Being a Catalyst for Life-Enhancing Research Breakthroughs

Research How We Help

Autism Speaks is committed to deepening our understanding of autism in order to enhance the lives of people on the spectrum. Through collaboration with leading autism researchers, healthcare providers, autistic people and their families, we aim to be a catalyst for life-enhancing research breakthroughs and genetic discoveries, which will in turn empower more personalized treatments and therapies.

We launched one of the world’s largest open access autism genomic databases; invested $222 million in scientific grants resulting in an additional $880 million in public sourced funding focused specifically on autism; and advocated with and for our community, resulting in $3.5 billion increase in federal research funding for autism. Plus, our Autism Treatment Network develops cutting edge care, has served more than 500,000 children on the spectrum.


Most recently, we’re proud to share this work achieved over the last fiscal year. 

  • Advocated for the passage and enactment of the Autism CARES Act of 2019, authorizing $1.85 billion in federal funding for autism research, services, provider training and prevalence monitoring.  
    • Legislation received broad bipartisan support from over 173 U.S. representatives and 43 U.S. senators and was signed into law by the president on September 30, 2019 
  • Funded nearly $5 million in Autism Speaks grants to 29 researchers studying autism in a range of basic and applied research projects with transition to adulthood receiving the largest amount of funding at nearly $2.6 million. Supported multiple studies to help improve the lives of children and adults on the spectrum, including: 
    • Exercise intervention to reduce anxiety in children with autism in underserved communities 
      • Randomized controlled trial of a dental intervention to include parent training to improve oral health 
      • Weight management intervention for youth with ASD 
      • Sleep education intervention to improve sleep habits and reduce sleep problems for children with autism and their families  
      • The effects of a mindfulness intervention on sleep and physical health in children with autism and intellectual disability  
      • Improving resiliency in teen siblings of children with autism using a mind-body intervention 
      • Improving sleep disturbance in children with autism by researching impact of ferrous sulfate, a form of iron supplement  
      • Effects on brain function, memory, gaze, attention, quality of life and other outcomes through a randomized controlled trial of the antibiotic minocycline 
  • Contributed to the understanding of social determinants of health, publishing research about the factors contributing to unmet healthcare needs among children and adolescents.  
    • Factors include access to health insurance, quality of health insurance, access to family-centered care, family-level stress, exposure to adverse childhood experiences and parental employment 
    • Determined children with ASD had four times higher odds of unmet health care needs compared to children without disabilities 
    • Learned children with other disabilities had nearly two times higher odds of unmet health care needs compared to children without disabilities 
  • Presented findings of national survey data at the International Society for Autism Research and the American Public Health Association’s annual conference.  
    • Findings aim to improve understanding of factors predicting psychiatric comorbidities and factors predicting departure from work among parents of children with ASD  
    • As a result of this analysis, a recommendation was made for employers to consider offering care coordination as part of benefits package 
Dr. Brittany Hand
Dr. Brittany Hand
I feel it is important in my line of work to study real-world issues facing the growing population of autistic adults living today
Read Dr. Brittany Hand's Story
Ryan Yuen, Ph.D.
Ryan Yuen, Ph.D.
I think understanding autism better will help us understand what is unique about being a human, which in turn may help me understand more about myself
Read Ryan Yuen, Ph.D.'s Story
Meet Dr. Angela Chan, M.D., MPH Meet Dr. Angela Chan, M.D., MPH  Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician, New York City
Meet Dr. Angela Chan, M.D., MPH
It has been a great privilege for me to come full circle and return to the place that inspired my work in public health.
Read Meet Dr. Angela Chan, M.D., MPH's Story
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