Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute

Hassenfeld Institute to Resume In-Person Recruitment for Postnatal Study

Researchers with the Hassenfeld Institute are gearing up to resume in-person recruitment for their autism study after a lengthy hiatus due to COVID-19.

The study enrolls moms soon after they have given birth at Women & Infants Hospital. During the pandemic, research assistants worked remotely, calling new moms in their hospital rooms to tell them about the study and help them to enroll. Soon, research assistants will return to conducting in-person recruitment in the hospital's postnatal rooms.

“Resuming in-person enrollment will make it easier for new parents to learn about the study, and it gives our research staff the opportunity to start to build a relationship between the parents and the Hassenfeld Institute,” said Dr. Stephen Sheinkopf, co-lead of the Hassenfeld Institute’s Autism Initiative and a PI on the study. Dr. Sheinkopf is an assistant professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

The study examines behaviors in newborns that may be related to developmental delays later in life and follows participants over the course of five years. Because it is an observational study, participating moms and children are not asked to change any of their normal habits or take any medications. The moms are asked to contribute recordings of their baby’s cries in the first month and then to fill out a questionnaire every year on their child’s birthday. Cries are now recorded through a novel method using an app installed on parents’ phones, allowing families to conveniently record and securely share recordings made after they return home. All participants are compensated for their time.

“The pandemic interrupted recruitment for a period of time, but it also gave us a chance to re-tool and come up with a novel and creative way for parents to share the cry sounds of their newborns. This is great for our current study, and it opens up new possibilities for future efforts,” Dr. Sheinkopf said.

Dr. Sheinkopf’s autism study is just one of the many studies supported by the Hassenfeld Institute and its birth cohort, which is a longitudinal study of moms and children in Rhode Island. The information gathered through the birth cohort studies will help to better predict health outcomes and guide individualized approaches to support and treatment of child health issues.

Learn more about the Autism Initiative.