Current Research

Summary: This five-year project, funded by the Early Learning Coalition of Broward County, aims at increasing the quality of early care and education in Broward County by supporting teacher development and enhancing family engagement through technical assistance, training and professional development. The goal of this project is to provide early childhood programs serving a majority of school readiness children in the central area of Broward County with evidence-based interventions that positively impact child outcomes in children from high-need communities.

Period: August 2012- August 2018

Funding agency: Early Learning Coalition of Broward County

Predicted funding: $4,800,000

Summary: The study will compare two interventions for teaching math to preschool-age children with ASD. The first is considered business as usual, which teaches the Strategies for Teaching Based on Autism Research (STAR) curriculum and discrete trial teaching; the second is the Math is Not Difficult (Project MIND) activity-embedded, naturalistic intervention.

Period: August 2018-August 2019

Funding agency: President’s Research Faculty Development Grant

Funding: $11,996.50

Summary: There has been a significant increase in the use of electronic technology for educational purposes for young children; however, there is very little research on the impact this has on children's development, specifically on children's emergent literacy skills. The goal of the present study is to begin this exploration by comparing the effect e-books have on preschool-aged children's early literacy skills when compared to traditional books. The study will compare 3 conditions, (1) adult-led e-book reading experience, (2) adult-led traditional book reading experience, and (3) child led e-book experience on children's engagement, communicative initiations, comprehension, and preference during the reading sessions.  The proposed study will also investigate the mediating effect that demographic characteristics (gender, age, and SES) might have in this process. The study will be implemented at two sites with a total of 64 children ages 3 and 4. The study will aim to answer the following questions:

  1. Is children's engagement and communicative initiation influenced by the type of reading experience children participate in (adult led e-book, adult led traditional book, child led e-book)?
  2. Is children's comprehension influenced by the type of reading experience children participate in (adult led e-book, adult led traditional book, child led e-book)?
  3. Do children indicate a preference for the type of reading experience and book format?
  4. Do children's demographic characteristics (age, gender and SES) mediate these relationships?

Period: August 2015- ongoing

Funding agency: PFRDG

Funding: $10,000

Summary: This study will evaluate the effectiveness of a program offered by the Children’s Bereavement Center to children and families experiencing the death of a loved one. There is a great need for the delivery of evidence-based loss and bereavement programs. The results of this study can help identify an effective model that could be offered to a large number of families. The goal is to have 60 families participating in the study; each family will include at least one child and one caregiver. A quantitative and qualitative mixed-methods approach will be employed to study the impact of the program on functionality on both children and adults

Period: Ongoing

Funding agency: Shepard Broad Foundation/Children’s Bereavement Center

Funding: $10,000

Summary: There is a paucity of research comparing the effectiveness of two interventions in young students with autism spectrum disorder in a school setting.  This is because of the difficulty of achieving high levels of experimental control due to problems randomizing treatment that is directed by a student’s Individual Education Program under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the legislative foundation to mandatory special education programs.

This proposal will compare the effectiveness of two interventions that are used with students with autism spectrum disorder at the preschool level. Strategies for teaching based on autism research with a curriculum-based assessment that is currently in use at the Baudhuin Preschool. It is based on the science of applied behavior analysis and uses discrete trial teaching (DT) to teach receptive language and pre-academic concepts.  This is a teacher-led intervention. TeachTown is an intervention that is computer-assisted. It also teaches receptive language and academic concepts using discrete trial methodology presented by computer.

A single subject alternating treatment design will be used to evaluate the two interventions, where each of five student participants will receive both interventions and serve as their own controls.  In the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders evaluation of evidence-based practice, 456 studies were reviewed from 1990-2011. Only 48 were group designs and 408 were single subject designs, which demonstrates the state of the research in special education and autism.

The instructor will take the trial by trial data under the STAR condition, while the trial by trial data is automatically taken by the technology in TeachTown. The intervention will last for three months and will be delivered by NSU students. Pre and post-testing using standardized measures of receptive language and concept development will also occur.  Single subject designs traditionally use visual inspection of graphed results to determine whether there is a difference between the two treatments. Educating students with autism is complex in that most students require low staff-to-student ratios that lead to high cost programs. There is also a shortage of well-trained and supervised teachers and paraprofessionals working with this population. Although there is limited data about the effectiveness of both of these curricula, there are even fewer studies that compare the effectiveness of the two.  If it can be shown that students can make comparable or more progress using CAI, that may be one solution to this complex problem.

Period: August 2017-August 2018

Funding agency: President’s Research Faculty Development Grant

Funding: $9,661

Summary: Chronic feeding problems leading to decreased volume and variety of foods have the potential to significantly impact nutrition and hydration status required for adequate growth and development. The underlying causes of these feeding problems range from medical, developmental, social, and environmental factors. A potential factor in poor feeding and reduced dietary intake in children is oropharyngeal dysphagia, characterized by difficulty moving food from the mouth into the throat and esophagus during the act of swallowing (Penagini et al., 2015). It is possible that a child may not possess the skills necessary to be successful at eating complex, mixed, or multi-textured foods leading to food selectivity due to poorly developed oral-motor skills and lack of oral-motor confidence, rather than a true desire for a restrictive diet of single textured foods (Fraker & Walbert, 2011).

Current research evidence supports the potential impact of oral-motor skills on food selectivity; however, there is no research investigating the potential impact of the underlying biomechanics of swallowing on food restriction. The primary purpose of the proposed study is to evaluate if there is a correlation between swallow physiology and reduced dietary inventory in children. Determining if specific physiologic patterns of swallow function are related to refusal of certain food consistencies would provide vital information to guide the course of treatment. Addressing the possible underlying swallowing deficit would likely increase acceptance of a wider variety of foods. Further investigation regarding the possible underlying cause of these chronic feeding problems is essential in order to develop evidence-based assessment and treatment approaches to promote best clinical practice.

Period: August 2017-August 2018

Funding agency: President’s Research Faculty Development Grant

Funding: $11,349

Recently Completed Research

Summary: This project, funded by the A.D. Henderson Foundation, will enable MSC to become the first Touchpoints Center in Broward County.  Currently, there are two Touchpoint Centers in South Florida: one in Dade County and one in Palm Beach County.

The goal of MSC’s Touchpoints project is to “partner with families of young children and the communities and systems of care that surround them so that all children – whatever their life circumstances, challenges, and resources may be – will be healthy, succeed as early learners and have the opportunity to thrive” (Touchpoints mission, 2014).   Targeted training and reflective support on the Touchpoints model is culturally affirming and will be provided to a range of practitioners, including teachers, physicians, dentists, and other professionals, as they rethink their practices with families of young children.

A strengths-based approach to working with families that combines an understanding of child development with respect for the importance of key relationships in young children’s lives will become the hallmark of the methodology used. By helping parents identify the strengths and challenges in each stage of development, trained professionals can reduce frustration and self-doubt while fostering parenting skills, parent/child relationships, and enjoyment of their child. In the process, the bond between the provider and the family is strengthened.

Period: October 2014- June 2017

Funding agency: A.D. Henderson Foundation

Funding: $149,727

Summary: Recent research has discovered that some individuals with autism have increased markers of oxidative stress. Furthermore, genetic abnormalities in the glutathione pathway have been associated to autism. Thus, we are proposing that a nutritional supplement based on bovine milk serum containing cysteine-rich whey proteins (Immunocal®) serving as glutathione precursors can improve behavioral function in children with Autism. We are implementing a 3-month double-blind placebo-controlled study. A total of 40 qualified (see inclusion and exclusion criteria) children ranging in age from 3- to 5-years old will be selected to participate in the study.  Children will be randomly assigned to either treatment (Immunocal®) or placebo for 3 months (20 subjects per group). Impacted areas of autistic behavior will be studied before and after treatment. Also blood glutathione levels will be quantified before and after treatment. Side effects, adverse reactions as well as overall health (blood, kidney and liver function) will be compared between the two groups before and after the treatment. Side effects and adverse reactions will be compared between the two groups before (baseline/week 0) and at the end of treatment (week 12).

Period: 2009-2017

Funding agency: Immunotec

Funding: $60,000

Summary: The study addressed the question of whether the implementation of a specialized music program can have a positive impact on behavioral outcomes of preschool children with autism. Traditionally, a rich, daily classroom schedule for young children with autism provides instruction on functional routines and pre-academic concepts, such as math and science, play and social engagement activities, and receptive and expressive language development. However, many times other strategies that might support children's development, such as the use of music, are not included because of lack of time or resources.  There has been an increase in the use of music-based activities to treat children with autism despite the fact that very little information exists in terms of the effectiveness of those interventions especially when looking at behavioral changes. This research seeked to fill the research gap by exploring if including a music program, implemented twice a week for a 9- week period, has a positive impact on children's behaviors and readiness skills. Specifically, the study assessed the following variables: increases in attention engagement, responsiveness and imitation; and reduction in repetitive, stereotyped behaviors and negative behaviors. The program was implemented at the Baudhuin Preschool: 100 children participated in the study that employed both single subject and a group design methodologies to answer the questions. Specifically the study aimed to answer the following questions:

  1. Will the addition of a music program lead to a reduction of problematic behaviors associated with ASD?
  2. Will the addition of a music program lead to an increase in positive behaviors associated learning readiness, specifically increase in attention, response to requests, engagement and imitation?
  3. Will the addition of a music program transfer outside the music program into other activities, such as circle time?

Period: August 2015- May 2017

Funding agency:  PFRDG

Funding: $10,000

Summary: The purpose of the program was to improve the quality of early childhood education by enhancing the leadership capacities of the early care and education directors. Leadership for Learning (LFL) worked with early childhood center directors in Broward County to institute systemic change in their programs. The project was comprised of two main components: (1) a Director Institute (DI), and (2) Direct center support. The DI met three times during the school year with the focus on the following areas: (1) personal and professional self-awareness, (2) legal and fiscal management, (3) staff management and human relations, (4) educational programming, (5) program operations and facilities management, (6) family support, (7) marketing and public relations, (8) leadership and advocacy, (9) oral and written communication, (10) technology, and (11) child growth and development. All of these areas have been found to predict quality in early childhood settings. An early childhood specialist kept in touch with the center directors between meetings to help implement the material being covered at each session. Based on feedback received from the directors, the majority of participants reported an increase in their leadership and management skills; and more importantly, in their ability to reflect on these skills and the way their leadership style has an impact on their staff. In addition, directors expressed high levels of satisfaction with the program including the presentations, activities, materials and support provided to them.  

Period: October 2015 – September 2016

Funding agency: A.D. Henderson

Funding: $10,320

Summary: The goal of this project was to facilitate the active participation of young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in story time activities at the library by providing youth librarians in the 32 public libraries in Broward County that host youth librarians the tools, the specialized training, the availability of the Mayer-Johnson Boardmaker™ software, and the support necessary to carry out inclusive story time activities for children with ASD.   In order to achieve this the program included two components delivered in two phases. In phase 1, the librarian at each branch responsible for youth services participated in one 3-hour training session. The session included information on characteristics of children with ASD and effective strategies to communicate with them. The second component of the project involved the provision of technical assistance (TA) to librarians in each of the 32 library branches.  An expert coach in the field of autism and communication strategies provided the technical assistance. The goal was for each library to receive three visits by an autism coach to help the youth services librarian develop the materials and strategies needed to hold story time activities that are inclusive of children with ASD and other developmental disabilities.

The project had four objectives:

  1. Make story-telling experiences available to young children with ASD in all Broward County public libraries.
  2. Provide youth librarians in all Broward County public libraries with specialized communication skills to serve children with ASD and their families.
  3. Increase youth librarians’ comfort with and competence in delivering services to children with ASD and their families in the Broward County public libraries.
  4. Distribute a replication training manual to support youth librarians within the Broward County Library Division to provide the resources and materials to offer ongoing accessible story-telling experiences to children with ASD and their families.
Period: January 2013- July 2014
Funding agency: Autism Speaks
Funding: $25,000

Summary: The goal of the study was to examine the way key variables can have an impact in the quality of children’s play. The study compared the play experiences of a group of preschool children’s play on a ‘traditional’ playground and with a set of large, moveable foam pieces designed to promote open-ended free play. Specifically, the study addressed the following research questions:

  1. Are there differences in quality and type of play when children play on a `traditional' playground versus when they play in a playground setting that provides access to loose-part play materials?
  2. Are there differences in frequency of negative behaviors when children play on a `traditional' playground versus when they play on a playground that provides access to loose-part outdoor play materials?
  3. Do age, gender, and socio-economic background mediate quality, type of play and frequency of behavioral challenges across the two play locations and the two play options?

A total of 48 children across two research sites (24 from each site), Nova Southeastern University’s Mailman Segal Center Family Center Preschool (MSC) and Jack and Jill Children’s Center (JJCC), participated in the study.  In conclusion, the introduction of the loose-parts play environment influenced the type and quality of children’s play across the two settings; specifically in terms of engagement and constructive play. Children used the loose-part equipment to build while interacting with each other in the process maintaining their levels of engagement and interest high. The study did raise interesting implications for the complex dynamics across settings (e.g. SES), gender, and age; specifically as they relate to aggressive play behavior and child-initiated conversations. These three variables need to be considered when establishing the conditions to best support children’s play.

Period: January 2013- April 2014

Funding agency: KaBOOM!

Funding: $24,294

Summary: This project provided systematic, relationship-based training and consultation to parents and childcare staff to help support children’s socio-emotional development and in turn, reduce the incidence of behavioral and social-emotional deficits.

Funding Agency: A.D. Henderson Foundation

Cycle 1 Period: November 2010-August 2011

Cycle 1 Funding: $30,000

Cycle 2 Period: February 2012-December 2013

Cycle 2 Funding: $27,770

Summary: The goal of this study was to compare the quality, type of play and incidence of negative behaviors of two groups of children, younger and older preschoolers while playing on a `traditional' playground and while playing with a set of large, moveable foam pieces purposefully designed to promote open-ended free play. Forty preschool-age children were observed for 10 minutes twice weekly, once playing in the `traditional' playground and once playing with the open-ended loose play material. Observations were videotaped and coded using the Play Observation Scale-Revised (Rubin, 2001). The study addressed the following research questions: (1) Are there differences in quality and type of play when children play on a `traditional' playground vs. experiences with open-ended, loose part play materials? (2) Are there differences in incidence of negative behaviors when children play on a `traditional' playground vs. experiences with open-ended, loose part play materials? (3) Does age mediate quality, type of play and incidence of behavioral challenges across the two settings of play?

Period: June 2012-December 2013

Funding Agency: President’s Research Faculty Development Grant, in collaboration with NSU’s College of Psychology

Funding: $10,000

Summary: The goal of this study was to create a partnership between the Jewish Adoption and Foster Care Options (JAFCO) and Nova Southeastern University to provide staff training and coaching to their foster care staff.  The JAFCO opened a respite center for children with autism and other developmental disabilities in 2013 and their staff lacked the expertise to provide programs and services to this population. This training initiative provided the support they needed to develop a program that meets the needs of this complex population.

Period: June 2012-June 2013

Funding Agency: Funded through an NSU Quality of Life Grant

Funding: $10,000

Summary: The goal of this study was to begin an exploration of the coping patterns of a culturally   diverse group of families that have a young child diagnosed with ASD. The results of this study point to a relationship between knowledge of autism, stress, life satisfaction, and perceived impact of having a child with ASD. Thus, providing families with more information regarding ASD can be a factor in reducing stress and increasing life satisfaction. The findings also highlight the effect culture has on this relationships, coping practices and effective interventions and support services.  Hispanic families as a group seemed to be experiencing more stress, lesser life satisfaction and be more negatively impacted by having a child with ASD. In addition, these families experience more challenges receiving support initially from their families because of a lack of understanding and awareness of the ASD diagnosis. Thus, the support services aimed at this group of families should be tailored to their specific needs. Programs need to be developed that incorporate the unique issues that Hispanic families are encountering.

Period: June 2010-April 2013

Funding Agency: Funded through a Chancellor’s Faculty Research Development Grant, In collaboration with NSU’s College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

Funding: $10,000

Summary: The goal of this project was to address the accessibility of the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale to children with autism spectrum disorders, as well as other special needs.

Period: June 2010-June 2012

Funding Agency: Funded through NSU’s Quality of Life Grant, In collaboration with NSU’s Abraham S. Fischler School of Education - Speech, Language, and Communication Disorders program, and the UM-NSU Center for Autism and Related Disabilities.

Funding: $10,000

Summary: This study was designed to evaluate the provision of a specialized training program for awareness of high functional autism (HFA) to faculty of undergraduate and graduate programs at Nova Southeastern University. The results indicated statistically significant differences between the pretest and posttest in faculty knowledge regarding characteristics and challenges of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder as well as the knowledge of university resources that can assist students with ASD.  There were no significant differences on questions regarding knowledge of technology and tools and effective teaching strategies that can increase development of peer relationships and classroom participation for students with ASD.

Period: June 2010- June 2012

Funding Agency: Funded through the Chancellor’s Research Faculty Development Grant.

In collaboration with NSU’s Abraham S. Fischler School of Education

Funding: $10,000

Summary: The study sought to replicate and extend previous research by examining the effectiveness of an evidence-based intervention for pre-kindergarten children with ASD (“stay, play, and talk”). Observational data supported findings from previous research suggest that passive proximity, or inclusion alone, is insufficient to increase social initiations between pre-kindergarten children with ASD and their typically developing peers. Results provide some evidence for the effectiveness of the “stay, play, and talk” procedure, but in particular, for the contingency management component of the intervention. Some evidence of generalization was also obtained.

Period: May 2010 to July 2012

Funding Agency: Funded through the Chancellor’s Research Faculty Development Grant

Funding: $10,000

Summary: This project was conducted in collaboration with Broward County Public Schools. The goal of the project was to provide support for preschool age children who are at risk for academic and reading failure, due to delays in language development and early literacy skills, variables studied included changes in the classroom, curricular activities, and teacher technical support. MSC was responsible for conducting the evaluation of the project.

Period: August 2008-August 2011

Funding Agency: Funded through an Early Reading First grant from the Department of Education.

Funding: $660,251

Summary: This project evaluated the impact of implementing an early literacy curriculum in two integrated classrooms composed of children diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders and typically developing children

Period: August 2011-June 2012

Funding Agency: Mailman Segal Center for Human Development

Funding: NA

Summary: The goal of the study was to create a database to track the development of every child who attends the program; and to have a systematic way of identifying children at-risk for developmental difficulties.

Period: 2010-2012

Funding Agency: Mailman Segal Center for Human Development

Funding: NA

Summary: The goal of the study was to compare the effectiveness of teaching receptive language skills to young children with ASD using iPad-based instruction vs. person-based traditional ABA instruction. Twenty-three children, ages 3 to 5, with a diagnosis of ASD and enrolled in the Baudhuin Preschool participated in the study.  The study employed both single subject and group design methodologies. Each participant received instruction on one of the instructional programs each day for 5 weeks and then the program-instruction pairing was reversed, constituting a crossover design. Preliminary results suggest that instruction via iPad is an effective method of instruction. Specifically, it seems to promote attention and engagement.  In the area of receptive language skill acquisition, however, both methods seem to be similar in effectiveness.

Period: June 2011-June 2013

Funding Agency: Chancellor’s Research Faculty Development Grant

Funding: $10,000

Recently Completed Grants

Summary: The goal of this study was to evaluate the different early childhood models, funding and support sources in Palm Beach County as they predict children’s developmental and academic success at the completion of preschool and kindergarten.

Period: July 2011—July 2012

Funding Agency: Children’s Services Council and Early Learning Coalition of Palm Beach County

Primary agency: Rutgers University

Funding: $371,983

Summary: The goal of this intervention project was to promote and support a team-based approach among parents/guardians and child-care staff to support children’s healthy growth and development. Through thought-provoking, research-based training and discussion sessions parents/guardians and child-care staff learn how to provide sensitive, responsive, consistent care to young children and thereby how to foster strong socio-emotional development.

Period: January 2011-December 2013

Funding Agency: A.D. Henderson Foundation, Inc.

Funding: $57,770

Get More Information

For more information about research and grants, please contact our Director of Research and Evaluation, Nurit Sheinberg:

Phone: (954) 262-7136