Self-Regulation Research Project

Researchers at Seattle Pacific University are recruiting two groups of children ages 3- to 6-years-old, children with typical development and autism spectrum disorders, for a study of self-regulation skills. Self-regulation skills, such as attention and the regulation of behavior and emotion, are important for success in educational and social situations.

Over the course of two visits, children will follow two-step verbal directions and participate in activities such as reading a book. We will also ask you and your child’s teacher or caregiver to report on your child’s skills and behaviors. Parents receive $50 and a $5 coffee card for helping with the study. Children receive a small gift. Teachers receive $25 for completing study surveys.

If you would like to learn more information about the research study, please contact the people listed below. One of the researchers associated with our study will provide more information about the project and answer your questions.

Study investigators

Beverly​ Wilson

Professor of Clinical Psychology
PhD, University of Washington

Phone: 206-281-2832
Office: Marston 109

Audrey Lee, MS
Seattle Pacific University

Meet the research team

About the Study of Autism and Self-Regulation Project (STAR)

The study

The Study of Autism and Self-Regulation Project is investigating the self-regulation skills of 3- to 6-year-old children with autism spectrum disorders and how these skills are related to their adaptive functioning and social-emotional competence.

Self-regulation includes the regulation of behavior, cognition, attention, and emotion. In contrast to previous research, which has primarily investigated the regulation of cognition and behavior, the focus of the current study is on children’s ability to regulate their behavior during emotion-eliciting events.


We use a multi-method approach for assessing children’s skills. For example, we document individual differences in children’s ability to regulate physiological arousal, as well as behavioral signs of children’s emotion regulation skills such as facial expressions, gestures, attention patterns, and verbal comments during a set of emotion-eliciting tasks.


Children’s performance on these tasks has practical importance to their social and educational competence. Children frequently encounter similar tasks in home and school settings, such as waiting to receive a desired object or resisting the temptation to act in an inappropriate way. Consequently, one aspect of our multi-method approach involves asking parents and teachers to report about children’s emotion regulation and executive control in these settings.

The goal

A better understanding the skills and characteristics that facilitate children’s performance on these tasks may lead to better intervention services for children with ASD. These interventions may help improve children’s classroom behavior and real-world social problem-solving skills where control over emotion, attention, and behavior are most important. Several dissertation students are gather data as part of this larger study.

SPU’s Autism Research Benefits Parents, Teachers

“How do kids with autism spectrum disorder cope with a tough situation — such as waiting for something they want? They may try sitting on their hands or whistling. By observing young children’s coping strategies, researchers can develop behavior interventions for parents and teachers to help children with ASD better adjust in school and at home.”

Living Well Initiative

SPU believes its ministry extends beyond the classroom into the broader community. The Living Well Initiative is a multidisciplinary educational program addressing the needs of those affected by severe, persistent mental health conditions.