Dissemination of Early Life Exposure Assessment Tool (ELEAT)
University of California, Davis
Little is known about the non-genetic, potentially modifiable influences on autism risk. Many autism studies are inadequately equipped to assess the role of environmental exposures, and do not by themselves have the sample-size and statistical power to examine interactions. The investigators will expand the evaluation of environmental factors in the context of autism by disseminating a semi-validated instrument, the Early Life Exposures Assessment Tool (ELEAT) that was designed for, and tested in, autism study populations. With this instrument comes the potential to combine studies to achieve large enough sample sizes to appropriately assess potential early life environmental risk factors, thus fast-tracking research programs aimed at identifying modifiable risk factors for ASDs. Combined studies will be especially useful for examining relatively rare exposures and understanding interactions with genetic susceptibility. In addition, wide-spread availability of the ELEAT could facilitate collection of environmental exposure data among studies that would not otherwise have the resources and/or expertise to develop their own instrument. As a result, research assessing environmental influences of autism etiology can be greatly expanded. Ultimately, this should bring us closer to understanding the modifiable environmental contributions to autism etiology and lead to improved prevention and treatment strategies. The investigators will develop the infrastructure and facilitate the process for disseminating the ELEAT to assure it is available for rapid and widespread implementation in autism studies. Specifically, a manual will be developed for the ELEAT, and information technology system requirements and a user-friendly web interface will be established where ELEAT resources can be accessed. A secure registry database of ELEAT users will be created to track its use, to distribute information on updates/corrections, and to facilitate future collaborations and pooled data studies. This system will be piloted by collecting data in two new study populations. In addition, safeguards will be considered and placed to assure appropriate use of this tool, including an oversight committee to provide optional review and feedback on proposed uses, formal agreements for the tool’s use, and statistical data quality control plans. Finally, the investigators will promote awareness of the ELEAT resources through publications and presentations at scientific meetings and links on targeted websites.