There is a lot of research on autism out there. Autism Speaks and many other funding agencies have supported hundreds of millions of research dollars aimed at understanding the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of this highly prevalent disorder. While the findings and number of research publications continue to grow, new questions are arising at an even faster pace. Arguably one of the most important questions to families affected by autism is how these findings can make a difference in the life of their children today? There is an area of research that is particularly focused on answering this question, but it is surprisingly under-investigated and underfunded in autism to date. Dissemination research is designed to take relevant scientific findings and apply them to real world practice.
So how can we turn research data into meaningful and effective treatments? For the first time ever, Autism Speaks will launch a funding mechanism specifically designed to support research on disseminating empirically validated autism diagnostic and treatment approaches to families with currently limited access to these services in the US and around the world.
Among underserved populations, especially in low-resource settings, major barriers to improving the health and well-being of children and families touched by autism are the lack of trained professionals and culturally-sensitive clinical services. Perhaps not surprisingly, much autism research has been conducted in high-income countries and among populations with generally greater access to autism services. Currently very little information is available to guide service practices in the developing world as well as among underserved populations in high-income countries. So, more research in low-resource and under-served communities is needed.
Without innovative health care programs, early detection and early intervention will remain extremely limited among the poor and many ethnic minority groups. Culturally appropriate, scalable, cost-effective, and sustainable methods of service delivery are necessary but typically do not exist in these settings. For example, new and promising research is beginning to show that parents of children with autism can act as co-therapists to deliver behavioral intervention in the home and have beneficial impact on their child’s outcomes. This idea of having community health providers with less training and qualifications than specialists, including family members, deliver services can help bridge the critical gap in communities with limited access to early detection and intervention services.
Autism Speaks’ Global Autism Public Health initiative (GAPH) strives to develop and implement meaningful programs for enhancing autism awareness, research, and health services for underserved communities around the world. As part of the GAPH initiative, Autism Speaks is currently accepting research grant applications that develop and pilot test scalable, community-based, culturally-sensitive autism detection and early intervention programs among underserved communities in the United States and internationally.
For more information about this RFA, please click here.
Please note that only investigators holding full-time faculty appointments, professional affiliations or the equivalent at non-profit, accredited academic, research or educational institutions (including schools of medicine and allied health specialties) are eligible to apply.