Autism Speaks awards $135k in grant funding to support Latino autistic youth in Houston, TX

October 9, 2023

Autism Speaks, the global nonprofit dedicated to creating an inclusive world for all individuals with autism throughout their lifespan, announced nearly $135,000 in grant funding to a researcher studying the transition to adulthood for Latino autistic youth. As a major funder of autism research, Autism Speaks is committed to supporting research and innovation that drives towards improved quality of life and well-being for individuals with autism throughout their lives.

Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer, Andy Shih, highlighted the rising autism prevalence in the Hispanic and Latino community. “Autism prevalence in the Hispanic and Latino community is on the rise, with the CDC reporting that for the first time, autism rates are higher among Hispanic children (3.2%) than white children (2.4%). However, there is a persistent challenge in accessing culturally-relevant autism interventions for these communities,” said Shih. “The grant for this year’s postdoctoral fellowship aims to bridge the service gap in Houston, enhancing mental health support and easing the transition to adulthood for these youth."

This year, fellowship applicants were required to focus on mental health. Applications underwent rigorous review by a panel of scientific reviewers, community advocates, and autistic self-advocates. Autism Speaks’ Medical and Scientific Advisory Committee, a panel of scientific reviewers and self-advocates, reviewed the panel results with relevance to the Autism Speaks mission. Finalists were then recommended to the board of directors for approval.

Meet our grantee:

Antonio Pagán

Antonio Pagán

University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston
Primary Mentor: Katherine Loveland, Ph.D.

Autistic young adults, especially those in the Latino community, experience co-occurring mental health conditions at higher rates than non-autistic peers, contributing to difficulties transitioning to adulthood. Antonio Pagán and his team at the University of Texas have culturally adapted the “Launching! to Adulthood” program (“¡Iniciando! la Adultez”) to help Latino young adults and their families in managing co-occurring mental health conditions. This fellowship funds a pilot test of this community-developed telehealth program, among a group of 30 Latino autistic young adults and their families, aiming for broader outreach in the region.