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Current Student Projects

Chris Haak, MS

Diagnosing and treating ADHD: Clinician characteristics, methods of diagnosis, diagnostic rates, and treatment recommendations 

  • Clinicians play an integral role in diagnosing disorders, and differences in training and beliefs about the disorder play a role in the clinical decision-making process. This study is an exploration of the influence of professional factors on assessing psychologist's beliefs about, likelihood to diagnose, and methods to treat ADHD. Clinician practice and beliefs are explored for each of the following areas: diagnostic rates, methods of diagnosis, and treatment recommendations provided.

Sean Rafajko, MS

  • Individuals with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) face poorer quality of life and psychological well-being. Although there has been growing attention toward the promotion of community participation for people with ASC, the extent to which they feel a sense of belonging and connection in their communities is not well understood. One way to examine this is to identify what communities are important to people with ASC as well as the extent to which they feel a sense of community (SOC). SOC has been studied in the general public as well as in some other disability populations and found to be associated with increased quality of life, life satisfaction, and improved psychological well-being. However, SOC has never been examined quantitatively in the ASC population. Given that social communication deficits are a core part of the conditions, which may make SOC more difficult, and that community integration is often a component of ASC programming and interventions, understanding the SOC of people with ASC is particularly relevant. Additionally, a number of communities exist online, and there has been recent research showing that people may feel sense of virtual community (SOVC). SOVC may be particularly important to the ASC population, as internet use is significantly higher in the population, and people with ASC report positive experiences with online communication and relationships. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to examine SOC and SOVC in the ASC population by identifying what types of communities are most important to them and examining the extent to which SOC and SOVC are associated with quality of life and psychological well-being for adults with ASC compared to the general population.  Findings from this study will serve to help professionals and families understand the extent to which perceptions of community impact the well-being of people ASC and inform individual and community-level interventions.


Kristi Johnson, MS

  • Epilepsy is the most common neurological disorder worldwide. The primary goal of treatment for epilepsy is to eliminate or reduce the number of seizures a person is experiencing due to the many possible negative ramifications. Unfortunately, many of the current treatments also have negative side effects. Marijuana is one possible avenue that some people have explored to treat seizures; however, there has been little research in this area. This is an especially relevant research area amid the current trends in the legalization of medicinal and recreational marijuana across the United States. However, even though discussions and information about marijuana use are currently occurring among patients, physicians, and groups such as the Epilepsy Foundation, there have been limited studies examining individuals’ comfort discussing it as a treatment option with health providers as well as other aspects of marijuana use and how it may affect people with epilepsy. The goal of my dissertation is to explore what use looks like in a sample of people with epilepsy (e.g. rates and methods of use), explore level of comfort discussion marijuana as an option with providers across states' legal statuses, and lastly examine quality of life between users and non-users.

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