Current Projects: Now Recruiting Families!

New NIH Grant-Funded Study: ASD Screening Tools in Down Syndrome

Dr. Channell was recently awarded an NIH INCLUDE R21 grant to determine how to best use autism screening tools in children with Down syndrome. Project collaborators include Drs. Laura Mattie and Amy Cohen at UIUC, Dr. Tracie Rosser at Emory University, and Drs. Luke Kalb and Natasha Ludwig at Johns Hopkins University/Kennedy Krieger Institute.

We are looking for caregivers of children with Down syndrome ages 6-18 to participate in an online research study about how to customize autism screening tools for children with Down syndrome. Your child does not need to have autism. Participation involves completing initial questionnaires about your child’s development (2-3 hours) and a few follow-up questions two weeks later (30 minutes). You can complete these at your own pace across multiple sessions. A family resource sheet and compensation are provided. For more information, please contact Dr. Channell’s team at or 217-265-6058.

Recent Research Findings

Post-High School Transition Outcomes for Young Adults with Down Syndrome

Our collaborative project with Dr. Susan Loveall at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and Dr. Meghan Burke at UIUC recently reported post-high school employment and other independent living outcomes for young adults with Down syndrome as they transition into adulthood. Read more about this study that was featured in a UNL Pocket Science article.

Ways for SLPs to Support Caregivers of Children with Down Syndrome

PhD student and licensed SLP, Beka Bosley, and Dr. Channell recently published an article in Seminars in Speech and Language highlighting ways that SLPs can work with caregivers of children with Down syndrome. When providing intervention services, clinicians can involve caregivers by teaching them strategies for supporting social communication during activities such as shared storybook “reading”, even for school-age children with DS. 

Four key points for SLPs when teaching caregivers these strategies:

  1. Make the goal shared enjoyment rather than reading or teaching specific skills. 
  2. Label character emotions and connect them to character actions.
  3. Match the specific strategies (e.g., type and frequency of language input) to the developmental level of the child.
  4. Encourage strategies within the caregiver’s preferred style of shared storytelling. 

Cognitive and Behavioral Profiles across Individuals with Down Syndrome

Research from our lab was recently published in the Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders showing different profiles of skills among children, teens, and young adults with Down syndrome. This is one of the largest studies to date to highlight individual differences in cognition and behavior across the population with Down syndrome. We conducted this study in collaboration with Dr. Mattie’s lab at UIUC and with colleagues at Emory University, Kennedy Krieger Institute, and other Down Syndrome Cognition Project sites. A special thank you goes to LuMind IDSC Foundation for funding this project. Read the full article here!

Mental State Language Development in School-Age Children with Down Syndrome

Published in the American Journal of Speech Language Pathology, this study looked at how school-age children with Down syndrome learn to talk about people’s emotions, thoughts, intentions, and other mental states. Mental state language is a stepping stone for “putting oneself in another’s shoes” and learning how to interpret other people’s social cues. It is also key to expressing oneself in socially appropriate ways. We recorded children as they told stories from a picture book. We counted the words children used to describe characters’ mental states. For example, if a child said, “The boy was scared”, we counted scared as a mental state word.

Some of the children did not use any mental state vocabulary in their stories. Others used a few, and some used a lot. The children who used more mental state language were also better at recognizing other people’s emotion expressions. However, mental state language was not associated with age or IQ. This tells us that for children who have Down syndrome, mental state language is not simply a product of general development or cognitive abilities. Instead, ‘emotion knowledge’ is an important factor. We may be able to use emotion knowledge to boost mental state language. For example, parents and teachers could practice pointing out other people’s emotional expressions, labeling their emotions, and talking about how that person may feel. Future research will test these possibilities.

Acknowledgements: DS-Connect Down Syndrome Participant Registry; NICHD Grants R03HD083596 & P50HD103526; UIUC OVCR Campus Research Board Grant RB19099  

Post-High School Employment among Young Adults with Down Syndrome
Poster presented at the 2021 Conference of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

In collaboration with Dr. Meghan Burke at UIUC and Dr. Susan Loveall at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, we surveyed caregivers of young adults with Down syndrome to learn about their post-high school transition experience.

53% were currently employed in a community or sheltered workshop setting. Cleaning and food prep were the most common job tasks, and restaurants and stores were the most common employers. Caregiver and perceived child satisfaction with employment ranged from unsatisfied to satisfied. This study highlights that it is not only finding a job that matters but rather finding the “right” job to fit the youth with Down syndrome. Future research plans include asking the individual with Down syndrome to self-report.


Channell, M. M., Mattie, L. J., Schworer, E. K., Fidler, D. J., & Esbensen, A. J. (2023). Using the Social Skills Improvement System (SSiS) Rating Scales to assess social skills in youth with Down syndrome. Frontiers in Psychology, 14:1105520.

Channell, M. M., Loveall, S. J., & Burke, M. M. (2023). Exploring caregiver perceptions of post-high school employment experiences among young adults with Down syndrome. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 61(2), 158-171.

Mattie, L. J., Loveall, S. J., Channell, M. M., & Rodgers, D. B. (2023). Perspectives on adaptive functioning and intellectual functioning measures for intellectual disabilities behavioral research. Frontiers in Psychology, 14:1084576.

Soltani, A., Schworer, E. K., Jacobson, L. A., Channell, M. M., Lee, N. R., Faught, G. G., Grzadzinski, R., Fidler, D., & Esbensen, A. J. (2023). Confirmatory factor analysis of the BRIEF2 in a sample of youth with Down syndrome. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 67(2), 148-158.

Channell, M. M., Sandstrom, L. E., & Harvey, D. (2022). Mental state language development in children with Down syndrome versus typical development. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 127(6), 495-510.

Loveall, S. J., Channell, M. M., Burke, M. M., & Rodgers, D. B. (2022). Post-high school transition outcomes for young adults with Down syndrome. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 127(2), 135-138.   

Loveall, S. J., Channell, M. M., Mattie, L. J., & Barkhimer, A. E. (2022). Inclusion of individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders in norm-referenced language assessments. Frontiers in Psychology, 13:929433.

Channell, M. M., & Bosley, R. (2021). Mental state language use in children with Down syndrome and the role of caregivers. Seminars in Speech and Language, 42, 318-329.

Channell, M. M., Mattie, L. J., Hamilton, D. R., Capone, G. T., Mahone, E. M., Sherman, S. L., Rosser, T. C., Reeves, R. H., Kalb, L. G., & the Down Syndrome Cognition Project. (2021). Capturing cognitive and behavioral variability among individuals with Down syndrome: A latent profile analysis. Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, 13, 16.

Channell, M. M. (2020). The Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS-2) in school-age children with Down syndrome at low risk for autism spectrum disorder. Autism & Developmental Language Impairments, 5, 1-12.

Channell, M. M. (2020). Cross-sectional trajectories of mental state language development in children with Down syndrome. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 29, 760-775.

Channell, M. M., Hahn, L. J., Rosser, T. C., Hamilton, D., Frank-Crawford, M. A., Capone, G. T., Sherman, S. L., & the Down Syndrome Cognition Project (2019). Characteristics associated with autism spectrum disorder risk in individuals with Down syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 49, 3543-3556. doi: 10.1007/s10803-019-04074-1

See full list of publications