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$12 Million to Support Research and Treatment of Autism-Related Health Issues

September 21, 2011

  Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network (ATN) has competed successfully for another round of federal funding—$12 million—to continue to serve as the Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health (AIR-P). The AIR-P grant supports clinical research, development of best-practice guidelines, tool kits for families and physicians, and clinician training activities. The funding, awarded to ATN’s Clinical Coordinating Center at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children,  represents ATN’s second major AIR-P grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Service Administration, for a total of $24 million since 2008. This funding was made possible by the Combating Autism Act (CAA), which is up for renewal as the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA). [Editor's update 9-30-2011: President Obama has signed CARA--thanks in no small part to overwhelming public support.] 


“This agreement provides the ATN with a jump start in developing the kinds of research programs that will lead to answers to the questions that parents have about the health care for their children with autism,” says lead AIR-P investigator James Perrin, MD, director of Autism Speaks’ Clinical Coordinating Center, director of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Division of General Pediatrics and professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “It also gives us the opportunity to develop and disseminate best health care practices for children and their families.”

Studies that will be conducted with this major grant include:
√ A clinical trial of interventions to reduce or avoid the excessive weight gain associated with some of the medications used to treat autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), and
√ A clinical trial of interventions to treat sleep problems in children with ASDs and iron deficiency.
The funding will also support the development of additional research studies within the Autism Treatment Network, in areas related to medical and physical health issues. In the last three years, AIR-P funding supported eleven such clinical research projects.
In addition to research, the AIR-P and ATN support toolkit development and family outreach,as well as webinars, conference presentations, training and mentoring for medical professionals. Also in development is AIR-P’s new Autism Collaborative, aimed at developing a model of evidence-based autism-treatment practices for healthcare providers across North America.
The guiding mission of the ATN and AIR-P remains the enhancement of care for children with ASD, many of whom face associated medical issues that have not been adequately addressed by the general medical community.