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10 Exciting Highlights from our Autism Treatment Network

Our Autism Treatment Network is a collaboration of 14 specialty centers dedicated to providing families with state of the art, multidisciplinary healthcare for children and teens affected by autism. The ATN was established to provide a place for families to go for high quality, coordinated medical care for children and adolescents with autism and associated conditions.

The Autism Treatment Network centers see more than 43,000 patients per year, and they are united in their focus to provide coordinated “whole person” care to children and teens with autism. 

The ATN delivers training to over 94,000 professionals, students and families annually. They also significantly contributed to the journal Pediatrics' special supplement on the health and medical treatment of children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. The ATN also produced over 50 publications on topics including GI, metabolic, sleep and nutritional issues in ASD. In 2013 alone, the network hosted over 770 events around the US and Canada. 

We have created 20 tool kits on managing autism-related behavioral and health issues. These have been delivered to more than 150,000 families and health care providers. Find a full list of our toolkits here:  

Here are 10 exciting highlights from the ATN@Work blogs:

10. So Your Child Needs an EEG...

"The inspiration for the EEG tool kits came at an ATN annual meeting. These meetings are wonderful brainstorming opportunities involving both parents whose children receive treatment at our centers and a wide range of ATN specialists. These tool kits – filled with advice and insights – are the latest in a library of autism tool kits made possible through the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network in its role as the federally funded Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health (AIR-P)." Read more about our EEG toolkits here

9. Families Guiding Research Priorities

"Developing a feasible, well designed (and fundable!) research study is challenging. It requires clear thinking, perspective and input from a diverse team of experts in a variety of fields. What has been missing too often is input from families. We need to be better at listening to their voices. What is important to them? Where would they like to see our efforts focused? Fortunately we needn’t look far to find help. The ATN’s families and community partners are a rich and diverse resource. Many are deeply committed to supporting the ATN/AIR-P’s research mission." Read more about our families guiding research here.

8. Visual Supports Ease Medical Visits for Kids with Autism

"We know that individuals with autism respond well to visual information. Behavioral therapists and special-education teachers have long used visual supports in the classroom. Here at Vanderbilt, we’re expanding their use in pediatric healthcare." Read more about how visual supports are helping children during their medical visits here

7. Increasing Autism Expertise Among Primary Care Doctors

"Too often, we see general practitioners refer straight-forward medical issues to an autism specialist because they lack the confidence to work with children who have autism. If we can help them gain this confidence, then autism specialists can spend more time managing the complex autism-related issues that truly need our expertise. That, in turn, can increase access and reduce waiting time at autism specialty centers such as those in the ATN." Read more about this here.

6. Autism and Dog Therapy 

"A few years ago I had a “eureka” moment. I was watching my dog and realized what an excellent companion he was. He gave me unconditional love, made me happy and relaxed, and he was always ready to play with me. When I was walking him in the park, he became a magnet for children and neighbors. My circle of friends increased every day. That’s when it dawned on me. Who truly needs such a companion to help them relax, play and make new friends? My patients with autism spectrum disorder, of course!" Read more about autism and dog therapy here

5. Adapting Sleep Research to Meet a Teen's Need

"As part of the ATN, our site participated in a sleep-education study evaluating the effectiveness of group versus one-on-one parent training. This research was made possible by the ATN’s role as the federally funded Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health (AIR-P). This study showed that both group and individual parent education led to improvements in the sleep of children with autism. (Editor’s note: For more about this study, see “Your Dollars@Work: Empowering Parents to Help Children Sleep.”) Building on the success of this research, our sleep educator Cathy Petta began using the program to educate parents and nurses at Holland Bloorview. In addition, she helped parent educators at Surrey Place Centre deliver the sleep education program there, as well." To see how they adapted their research for a teen, read more here

4. A Trip to the Dentist Can Be a Positive Experience

"As a dentist, I can only hope that when I say “open wide,” that’s exactly what the person sitting in my dental chair does. When I see children in my practice, I know I won’t get my wish every time. Many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulty following directions during routine dental cleanings. Nonetheless, I love working with these kids and their families. So I’ve adapted my practice so that everyone involved with these wonderful patients gets the most out of each visit." Read more about how this dentist is adapting her practice for children with autism here.

3. "Families First" Guides Parents After Autism Diagnosis

“I’ll never forget the moment I learned my son had autism – the fear, the confusion, the helplessness. How could I ever learn all I would need to know to raise this precious little person who experiences the world in ways I can’t imagine? The Families First program at the VKC was there from the beginning – educating, supporting and encouraging us. And they were there three years later when I lived that moment a second time, the day I learned my daughter had autism—ready to help in every way they could.” Find out more about the "Families First" program here

2. Investigating Maternal Antibodies and Autism

"In our new study, we are investigating the role that maternal antibodies play in the development of autism in a subset of children. In particular, we hope to better understand the relationship between specific maternal antibodies and the severity of a child’s symptoms. Ultimately this work may lead to treatments that can reduce the risk of autism by blocking harmful maternal antibodies during pregnancy." Find out more about the study here

1. Reaching Children with Autism in Foster Care

"Children in foster care are at high risk for developmental disabilities for a number of reasons. This includes high rates of prenatal exposure to alcohol and overall poor access to prenatal and infant care prior to entering foster care. This same poor access to early healthcare helps explain delays in their evaluation and diagnosis for autism. Complicating matters still further, many of these children have other behavioral disorders that can mask autism symptoms." Read more about this important work here

Finally we’d like to invite readers to participate in an upcoming network webinar on “Family Engagement” in autism research. On Thursday, April 23, from 3 to 4 pm ET, Amy Kratchman and Janet Seide, two members of the ATN’s Family Advisory Committee, will discuss family engagement in research and improvement activities. Learn more and register here.

* Learn more about the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network here.
* Find the ATN center nearest you 
* Explore our archive of ATN expert-advice blogs and news stories 


The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.