Autism Speaks

Science Digest - Winter 2019

Email sent: Jan 15, 2019 11:03 am

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Autism Speaks
Science Digest: A quarterly science bulletin

A Message from the Chief Science Officer

EMS012717_ThomasFrazier.jpgIn this first Autism Speaks Science Digest of 2019, we're pleased to share highlights of recent progress against our Strategic Plan for Science, 2018 - 2020.

In December, we awarded more than $1.6 million in research grants, for three studies that will each span three years. The funded research will evaluate:

  • behavioral intervention for wandering
  • a clinical trial using leucovorin (a form of vitamin B9) to ease symptoms among a biological subset of children with autism and
  • a novel set of screening and diagnostic methods for underserved communities.

Also in December, the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders published our science and advocacy staff’s autism-specific analysis of the National Survey of Children’s Health. They found strikingly high rates of unmet healthcare needs among children with autism. Their report also provides guidance on how public programs can better address these disparities across the life span.

And in November, we convened the first consensus leadership conference on "Identifying Next Steps in Research on Cannabis and Autism," to provide crucial guidance for this emerging field of research.

You'll find more information on all these advancements below along with a link to our "Top Ten Autism Studies of 2018." 

As always, we welcome your feedback on our quarterly science bulletin and our research program. Email us at

Thomas Frazier Signature
Thomas Frazier

Autism Speaks selects top ten autism studies of 2018

EMSD_0119_ScienceTop10.pngAutism Speaks science staff and advisors selected ten 2018 studies that advanced our understanding, treatment and support of people across the autism spectrum. Learn more


Autism Speaks hosts first scientific conference on cannabis and autism

EMSD_0119_Cannabis_Conference.JPGAutism Speaks recently convened the first scientific leadership conference on research into the safety and potential benefits of cannabis-based medicines for autism and its associated medical conditions. The two-day meeting, in New York City, brought together leading researchers, government regulators and members of the autism community. Learn More


Autism Speaks funds promising new treatment and diagnostic studies

EMSD_0119_Research.jpgMore than $1.6 million will support clinical studies that evaluate a personalized intervention to curb dangerous wandering; a treatment for a biological subtype of autism; and a set of autism screening and diagnostic methods for underserved communities. Read more


Autism study finds high rates of unmet healthcare needs; suggests public policy solutions

EMSD_0119_healthcare.JPGAn Autism Speaks analysis of the National Survey of Children's Health finds that nearly a fifth of children with autism (18.8 percent) have unmet healthcare needs — compared to 9.6 percent of children with other disabilities and 2.6 percent of children without disabilities.

The analysis also identifies the circumstances most strongly associated with unmet healthcare needs among children with autism, and it provides guidance on how public programs can better address these disparities across the lifespan. Read more

Upcoming and archived podcasts, webinars and meetings of interest

IACC The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) will hold its next full meeting on January 16, at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, with live webcast. The full-day meeting is open to the public and includes a comment period. Autism Speaks encourages members of the autism community to participate and make their views known. Learn more and register to provide public comment.

EMSD0418_ATN-AIRP_webinar.jpgAdvances in Autism Research & Care is a free, monthly webinar series sponsored by the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network in its role as the Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health. Aimed primarily at healthcare providers, the webinars are open to the public, with a special welcome to members of the autism community. Recent webinars include:

Jan 31, 2019, 3-4 pm ET.
Adolescents, Internet Safety and Autism: Led by psychologist Rachel Loftin, director of the Autism Assesment, Research, Treatment & Services (AARTS) Center, at Rush University Medical Center, in Chicago.
Register to watch live

Feb 28, 2019, 3-4 pm ET.
Family/Caregiver Spillover Effects and Economic Evaluation of Autism Care:
Led by autism health system researcher Nalin Payakachat, of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Register to watch live

March 21, 2019, 2-3 pm ET.
Social Network Interventions for Individuals with Autism:
Led by Elizabeth Hassrick, of the A. J. Drexel Autism Institute.
Register to watch live

Explore all past webinars on the ATN/AIR-P Network YouTube channel.

autism research road show flyer Autism Research Series 'Discovery to Solutions' took Autism Speaks science leadership to more than 20 towns and cities in 2018, with local presentations on advances in autism research. You can watch an archived live stream of the "Discovery to Solutions" presentation given by Chief Science Officer Thomas Frazier, in New York City last fall.

Recently published studies supported by Autism Speaks and its Autism Treatment Network

This research is made possible by the generosity of our volunteers and donors.

Acoustic features of auditory medical alarms-An experimental study of alarm volume. Schlesinger JJ, Baum Miller SH, Nash K, et al. J Acoust Soc Am. 2018 Jun;143(6):3688. (Weatherstone fellowship 9717)
The Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health and Sustainable Development. Patel V, Saxena S, Lund C, et al. Lancet. 2018 Oct 9. (GAPH)
Current problems in pediatric and adolescent health care. Lamy M, Erickson CA. Curr Probl Pediatr Adolesc Health Care. Article in press 2018 Sept 24 (ATN)
Evidence-based interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder. Will MN, Currans K, Smith J, et al. Curr Probl Pediatr Adolesc Health Care. In press 2018 Oct 15 (ATN)
Environmental enrichment has minimal effects on behavior in the Shank3 complete knockout model of autism spectrum disorder. Hulbert, SW, Bey, AL, Jiang Y. Brain Behav. 2018 Oct 13 (Weatherstone Fellowship 9597)
Improving the early screening procedure for autism spectrum disorder in young children: Experience from a community-based model in Shanghai. Li C, Zhu G, Feng J, et al. Autism Res. 2018 Sep;11(9):1206-1217. (GAPH consulting support)
Reliability and Validity of the Chinese Version of Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, Revised, with Follow-Up (M-CHAT-R/F). Guo C, Luo M, Wang X, et al. J Autism Dev Disord. 2018 Jul 25. (GAPH consulting support) 
Restricted and Repetitive Behavior and Brain Functional Connectivity in Infants at Risk for Developing Autism Spectrum Disorder. McKinnon CJ, Eggebrecht AT, Todorov A, et al.  Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging. In press, corrected proofs. (AS grants 6020 and 5938)
A cross-cultural study of autistic traits across India, Japan and the UK. Carruthers, S., Kinnaird, E., Rudra, A. et al. Mol Autism 2018 Nov 5;9:52. (AS grant 5620)
Electrographic spikes are common in wildtype mice. Purtell H, Dhamne SC, Gurnani S, et al. Epilepsy Behav. Online ahead of print 2018 Dec;89:94-8. (AS grants 8702 and 8535 )
Predicting sleep problems in children with autism spectrum disorders. A Shui, T Katz, B Malow, M Mazurek. Research Dev Disabil. 2018(83); 280-79. (ATN Research Registry)
Expanding the capacity of primary care to treat co-morbidities in children with autism spectrum disorder. Van Ceave J, Holifield C, Neumeyer A, et al.  J Autism Dev Disord. 2018; 48(12): 4222-4230. (ATN)
Health Disparities among Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Analysis of the National Survey of Children's Health 2016. Karpur A, Lello A, Frazier T, Dixon PJ, Shih AJ. J Autism Dev Disord. 2018 Dec 14. (AS staff)

We hope you'll enjoy this issue and share it with others, who can subscribe.

Let us know what you think by emailing us at

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