Autism Speaks 2007 Treatment Grants
2007 Pilot Grants
2007 Basic and Clinical Awards
2007 Treatment Grants
Eugene Arnold, M.D., ME.D.
Ohio State University
$173,219 for 3 years
Neuronal Nicotonic Receptor Modulation in the Treatment of Autism: A Pilot Trial of Mecamylamine
There is currently no FDA-approved medication for the core symptoms of autism. New directions for therapy need to be based on understanding the central neurobiology of autism. One consistently identified abnormality in autism is a reduction in one of the receptors (nicotinic) for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. The proposed pilot trial aims to test the response of individuals with autism to agents that target this receptor type, thus changing acetylcholine signaling.
There is one nicotinic agent that has been shown to be safe in other childhood-onset disorders, including Tourette’s syndrome and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This agent will be pilot-tested in children with autism.
Twenty children with autism spectrum disorder will receive the drug or placebo over 13 weeks in a controlled (placebo double-blind) trial. The outcome will be assessed by standard clinical rating scales which will measure a range of behavioral and communicative functions, including attention. Computerized testing will also be used to assess changes in attention objectively.
What this means for people with autism: This controlled pilot trial will provide essential evidence required to evaluate the potential of nicotinic-receptor therapy in the treatment of the core symptoms of autism.
Deborah Beidel, Ph.D.
Pennsylvania State Hershey College of Medicine
$119,962 for 2 years
Enhancing Social Functioning Among Adolescents with Asperger’s Syndrome and High Functioning Autism
The goal of this project is to adapt an empirically supported social skills training (SST) program originally developed for socially anxious adolescents to target the specific social needs of adolescents with Asperger’s syndrome or high-functioning autism (AS/HFA).
This program, entitled Comprehensive Social Skills Training for Adolescents (CSST-A), includes weekly social skills training sessions conducted in small groups of 4 or 5 adolescents and programmed practice sessions conducted in school and community settings.
The project will recruit 20 adolescents with AS/HFA between the ages of 13 and 17 from families seeking treatment at the Autism and Developmental Disorders Clinic at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center to participate in the CSST-A program.
Participating adolescents, their parents, and their teachers will complete questionnaires and clinical interviews and clinicians will rate adolescents’ overall social and academic functioning in actual social settings before and after treatment to determine the effectiveness of the program. The same assessments will be conducted 3 and 6-months after treatment to determine if social skills hold up over time.
What this means for people with autism: Treatment for social anxiety represents a pressing need for individuals with autism. The ultimate goal of the project is to develop a comprehensive social skills training program for adolescents with AS/HFA that can be widely disseminated in schools and community settings.
Beth A. Pfeiffer, Ph.D.
$59,915 for 1 year
The Effectiveness of Sensory Integration Interventions in Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders
Sensory integration is the ability to modulate sensory information. Disorders in sensory integration influence a person’s behavioral response to their environment.
This randomized control pilot study intends to research the effectiveness of sensory integration interventions in children diagnosed with Autism or Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) based on the DSM-1V criteria. The investigators hope to develop pilot data that will guide further development of randomized controlled trials of sensory integration interventions.
There will be 50 participants in the study between the ages of 6 and 12 years old who attend a summer therapeutic program for children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders.
The participants will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group or an alternative treatment group. Those assigned to the treatment group will receive direct sensory integration-based treatment three times a week for 45 minutes over a six week period of time.
The alternative treatment group will participate in individual non-sensory based activities for the same amount of time. The study will measure behaviors reflective of sensory modulation, social responsiveness, and adaptability before and after the interventions.
What this means for people with autism: Deficits in sensory processing are considered prevalent in children with developmental disabilities. This study explores the impact of sensory integration treatment interventions on children diagnosed with autism or PDD-NOS
Alexandra Sporn, M.D.
$120,000 for 2 years
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) for Evaluation and Treatment of Repetitive Behavior in Subjects with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Among the most debilitating symptoms of autism are repetitive behaviors, such as the inability to change from specific routines and rituals, stereotypic movements (hand flapping or twisting, and complex whole body movements), persistent preoccupation with parts of objects (for example, playing with a wheel of a toy car instead of the whole car), restricted or unusual interests and sometimes even aggressive or self-injurious behaviors.
The severity of autism is often defined by the patient’s repetitive behaviors.
In this study, Dr. Sporn is planning to use Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to stimulate a specific region of the brain in order to treat repetitive behaviors.
This strategy has been helpful in patients with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Tourette’s Syndrome, two psychiatric conditions that also exhibit repetitive behaviors.
Adolescents and adults (ages 13 to 35) will be recruited and treatment will include sessions lasting 20 minutes, 5 days a week for 3 weeks.
This is a double-blind study, so the investigators will stimulate either the target area or another brain area, which is not likely to produce benefit in repetitive behaviors but may improve social functioning.
Patients who do not improve after the first 3 weeks of treatment will be offered an opportunity to cross-over into another condition (stimulating the other area of the brain). The patients will also undergo an extensive clinical evaluation and an MRI that will be done before and after the study.
What this means for people with autism: Repetitive behaviors can severely impair both patients and their caregivers, however there has been limited investigation into how to treat them. This is a first study designed to evaluate the effectiveness of TMS in the treatment of repetitive behaviors in subjects with ASDs.
Ting A. Wang, Ph.D.
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
$180,000 for 3 years
Evaluating Behavioral and Neural Effects of Social Skills Intervention for School-Age Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
There are very few controlled studies of treatments that specifically target social skills. Neuroimaging studies have found that individuals with ASD show abnormally low brain activity in regions important for social processing.
However, there is also evidence that activity in key brain regions can be increased significantly by providing high-functioning children with specific instructions to pay attention to important social cues, such as a speaker’s facial expression or tone of voice.
This suggests that interventions that use a cognitive behavioral approach to teaching social skills may be effective not only in increasing social responsiveness in terms of behavior, but also perhaps in facilitating “rewiring” that results in increased activation of normal brain circuitry.
This project is testing the efficacy of a cognitive behavioral social skills intervention in a sample of high-functioning children with ASD. Participants are randomly assigned to the cognitive behavioral training or a social play control group.
The investigators will use standardized assessments and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine:
1) behavioral changes in social cognition and responsiveness
2) changes in the neural circuitry supporting social cognition, and
3) the relationship between changes in neural circuitry and social functioning at the behavioral level.
What this means for people with autism: Social dysfunction is the most defining feature of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and perhaps also the most debilitating. Improvement in social functioning is widely considered to be a crucial target for intervention.
Connie Wong, Ph.D.
Cleveland State University
$119,536 for 2 years
A Play and Joint Attention Intervention for Preschool Teachers and Young Children with Autism
Research has shown both symbolic play and joint attention are delayed and deficient in young children with autism, and predictive of their later language and social development. However, these skills are not often directly addressed in early intervention programs.
The proposed treatment study tests an intervention focused on change in play and joint attention interactions between teachers and preschoolers with autism.
Specific aims of the study include assessing the degree in which teachers implement the principles and strategies outlined in the treatment, assessing changes in the children’s symbolic play and joint attention skills, and exploring teacher and child characteristics affecting optimal treatment outcomes.
The methodology includes 16 preschool special education classroom teachers to be randomly assigned to an immediate treatment or a wait-list control group. The treatment utilizes principles of applied behavioral analysis and milieu teaching.
Teachers will be observed in the preschool classroom interacting with the children in the classroom in unstructured and structured settings before and after the treatment.
During the observations, researchers will code the teacher’s implementation of the curriculum as well as the child’s joint attention and symbolic play skills. This project advances the state of knowledge in autism by attempting to bridge the gap between research and practice.
What this means for people with autism: The absence of social communication abilities in children with autism represents a core area of deficit. Findings from the study will enable researchers to understand the effectiveness of a joint attention training model for teachers of young children with autism and will help determine characteristics that affect treatment outcomes.
More With Research Grants
Autistic people have fought the inclusion of ABA in therapy for us since before Autism Speaks, and other non-Autistic-led autism organizations, started lobbying legislation to get it covered by insurances and Medicaid.
ABA is a myth originally sold to parents that it would keep their Autistic child out of an institution. Today, parents are told that with early intervention therapy their child will either be less Autistic or no longer Autistic by elementary school, and can be mainstreamed in typical education classes. ABA is very expensive to pay out of pocket. Essentially, Autism Speaks has justified the big price tag up front will offset the overall burden on resources for an Autistic’s lifetime. The recommendation for this therapy is 40 hours a week for children and toddlers.
The original study that showed the success rate of ABA to be at 50% has never been replicated. In fact, the study of ABA by United States Department of Defense was denounced as a failure. Not just once, but multiple times. Simply stated: ABA doesn’t work. In study after repeated study: ABA (conversion therapy) doesn’t work.
What more recent studies do show: Autistics who experienced ABA therapy are at high risk to develop PTSD and other lifelong trauma-related conditions. Historically, the autism organizations promoting ABA as a cure or solution have silenced Autistic advocates’ opposition. ABA is also known as gay conversion therapy.
The ‘cure’ for Autistics not born yet is the prevention of birth.
The ‘cure’ is a choice to terminate a pregnancy based on ‘autism risk.’ The cure is abortion. This is the same ‘cure’ society has for Down Syndrome.
This is eugenics 2021. Instead of killing Autistics and disabled children in gas chambers or ‘mercy killings’ like in Aktion T4, it’ll happen at the doctor’s office, quietly, one Autistic baby at a time. Different approaches yes, but still eugenics and the extinction of an entire minority group of people.
Fact: You can’t cure Autistics from being Autistic.
Fact: You can’t recover an Autistic from being Autistic.
Fact: You can groom an Autistic to mask and hide their traits. Somewhat. … however, this comes at the expense of the Autistic child, promotes Autistic Burnout (this should not be confused with typical burnout, Autistic Burnout can kill Autistics), and places the Autistic child at high risk for PTSD and other lifelong trauma-related conditions.
[Note: Autism is NOT a disease, but a neurodevelopmental difference and disability.]
Fact: Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism.