Autism Speaks and Royal Arch Masons fund research on auditory processing disorder

With the support of a Royal Arch Research Assistance award, Autism Speaks launches a pilot study and research fellowship

August 6, 2018

Autism Speaks, with the support of a Royal Arch Research Assistance grant, is funding a pilot study and a research fellowship to address sound-processing difficulties among people with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Royal Arch Masons International ranks among the leading charities helping children with central auditory processing disorder. Many people with autism have related challenges. They can include difficulty using, understanding and remembering information conveyed through speech and other sounds.

“We’re deeply grateful to the Royal Arch Masons for this opportunity to advance understanding of a major communication and learning challenge for people with autism,” says Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Tom Frazier. “Our longstanding partnership continues to advance the development of more-effective and personalized interventions that improve lives.”

The one-year pilot study will be funded at $60,000. The two-year fellowship will be funded at $80,000.

Two groundbreaking research projects

neuropsychologist Aysenil Belger

In the pilot study, neuropsychologist Aysenil Belger will assess how sound processing difficulties develop in families affected by autism. Dr. Belger directs the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and the Clinical Translational Core of the Intellectual Developmental Disabilities Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her coinvestigator is speech-language pathologist Linda Watson.

Our goal

To guide the development of early interventions that ease the symptoms of auditory processing disorder in autism.

The study will enroll 20 infants (ages 12 to 18 months) from families affected by autism. For comparison, it will include 20 babies from unaffected families. The researchers will identify differences in brain activity related to sound processing and their associations with autism symptoms and language development. Learn more about this study.

Deborah Rupert

Royal Arch Masons fellow Deborah Rupert will identify brain-pathway changes caused by mutations in the MECP2 gene. Changes in the MECP2 gene result in Rett syndrome, which shares features with both autism and auditory processing disorder.

Our goal

To identify brain pathways that respond to treatment to ease symptoms of auditory processing disorder and autism.

Ms. Rupert will pursue her research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory under the guidance of Stephen Shea.

A longstanding partnership to improve lives

In 2011, Autism Speaks and the Royal Arch Masons forged a strong relationship that has included $1 million in pledged funding. In 2016, Autism Speaks announced the first Royal Arch Masons Fellowship. In addition to supporting research, Royal Arch Mason funding helps Autism Speaks teach healthcare providers and caregivers about auditory processing disorder in autism and the importance of evaluation when children show related challenges.

"The General Grand Chapter Royal Arch Masons and our members are proud to be partnering in a major effort to make a real difference for the benefit of all mankind in dealing with central auditory processing disorder through our philanthropy Royal Arch Research Assistance," says Jim Hodge, president of the Royal Arch Research Assistance board of directors. 

Subscribe to Autism Speaks’ Science Digest to receive autism research news and expert advice posts delivered quarterly to your inbox.