My academic work adopts both quantitative and qualitative approaches to understand how we can ameliorate the quality of life for individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders. In 2022, I was named a Top 40 under 40 researcher to watch by Spectrum News.
Sleep and Neurodevelopment
I have trained in sleep and child development for almost 8 years. My research interest in sleep began as a master's student at The Douglas Mental Health Institute where I investigated the link between sleep and daily functioning in typically developing children and youth with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). During my PhD at McGill University, and as a visiting doctoral fellow at The University of Montreal, I extended my work in sleep to focus on individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Autism). You can read about my PhD work below.
Research involving autistic youth has not often focused on their lived experiences, especially, youth who are minimally verbal and/or have cognitive challenges. Moreover, many autistic youth are not directly involved in their own transition planning between school to adulthood. Regardless of ability, all youth have the right to be involved in decisions that impact them (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989). Moreover, these youth are valuable experts who can provide guidance on academic research and protocols. Their input can also inform the delivery of health services and current policies concerning them. Hence, they're valuable stakeholders that should be engaged throughout the research lifespan.
In parallel to my PhD work, I was invited to co-lead a project that would create a new approach to interviewing and collaborating with autistic youth, so their lived experiences could be captured regardless of their language and cognitive abilities. To read more about the project entitled Autism Voices, see below.
A video explainer of the Autism Voices project was created by the Spectrum News Team, which I consulted on. The accompanying article can also be found here.
The Autism Voices project captures the lived experiences of autistic youth aged 11-18 with various language and cognitive abilities. The main goals were to create new methods that enabled youth to communicate their lived experiences and to use these methods to interview autistic youth about their perspectives on their future and different environments (e.g., home, school and community). The project included an interdisciplinary team of clinicians, autism researchers, ethicists, families and autistic youth.
The Autism Voices project had three phases. The first phase involved a scoping review and parent focus group to understand what potential methods could be used with autistic youth in interviews. The second phase piloted an interview protocol using various method modalities (e.g., oral and non-oral communication techniques). The third phase integrated feedback from experts, including autistic youth, parents and clinicians. The final protocol was then used to interview 30 autistic youth participants from the largest and longest running longitudinal autism study in Canada—Pathways in Autism Spectrum Disorder.
For more information, you can read a recent article in Sur Le Spectre written by my co-lead Dr. Valerie Courchesne and I (French Version available).
Sur le spectre, 2022
Published Peer-Review Articles
1. Tesfaye, R., Huguet, G., Smiliovich, Z., Loum, M. A., Douard,E., Jean-Louis, M., ... Elsabbagh, M & Jacquemont, S. (2022). Investigating the contributions of circadian pathway and insomnia risk genes to autism and sleep disturbances. Translational psychiatry, 12(1), 1-10.
2. Tesfaye, R., Courchesne, V.,... & Elsabbagh,M (2022). Autism Voices: Perspectives of the Needs, Challenges, and Hopes for the Future of Autistic Youth. Autism (2022): 13623613221132108.
3. Courchesne, V., Tesfaye, R., Mirenda, P., Nicholas, D., Mitchell, W., Singh, I., ... & Elsabbagh, M. (2022). Autism voices: A novel method to access first-person perspective of autistic youth. Autism, 26(5), 1123-1136.
4. Tesfaye, R., Wright, N., Zaidman-Zait, A., Bedford, R., Zwaigenbaum, L., Kerns, C. M., ... & Elsabbagh,M. (2021). Investigating longitudinal associations between parent reported sleep in early childhood and teacher reported executive functioning in school-aged children with autism. Sleep, 44(9), zsab122.
5. Murray, D. S., Richardson, L., Tesfaye, R., Nadin, D., Kelly, C., & Greenwood,P. (2021). Black In Neuro, Beyond One Week. Journal of Neuroscience, 41(11), 2314-2317.
6. Singleton, K. S., Tesfaye, R., Dominguez, E. N., & Dukes, A.J. (2020). An open letter to past, current and future mentors of Black neuroscientists. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 1-2.
7. Tesfaye, R., Courchesne, V., Yusuf, A., Savion-Lemieux, T., Singh, I., Shikako-Thomas, K., ... & Elsabbagh, M (2019).Assuming ability of youth with autism: Synthesis of methods capturing the first-person perspectives of children and youth with disabilities. Autism, 1362361319831487.
8. Tesfaye, R., and Gruber, R. (2017). The Association between Sleep and Theory of Mind in School Aged Children with ADHD. Medical Sciences. 5(3): 1-14.
In Press or Under Review
9. Tesfaye, R & Gehrman, P. (2023). Genetics of Sleep and Sleep Disorders. In P.German, A. Keene, & Grant, S (Eds.). Human Sleep and Sleep disorders: Insomnia, (In Press).
10. Tesfaye, R., Huguet, G., ... Jacquemont, S. (2023). The interplay between sleep, cognition, and copy number variations in the general population. (Under journal review)