Study Summary: 
This 9-week intervention focuses on key social skills for autistic adolescents, while exploring brain plasticity using fMRI imaging. Your child will receive 1:1 tutoring sessions with our clinician, with parent training in clinic. Topics include: Greetings, Departures, Question Asking, Talking the Right Amount, Empathy, Sarcasm, and Eating and Drinking. We also coordinate with the school for additional support and opportunities to practice the targeted social skills in a club of interest.

Study Goal:
Investigate brain changes after social skills intervention (Pivotal Response Treatment)

Targeted Population:

  • Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Ages 11-13 years old
  • Right-handed
  • No metal in body
  • English Speaker


  • Up to $325
  • Pictures of the child’s brain
  • A Stanford Brain Development T-shirt

Study Stages:

Appointment #1: Screening and electronic consent [~ 1.5 hours]: The screening appointment will involve parents answering questions about the child to determine eligibility to move forward. The child does not need to be present. This appointment will be completed via Zoom. (Note: Zoom is safe for Protected Health Information.) Since this is a screening, no compensation is available. The electronic consent is contingent on being eligible based on the screening results. The parent consent and child assent forms will be reviewed and signed by the parent and child.

Appointment #2 & #3: Two Neuropsychological Testing [~2.5 hours each]: During the first and second lab visits, your child will undergo neuropsychological testing by Stanford assessors. These assessments measure IQ, grade-level proficiency, and language and social communication skills. Participants are compensated $25 for completing each of these 2 neuropsychological testing appointments, for a total of $50.

Appointment #3 & #4: Two Diagnostic Assessments [~1 & 3 hours]: During the first diagnostic assessment your child will engage in a play-based assessment with a Stanford assessor that is designed to assess your child’s social communication skills. This appointment will take approximately 1 hour and will take place at our research lab at Stanford University. At the second diagnostic assessment, parents will complete the Autism Diagnostic Interview (ADI-R), a parent interview that asks about their child’s development and autism spectrum disorder symptoms. This appointment will take between 2-3 hours and can be conducted either in person or over Zoom. (Note: Zoom is safe for Protected Health Information.) Your child does not have to be present for this appointment. Compensation for completing both assessment appointments is $50.

Appointment #5 & #6: Two Behavioral Assessments [1.5-2 hours each]: Your child will undergo a behavioral assessment by a Stanford assessor before and after the PRT intervention. The assessment includes observing your child’s natural interaction with the clinician. We will also ask you, as your child’s parent, to complete some questionnaires about your child. These visits will take place at our research lab at Stanford University. We have appointments available on weekends, weekdays, and evenings. Participants are compensated $25 for completing each of these 2 behavioral assessment appointments, for a total of $50. 

Appointment #7: Mock MRI Scan [1.5 hours]: Participant will undergo one mock brain scan before the first MRI scan. The purpose is to acclimate your child to the MRI environment and to sounds they will hear. Compensation is $25.

Appointment #8 & #9: Two MRI Scan [~3 hours each]: Participants will undergo two brain scans (MRI). At the scan, participants will watch movies and answer questions while pictures of their brain are taken. Your child will need to lie on a small bed inside the MRI machine and remain still for 5-minutes intervals while the brain images are collected. The MRI scans will take place at the main campus of Stanford University. We offer MRI appointments on weekdays and weekends. An MRI scan is a safe, non-invasive procedure that does not use x-rays or radiation. Participants are compensated $50 for each MRI scan, for a total of $100.

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