Skip to content

Other ways to search: Events Calendar | UTHSC News

Autism Social Development Lab

Directed by Erinn Finke, PhD

boys playing video gamesThe Social Development and Friendship Laboratory is housed at the UT Conference Center. Tobii Pro X3-120 eye-tracking technology is located in this lab. Tobii Pro Lab as well as TobiiStudio software applications are available for analysis of eye-tracking data using a PC computer platform. The Social Development and Friendship research lab also contains the newest generation of videogaming equipment (XboxOne and PS4) and a variety of games for both platforms. The Social Development and Friendship lab houses both IBM-compatible and Apple-compatible computers and related software. Four computer workstations, and two lab-based laptops are available for students conducting research projects in the Social Development and Friendship lab. All technology is connected to the university's mainframe computers via an Ethernet network.

Current and ongoing projects include: 
  • Videogame Conversations Project – this project is examining the conversation patterns of typically developing friends while playing videogames together in-person. Answering this research question will inform interventions that prepare individuals with social and language impairments to interact with their peers. Answering this question will also provide information on the types of conversations that are common when playing different types of games, and if conversation styles vary based on the type of videogame being played (e.g., competitive vs cooperative).

  • Videogame Dyad Project – this project is examining how individuals with ASD allocate their visual attention while playing videogames with a partner in-person. Answering this question will help to understand the types of visual and social demands an individual with ASD experiences while engaging in a social activity with a peer vs when playing videogames alone. This will inform future interventions for both individuals with ASD as well as their peers. 

  • Autism and Romantic Relationships Project – this project is examining the romantic relationships of adolescents and young adults with ASD. This project was designed to better understand how individuals with ASD who are in relationships established and maintained these relationships and how their relationships function day-to-day.

  • Girls Friendship Project –this project is examining the friendships of school-age girls with ASD. Answering this research question will help to understand the experiences of girls with ASD relative to making and maintaining friendships. The data from this project will allow the research team to begin to understand the similarities and differences in the experiences of girls and boys with ASD with respect to their friendships. 

Want to get involved?  There are plenty of ways to participate in ongoing and future research efforts in the Social Development and Friendship laboratory.  
If you are a family of an individual with ASD, or an individual with ASD yourself, who wants to learn more about the current projects and eligibility criteria, please contact Dr. Finke at
If you are a teacher, school or clinical professional, parent, or future, current, or former ASP student who would like to help with recruitment or distribute materials about the ongoing projects in this lab, please contact Dr. Finke at

What is Project PAL?

Preparing Academic Leaders in Speech-Language Pathology to Teach, Conduct Research, and Engage in Professional Service to Improve Outcomes for Children with High Need Communication Disorders (HNCD). This is a collaborative Doctoral Preparation Project between the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Vanderbilt University to begin in Fall 2024.

Who are we hoping to recruit for this project?

  • Certified SLPS with an interest in creating culturally and linguistically diverse and inclusive educational environments, and in facilitating high expectations in the language and literacy outcomes of children with HNCD via contributions to the evidence base and preparation of SLPs.
  • Encouraging applications from persons who identify with groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in communication sciences and disorders.

Learn more about Project PAL!
Jul 5, 2024