By Erin F. Jones, BA, project manager for the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center at Kennedy Krieger Institute.

In collaboration with Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri (WUSTL), the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC) at Kennedy Krieger Institute is now a collaborative site for a new research project that is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics for Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program. Luke Kalb, PhD, director of informatics at the Institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders, and Linda Myers, EdD, the Institute’s vice president of school programs, are the co-principal investigators for the Kennedy Krieger site. Claudaya Hood Bey and Cheryl Lyn Errichetti have joined the project as Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities research coordinators.

This project will seek to identify, via online focus groups and surveys, the facilitators and barriers experienced by parents and guardians of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities to COVID-19 testing and vaccination. The parent survey will be distributed locally to parents of students attending Kennedy Krieger schools, as well as nationally. The research team-led focus groups employ a technique called fuzzy cognitive mapping (FCM), in which parents and guardians note the facilitators for, and barriers to, testing and vaccination as related to their child, then connect and rate the relationships between those facilitators and barriers to create a “map.” Investigators at WUSTL have developed a factor-based analytic technique to analyze the FCM maps.

This project also seeks to understand educators’ perceptions of COVID-19 testing in schools. These perceptions will be gathered via online surveys of teachers, school staff members and administrators in Maryland and Missouri. Lastly, this project will be conducting asymptomatic COVID-19 testing of teachers, school staff members and students, using a saliva-based proprietary test developed by Washington University, on-site at Kennedy Krieger School Programs. During the 2021–2022 school year, 500 tests will be administered across Kennedy Krieger’s four schools each week.