Select Publications

2021
J. Cannon, A.M. O'Brien, L.Bungert, and P. Sinha. 2/11/2021. “Prediction in Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review of Empirical Evidence.” Autism Research. Publisher's VersionAbstract

According to a recent influential proposal, several phenotypic features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be accounted for by differences in predictive skills between individuals with ASD and neurotypical individuals. In this systematic review, we describe results from 47 studies that have empirically tested this hypothesis. We assess the results based on two observable aspects of prediction: learning a pairing between an antecedent and a consequence and responding to an antecedent in a predictive manner. Taken together, these studies suggest distinct differences in both predictive learning and predictive response. Studies documenting differences in learning predictive pairings indicate challenges in detecting such relationships especially when predictive features of an antecedent have low salience or consistency, and studies showing differences in habituation and perceptual adaptation suggest low‐level predictive processing differences in ASD. These challenges may account for the observed differences in the influence of predictive priors, in spontaneous predictive movement or gaze, and in social prediction. An important goal for future research will be to better define and constrain the broad domain‐general hypothesis by testing multiple types of prediction within the same individuals. Additional promising avenues include studying prediction within naturalistic contexts and assessing the effect of prediction‐based intervention on supporting functional outcomes for individuals with ASD.

2020
A. M. O’Brien, L. Bayet, K. Riley, Nelson, C., M. Sahin, and M. Modi. 2020. “Characterization of speech and non-speech auditory event related activity in children with Tuberous Sclerosis Complex.” Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Individuals with Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) have atypical white matter integrity and neural connectivity in the brain, including language pathways. To explore functional activity associated with auditory and language processing in individuals with TSC, we used electroencephalography (EEG) to examine basic auditory correlates of detection (P1, N2, N4) and discrimination (mismatch negativity, MMN) of speech and non-speech stimuli for children with TSC and age- and sex-matched typically developing (TD) children. Children with TSC (TSC group) and without TSC (typically developing, TD group) participated in an auditory MMN paradigm containing two blocks of vowels (/a/and/u/) and two blocks of tones (800 Hz and 400 Hz). Continuous EEG data were collected. Multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) was used to explore functional specificity of neural auditory processing. Speech-specific P1, N2, and N4 waveform components of the auditory evoked potential (AEP) were compared, and the mismatch response was calculated for both speech and tones. MVPA showed that the TD group, but not the TSC group, demonstrated above-chance pairwise decoding between speech and tones. The AEP component analysis suggested that while the TD group had an increased P1 amplitude in response to vowels compared to tones, the TSC group did not show this enhanced response to vowels. Additionally, the TD group had a greater N2 amplitude in response to vowels, but not tones, compared to the TSC group. The TSC group also demonstrated a longer N4 latency to vowels compared to tones, which was not seen in the TD group. No group differences were observed in the MMN response. In this study we identified features of the auditory response to speech sounds, but not acoustically matched tones, which differentiate children with TSC from TD children.

A.M. O'Brien, R. W. Schlosser, H. C. Shane, O. Wendt, C. Yu, A. A. Allen, J. Cullen, A. Benz, and L. O’Neill. 2020. “Providing visual directives via a smart watch to a student with Autism Spectrum Disorder: an intervention note.” Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 36, 4, Pp. 249-256.Abstract
Smart watches are discreet and wearable tools that may be repurposed to improve directive-following for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Specifically, a mentor can transmit just-in-time (JIT) visual supports (e.g., video clips, photographs, text) that depict an upcoming directive to a learner’s smart watch to prompt the learner as needed from a distance. Using a single-case multiple probe design across settings, this investigation evaluated the effectiveness of providing text-based prompts on an Apple Watch 1 to a child with ASD within a school setting. A mentor transmitted 2-step written directives via text message to the participant’s Apple Watch. The participant was instructed to attend to, read, and follow directives received on the watch. Results demonstrated that the intervention improved directive-following as well as increased the instructor’s distance from the learner. It is proposed that JIT supports sent to a learner’s smart watch may reduce the obtrusiveness of traditional prompting while also maintaining the naturalness of ongoing social or academic interactions. Clinical limitations and implications are discussed.
A. M. O’Brien, R. Schlosser, C. Yu, A. A. Allen, and H. C. Shane. 2020. “Repurposing a smartwatch to support individuals with autism spectrum disorder: Sensory and operational considerations.” Journal of Special Education Technology. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Smartwatches may provide a natural, portable, and unobtrusive strategy by which to support directive-following for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). A mentor can send visual supports (e.g., photographs, videos, text) “just-in-time” (JIT) to a learner’s smartwatch. This may reduce the need for extraneous face-to-face intervention within social and educational settings and thereby preserve the naturalness of interactions for individuals with ASD. In this article, the following questions are explored: (1) Will some children with ASD with limited functional speech tolerate wearing a smartwatch after receiving only spoken instructions? (2) Can children with ASD who did not initially tolerate wearing a smartwatch increase their tolerance for wearing a smartwatch after they view video models within a visual schedule? and (3) Will children with ASD who tolerate wearing a smartwatch attend to, and follow, scene cue text messages received on the watch? Results provide preliminary evidence for the feasibility of using a smartwatch with children with ASD. Limitations of this study are addressed and implications for future research are posited.
2017
A. O'Brien, M. O'Brien, R. W. Schlosser, C. Yu, A. A. Allen, S. Flynn, J. Costello, and H. C. Shane. 2017. “Repurposing consumer products as a gateway to just-in-time communication.” Seminars in Speech and Language. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The rich feature set and flexibility of mobile technology offers a host of novel opportunities to provide specific and timely supports to individuals with communication and memory disorders. These “just-in-time” (JIT) supports can be used as prompts, reminders, rewards, strategies to increase independence, and expressive language supports for children and adults with communication and memory disorders. The purpose of this article is to examine current research on, and propose future directions for, repurposing consumer products to enhance JIT communication within the field of augmentative and alternative communication. Initially, a brief history of JIT supports will be reviewed, including a timeline and history of JIT-enabling technology. Next, the taxonomy of JIT supports will be applied to current research in both individuals with autism spectrum disorder and individuals with acquired communication disorders (e.g., acquired brain injury, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) to illustrate current clinical implications and evaluate current limitations of JIT supports. Finally, future directions for research and expanded use of consumer products to provide JIT supports will be discussed.

2016
A. O'Brien, R. W. Schlosser, C. Yu, J. Abramson, A. A. Allen, S. Flynn, and H. C. Shane. 2016. “Brief report: Just-in-time visual supports to children with autism via the Apple Watch®: A pilot feasibility study.” Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Using augmented input might be an effective means for supplementing spoken language for children with autism who have difficulties following spoken directives. This study aimed to (a) explore whether JIT-delivered scene cues (photos, video clips) via the Apple Watch® enable children with autism to carry out directives they were unable to implement with speech alone, and (b) test the feasibility of the Apple Watch® (with a focus on display size). Results indicated that the hierarchical JIT supports enabled five children with autism to carry out the majority of directives. Hence, the relatively small display size of the Apple Watch does not seem to hinder children with autism to glean critical information from visual supports.