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Who can participate in the Little Listeners Project?

The Little Listeners Project includes children who are developing typically between the ages of 18 and 36 months, and children with a suspected or diagnosed autism spectrum disorder between the ages of 24 and 48 months. We do have additional study criteria that we will discuss with you over the phone to see if your child is eligible to participate.

As of May 1st, 2017, we are no longer recruiting additional children with suspected or diagnosed autism spectrum disorder to participate in the study. However, we are still recruiting children who are developing typically. Thank you to all of the families who have participated so far!

If you have questions about whether your child is eligible or if you would like to sign up to be contacted, please visit our Sign Up page!

Do you provide autism diagnoses?

Yes. This study specifically includes young children who are suspected to have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or who already have a previous diagnosis of ASD from a community practitioner. All children with suspected or diagnosed ASD will undergo a full diagnostic evaluation by a licensed psychologist and a speech-language pathologist. The evaluation will include cognitive, language, and autism assessments. Families of children with diagnosed or suspected ASD will participate in a family meeting with the clinicians at the end of the visit to discuss the results of the evaluation. These families will also receive a written evaluation report, which they are welcome to share with other professionals, such as teachers, daycare providers, or therapists.

How does the study work?

Each visit consists of multiple activities. During some of the visit, your child will sit on your lap and watch short “movies” that help us determine how young children understand language. During other parts, your child will play with an examiner, look at books, and answer questions. Additionally, you will be asked to answer some questions and fill out a few questionnaires.

How long does it take?

The study takes place on two separate days. Appointment times vary in length depending on whether your child is developing typically or has a suspected or diagnosed autism spectrum disorder (ASD). On average, children who do not have ASD will participate for a total of 3-5 hours across two visits, and children with ASD will participate for a total of 6-8 hours across two visits.

Will we be compensated for our time?

Yes. You will be compensated for your participation, and you will receive mileage reimbursement if you live farther than 20 miles from the Waisman Center. Families with children who are developing typically will earn a total of $100 for approximately 3-5 hours of time, and families with children who have a suspected or diagnosed autism spectrum disorder will earn a total of $250 for approximately 6-8 hours of time.

How do I cancel or reschedule an appointment?

If you need to cancel or reschedule your appointment, please call (608) 263-3123 or email us at

How do I get there?

The Little Listeners Project is located in the Waisman Center on the University of Wisconsin - Madison campus. The address is 1500 Highland Avenue, Madison, WI 53705. Please visit our Find Us page for more information.

What about parking?

There is a parking lot behind the Waisman Center available to our participants (Lot 82). Parking permits are required, so we will send you permits in the mail. Bring your permit on the day of your appointment and hang it from your rearview mirror with the date facing outwards towards your windshield. If you did not receive the permit or forgot to bring it along to your appointment, the receptionist in the lobby will be happy to provide a new one.

Can I bring my other children with me to the appointment?

Yes. You are welcome to bring additional children to the appointment. We have a playroom with toys for children of all ages, and we will arrange to have additional staff ready to play with and care for your other kids while you participate in the study. If you plan on bringing other children, please let us know at the time of scheduling, so we can prepare accordingly.

Will there be a follow-up visit?

The Little Listeners Project is designed as a longitudinal study of language in young children with and without autism spectrum disorder. This means we are interested in studying how your child develops language over time. In order to do this, families may be offered the opportunity to participate in a follow-up visit approximately one year after the initial visit. There is no obligation to participate.

Will I be with my child during the study?

You and your child will be together during all of the movies and play-based activities. It is often easier for our parents of the children with suspected ASD to complete the diagnostic parent interview while their toddler plays in a separate room, so additional staff will be available to care for your child at that time. During the diagnostic interview, you will be able to see your child in the room next to you, through a two-way mirror, and you are always welcome to attend to your child's needs when they arise.

Parents of typically developing children will remain in the same room as their child throughout all of the activities. However, if siblings do attend they may be placed in an adjoining room to play with a member of the research team while you and your child are participating in the research activities. Please feel free to discuss any concerns or childcare needs with us at the time of scheduling.

How will the findings from the study be used?

The findings from our study will be presented at conferences and published in academic journals to be read by fellow researchers and educators interested in language and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We will add links to these articles to our Publications page, and we will also send out a newsletter periodically to update families on our findings. Additionally, our results may be used to help inform clinical assessments and practices related to ASD.

You will have the opportunity to give optional permission for the audio/video recordings of your child to be used for educational, training, or professional purposes. Beyond those optional recordings, we never release or publish identifying information about specific children who participated, and your child’s individual results and performance will remain completely confidential.

What if my child is uncooperative during the study?

We understand that young children can be unpredictable and stubborn at times, and if your child becomes uncooperative or upset at any point, we are happy to take breaks or move on to different activities to make them feel more comfortable.