AUTISTIC COMMUNICATION, ENGAGEMENT, AND RELATIONSHIPS
The ACER lab is dedicated to studying the complex social experiences of children and youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Our Research

We research topics such as face-to-face interaction, the ways in which children and caregivers engage together with toys and how this influences children’s development, the school experiences of children and youth with ASD, and children’s understanding of friendships.

Our Methods

We use a variety of methods and data sources to explore these topics, including quantitative analyses of video observations, quantitative and qualitative analyses of interviews and surveys, and discourse/conversation analysis, among others.

Our Committment

In our research, we are committed to a neurodiversity framework; an understanding that ASD is a neurological difference that should be respected as a form of human diversity. This means that we focus our research efforts on supporting, not curing or normalizing, autistic children and youth. We are also committed to prioritizing and respecting the voices of autistic people in our work.

Meet the Team

Kristen Bottema-Beutel
Assistant Professor of Special Education

Kristen Bottema-Beutel, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of Special Education in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. 

She received her Ph.D. from the joint doctoral program in Special Education at UC Berkeley and San Francisco State University, which was followed by an IES post-doctoral fellowship in Special Education Interventions at Vanderbilt University. She joined the Boston College faculty in 2013, and has worked with children, youth, and adults with disabilities for over 15 years.
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Caitlin Malloy
Doctoral Candidate

Caitlin Malloy, M.A. is a doctoral candidate in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College.   

Her previous experiences teaching in bilingual and inclusive settings and working in cognitive neuroscience labs have shaped her research interests, which include exploring relations between communicative competence and social success, particularly in early childhood, and considering ways that educators and developmental scientists can support and inform each others’ work.  She holds a master’s degree in Child Development from Tufts University, and bachelor’s degrees in Linguistics & Cognitive Science and Music from Brandeis University.
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So Yoon Kim
Doctoral Candidate

So Yoon Kim, M.A. is a doctoral candidate in the Teacher Education, Special Education, Curriculum and Instruction department of the Boston College Lynch School of Education. 

Her interests are in friendship development and the transition to adulthood for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Specifically, she is interested in the provision of support service in post-secondary institutions as well as in employment. She received her B.A. in Psychology from Columbia College, Columbia University in 2012, and her M.A in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University in 2015.
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Josephine Cuda
Doctoral Student

Josephine Cuda, M.A. is a doctoral student in the Teacher Education, Special Education, Curriculum and Instruction department of the Boston College Lynch School of Education.  

Her research interests include the social and relationship development of individuals with autism spectrum disorder across the lifespan, and identity in disability. Prior to her doctoral studies, she worked as a special educator in inclusive educational settings in New Jersey and in the NYC DOE.  She earned her master’s degree from Teachers College, Columbia University in Autism and Intellectual Disability and Early Childhood Education, and her bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in Human Development.
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Shannon Crowley
Doctoral Student

Shannon Crowley, M.A. is a doctoral student in the Teacher Education, Special Education, Curriculum and Instruction department of the Boston College Lynch School of Education. 

Her research interests include exploring the social interactions and friendship development of students with autism spectrum disorder in the classroom setting, and the transition from high school to adulthood for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. She received a master’s degree in Applied Psychology from Boston College, and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Union College.  
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Lab Alumni

  • Ashley Antwi, Master of Public Health student at Emory University
  • Jessica Barnes
  • Jennifer Byron
  • Chelsey Carroll, Psy.D. Student at William James College
  • Christopher Cruz
  • Linnea Joffe-Nelson
  • Elizabeth Stringer Keefe, Assistant Professor at Lesley University
  • Becca Louick, Assistant Professor at St. John’s University
  • Maryam Moravvej Farshi
  • Haerin Park, Ph.D. student at Boston College
  • David Schatz
  • Kana Umagami,  Ph.D. student at University College London
  • Rachel White

Publications

Bottema-Beutel, K., Woynaroski, T., Louick, R., Keefe, E.S., Watson, L.R., & Yoder, P.J. (in press). Longitudinal associations across vocabulary modalities in children with autism and typical development. Autism.

Bottema-Beutel, K., Lloyd, B., Watson, L., & Yoder, P.J. (2018) Bidirectional influences of caregiver utterances and supported joint engagement in children with and without autism spectrum disorder. Autism Research, 11, 755 – 765.

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Participate in our Research

We are currently recruiting participants for our Student Voices project.

Learn More About Student Voices and How You Can Help

“When I don’t have the support I need, my available brainpower gets significantly overtaxed trying to compensate. That’s what supports are supposed to help with. They help us live on equal footing. They give us the tools and opportunities to be ourselves. They help us where we need help, but allow us to thrive on our own power. They don’t assume that we can’t. They help us so we can.”
~ The Third Glance, Autistic blogger