Previous Research

Williams Syndrome Research


A love of people is characteristic of individuals with Williams syndrome, and it is hard not to be charmed by their friendly and sociable nature. But what do people with Williams syndrome really understand about others? How do people with Williams Syndrome perceive and process social and emotional information? How do they monitor their attention to social and nonsocial aspects of their environment?

Our studies of individuals with Williams syndrome  addressed these questions, using a variety of methodologies, such as measuring their reaction time when pressing buttons in response to images, measuring physiological responses (e.g., heart rate and skin conductance), and tracking how the eyes move while looking at images. We adopted a multi-measure approach to explore the ways children, adolescents and adults with Williams syndrome process and respond to social information, and how they differ from typically-developing individuals or age-matched adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorders in their responses. We have also conducted behavioral research with younger children, examining how toddlers with Williams syndrome express and regulate their emotions while doing various activities with their parents, peers, and other adults. To learn more about our research, click here

The Deaf Autism Project

More and more deaf children are being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Yet there are still no instruments designed for detecting autism in deaf children, nor interventions specifically tailored to the needs of deaf children with an ASD. Research into how autism affects the language and cognitive development of deaf children can help inform the development of instruments and interventions specifically for deaf children

The Deaf Autism Project, led by Aaron Shield, is one of the world’s first and largest studies on autism in deaf children learning sign language. This research aimed to understand how autism affects sign language development in children exposed to a sign language from birth. This study will lead to better treatment options for deaf children as well as a better understanding of how autism affects learning in both deaf and hearing children. More information about the project can be found here.