Organization for Autism Research


The Organization for Autism Research (OAR) is a national non-profit organization formed and led by relatives of children and adults with autism and Asperger Syndrome. OAR is dedicated to promoting research that can be applied to help families, educators, caregivers, and individuals with autism find much-needed answers to their immediate and urgent questions. This grant will allow the Koegel Autism Center to examine the effectiveness of a peer-facilitated, multicomponent social skills intervention for adolescents on the autism spectrum.

Adolescents with autism (even those considered “high-functioning”) exhibit diverse profiles with varying degrees of impairment to their social motivation, interpersonal understanding, and concrete skill use. These vulnerabilities, left unchecked, can greatly limit their long-term quality of life. The complexity of their social needs requires comprehensive social programming. The proposed randomized wait list-controlled trial will examine the use of a peer-facilitated, multi-component social skills intervention to simultaneously target motivational, conceptual, and skill deficits. This novel group-based intervention includes the use of high-school social facilitators, individualized skill targets, self-management, experiential and didactic components, parent education, and social homework. Social competence improvements will be serially assessed every five weeks using a variety of measures, including naturalistic conversation samples, survey measures, and data on real-world social encounters. Current pilot data suggests that the proposed group intervention will be highly effective in rapidly improving the social skillset of participating adolescents. Such social improvements have obvious practical implications for this population as they start to pursue adult social endeavors, such as developing meaningful friendships, obtaining and keeping suitable employment, and seeking out romantic relationships.

Please click here to find out how you can participate in this research study.


Autism Speaks

Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, has given a $120,000 grant to the Koegel Autism Center at UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz School in its latest round of funding. The grant will fund research to develop new treatments by tapping non-social interests to engage toddlers. Autism Speaks’ Chief Science Officer Rob Ring says, “The funded work in this group of projects touches upon some of the most important areas of unmet need facing the autism community today.” Read more about the grant here.



Increasing Service Providers' Competence for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Children with ASD

            As more culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) children are being diagnosed with ASD (NAEYC, 2009), there is a great need for an increase in culturally competent service providers (Delgado & Strawn, 2014; Welterlin & LaRue, 2007).  The literature suggests that service providers who share the same cultural and linguistic background as families are in a unique position to help develop goals that are more culturally meaningful for CLD children with ASD. In consideration of this philosophy, this project will match CLD service providers with children with ASD in order to incorporate culturally sensitive measures into Pivotal Response Treatment, which is an empirically validated treatment. This project will evaluate whether this will: (1) improve the children’s treatment gains, (2) improve the family and children’s overall affect, (3) improve the family’s desire to seek out services for their child, and (4) improve the family’s satisfaction with interacting with service providers. 


Fostering a Positive Social Environment: Peer Mediated Social Interventions for Students with ASD

            Many adolescents with ASD do not receive appropriate social intervention programs in their inclusive high schools, and instead are often bullied and teased (Humphrey & Symes, 2010; Roekel, et al., 2010; Symes & Humphrey, 2010).  Our project, therefore, aims to address the need for evidence-based peer mediated social programs for adolescents with ASD in their inclusive high school setting.  The intervention will consist of incorporating the adolescents with ASD’s preferred/specialized interests into regular recreational/social activities in schools. The goals of this project include improving the social development of adolescents with ASD, improving their overall mental health, eliminating the bullying and teasing, and creating a community within the school system that fosters a positive social environment.


If interested in participating in either of the projects, please contact the project coordinator, Dr. Sunny Kim at