Autistic Traits, Motor Skills, Explored in Faculty Research

Autism research at Ursinus is resulting in published studies and faculty-student research collaborations.

An Ursinus psychology faculty member has had several papers published or accepted for publication on issues related to her research on the autism spectrum. Jennifer Stevenson, assistant professor of psychology, worked with her students on two of the studies, and presented one at an international meeting.

One study with student Emily Black ’15 and colleague Joel Bish, associate professor of psychology, explored the lateralization of global and local auditory processing in individuals with differing levels of musical experience. The findings provide a preliminary neurological framework for auditory processing of individuals with differing degrees of musical experience:

Black, E., Stevenson, J.L., & Bish, J.P. (in press). The role of musical experience in hemispheric lateralization of global and local auditory processing. Perception.

With Caitlin Lindley ’14, and Nicole Murlo ’14, Stevenson assessed early motor and language skills in both individuals with autism and neurotypical children This study explored the relation between early motor skills, assessed retrospectively, and current pragmatic language skills. The results highlight the important role of motor skills in autism spectrum disorders:

Stevenson, J.L., Lindley, C.E., Murlo, N. (in press). Retrospectively assessed early motor and current pragmatic language skills in autistic and neurotypical children. Perceptual and Motor Skills.

A third study explored the reliability of a commonly used self-report measure of autistic traits, the Autism-Spectrum Quotient, in college students Stevenson recently presented the results of this research at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) in San Francisco in May. The results support using Likert scoring and administering the Autism-Spectrum Quotient at the same time as the task of interest with neurotypical participants:

Stevenson, J.L., & Hart, K.R. (2017). Psychometric properties of the Autism-Spectrum Quotient for assessing low and high levels of autistic traits in college students. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47, 1838-1853. 

Stevenson, a cognitive neuroscientist with a research focus on the autism spectrum, received her B.S. in Psychology from Davidson College, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She joined the Ursinus College Psychology Department and Neuroscience Program in 2011.