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Autism Speaks announces 2016 Royal Arch Masons fellowship

Career-launching fellowship will fund groundbreaking research into auditory processing in children who have autism or related developmental issues
May 09, 2016

Autism Speaks is pleased to announce its first Royal Arch Masons Predoctoral Fellowship. Royal Arch Masons Fellow Sophie Schwartz, of Boston University, will investigate how differences in the way the brain processes sound may interfere with language development in minimally verbal children who have autism.

“We are proud to sponsor a General Grand Chapter Royal Arch Masons Fellow, says General Grand High Priest Louis E. Bartrand, of the General Grand Chapter Royal Arch Masons International. “Her efforts, in conjunction with the other organizations and researchers that we support, may well produce discoveries about central auditory processing disorders that have eluded scientists in the past. We wish her well and look forward to hearing about her work in the near future.”

Since the 1970s, the Royal Arch Masons International have ranked among the world’s leading philanthropies helping children with central auditory processing disorders. Many children with autism have difficulty processing sound. This can include difficulty using and comprehending speech and/or paying attention to and remembering spoken information. Many of these children eventually receive a diagnosis of central auditory processing disorder in addition to their autism.

Ms. Schwartz’s findings have the potential to guide the development of new interventions to support language development and other forms of communication in non-verbal and minimally verbal people who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

She will conduct her research at Boston University under the guidance of developmental psychologist and autism specialist Helen Tager-Flusberg and auditory neuroscientist Barbara Shinn-Cunningham.

Read more about Ms. Schwartz’s research project, titled “Cortical Markers of Central Auditory Processing Disorder in Minimally Verbal Children with ASD,” here.

“There's a huge need to understand why some children with autism have such difficulty developing communication,” says Paul Wang, Autism Speaks senior vice president and head of medical research. “We greatly appreciate Ms. Schwartz’s plan for advancing understanding of these issues in ways that promise to shape more-effective interventions, and we’re very grateful to the Royal Arch Masons for making this fellowship possible.” 

In 2011, Autism Speaks and the Royal Arch Masons forged a special relationship that has included $1 million in pledged funding over seven years. The funding supports both the Autism Speaks Toddler Treatment Network and research into auditory processing in children who have autism. In addition, the funding has helped Autism Speaks educate healthcare providers and parents about the role that auditory processing symptoms can play in autism diagnosis and the importance of further evaluation for children who demonstrate auditory processing difficulties.

In related news, Autism Speaks also announced its 2016 class of Weatherstone predoctoral fellows. Read about them and their groundbreaking projects