Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Angelman Syndrome (AS) is a low-incidence neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in speech, motor, and social development as well as related differences in challenging behavior, seizures, and sleep issues. AS has a known genetic etiology and research conducted with this population has overwhelmingly focused on exploring the genetic and biological underpinnings of the disorder (e.g., applied gene therapies). At present, far less research on supporting the social, communicative, and behavioral needs of this population and how these specific deficits contribute to the individual’s overall functioning. The goals of this study were to characterize the use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems for individuals with AS and evaluate how the social and communicative deficits characteristic of AS relate to the levels of challenging behavior reported by caregivers. An international registry for individuals with AS was used to (1) characterize AAC usage with individuals with AS, (2) evaluate associations between specific skills deficits (e.g., socialization, communication) and parent-reported levels of challenging behavior, and (3) test whether a presumed relationship between social and communicative deficits and levels of challenging behavior might be moderated by the use of AAC systems. Results indicated AAC was not widely used in an international sample of individuals with AS. Furthermore, results suggested a positive relationship between communication and challenging behavior, but this was contrary to expectations given research with other populations. The use of AAC systems didn’t appear to moderate the relationship between communication abilities and problem behavior. Results call for more research on social and communicative interventions for challenging behavior in AS. Considerations for understanding usage of behavioral interventions for individuals with AS are discussed.



Committee Chair

Shawn Gilroy


Available for download on Tuesday, June 17, 2025