviors using this intervention model. Seventeen families will be enrolled in the intervention that will involve teaching, modeling, and coaching strategies for parents that would become embedded in their daily routines to target feeding behaviors.

This study will answer the following questions:

  • Are we able to adapt and refine a parent-mediated intervention to address feeding challenges in children with autism?
  • Are we able to recruit and retain a diverse group of families that represent Wisconsin? Are the families satisfied with the intervention?
  • Did the intervention improve the child’s feeding skills and behaviors? Did the intervention decrease parental stress?

It is essential that our methods and intervention are appealing and useful to the population we serve – families with young children with autism in Wisconsin. To achieve this, we are working with two local organizations, Communication Innovations and Autism Society of South Central Wisconsin, to ensure that we develop the best possible intervention that is feasible for families and builds on current clinic-based community services. Both of these organizations will be vital to the further development, implementation, and evaluation of the intervention.


The UW Madison Occupation Therapy (MSOT) Program has partnered with Madison Metropolitan School District’s (MMSD) School Aged Parenting Program (SAPAR) for over 16 years.  Dr. Ausderau oversees this student-led project in which MSOT graduate students run guided imagery (GI) research bi-annually with SAPAR students designed to demonstrate the importance of reducing stress during pregnancy.  Furthermore, MSOT graduate students provide educational presentations and activities on stress, nutrition, and effects of substance abuse on the fetus, which grew out of the UW-based research of Professor Emeritus Mary Schneider.

You can find a recorded session here that the students and a community partner, Jessie Loeb, presented in March 2021. Dr. Karla Ausderau, Allie Korbel, Yasmeena Ougayour, Libby Hladik, and Jessie Loeb, shared the ongoing collaboration between SAPAR in Madison Metropolitan School District and the University of Wisconsin Occupational Therapy Program. They described the incredible impact to both programs through the sustainable partnership.
Learn what needs are identified for pregnant and parenting adolescents in Madison within the SAPAR program, as well as how occupational therapy students are growing to be future community-based practitioners!

The Zika virus (ZIKV) contributes to a range of neonatal complications when mothers are exposed during pregnancy. Women who have been exposed to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) may have an increased risk for transmitting ZIKV in the womb. The exposure to ZIKV are still unclear and variable. This research examines infant rhesus macaque, non-human primate, behavior to better understand the neurodevelopmental implications of ZIKV prenatal exposure. The use of nonhuman primates is necessary due to ethical and feasible constraints. Throughout the first year of life, various assessments are administered, including the weekly Schneider Neonatal Assessment Procedure (SNAP) during the first four weeks, monthly behavioral/cognitive assessments that involves different apparatuses (puzzle feeder, PVC pipe, and sensory sticks), and a human intruder protocol (HIP) assessment that measures rhesus macaque’ behavioral responses to stressful and threatening situations.