NEWS | August 2, 2018

MIND Institute and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences receive grant for fragile X syndrome research

Study aims to understand how to support adolescents as they move into adulthood


The UC Davis MIND Institute the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences received a $3.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to research youth with fragile X syndrome (FXS ) progressing from high school to adult life. The study, led by MIND Institute Director and Tsakopoulos-Vismara Endowed Chair in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Leonard Abbeduto, aims to better understand factors that lead to more or less successful transitions to independence.

Leonard Abbeduto Leonard Abbeduto

“We think language and literacy skills upon completion of high school will play an important role in employment, socialization, leisure and housing outcomes for young adults with FXS,” said Abbeduto. “If we can demonstrate that relationship, I think we will have a strong case for schools to increase the intensity of speech and language therapies and literacy education.”

Abbeduto also believes experiences in school and at home among adolescents with FXS affect preparation for adulthood. By identifying these events, he hopes to help parents and teachers of those with FXS learn to facilitate successful transitions.

In most states, people with intellectual disabilities leave high school at age 21 or 22. Families often struggle to help the person with an intellectual disability find meaningful employment, adequate social and recreational activities and housing. As a result of limited options and long wait times for services, adults with intellectual disabilities often spend most of their time at home with little opportunity for community involvement or independence.

Abbeduto and his colleagues will also study the experiences these adolescents have as adults and how they support further development of language, literacy and cognitive skills. UC Davis researchers include Angela John Thurman, Flora Tassone and Nicole Sparapani. Colleagues at the University of South Carolina and Vanderbilt University also will participate in the five-year study.

A gift from Lynda and Scott Canel and their family helped establish the Program for Transition into Ault Life and allow Abbeduto to conduct the pilot research that helped secure the NIH grant.

“The gift and encouragement from the Canel family is what really motivated us to start this research project.” Abbeduto said.