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Autism Research Program - About the Autism Research Program

DOR’s Autism Research Program has a broad portfolio, spanning environmental factors in pregnancy to the unique medical needs of Autistic adults. The program has a long history of early and innovative work in the epidemiology of autism, including a large-scale study examining potential environmental contributors to autism and the influence of genetics – the Early Markers for Autism study, which used blood samples from women and newborns.

Investigators with the program continue to examine factors in pregnancy that may be linked to autism in children; one such recent study found no link between SSRI antidepressant use before and during pregnancy and autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders in children.

The program is also a part of the Autism Center of Excellence project Combining advances in Genomics and Environmental science to accelerate Actionable Research (GEARs) Network. This is a multisite collaboration to establish a research infrastructure for studies of genetic-environment interaction related to autism.

The program’s researchers have contributed important insights into the gap in health outcomes between Autistic and non-Autistic adults – Autistic people have greater incidence of chronic disease and mental health issues. The team has also explored Autistic patients’ interactions with the health care system, and how clinicians view the needs of Autistic children and adults. Another major focus is transitioning care of Autistic young people from pediatric to adult health care, studying outcomes of Autistic and non-Autistic youth over time, with results intended to influence delivery of care during the transition.

The Autism Research Program is leading an initiative to explore gender, sexuality and reproductive health needs of Autistic people, as part of the Autism Intervention Research on Physical Health (AIR-P) network. In related work, DOR investigators are studying the gynecological care of Autistic adolescents and adults in a comparison with a group of neurotypical individuals.

In another project, the program has funding to create a research consortium to study genetic-environment interaction related to autism.

The program values the perspectives of Autistic* people and their families, working closely with a community advisory board, and producing resources to train Autistic people to become research partners.

*In consultation with our advisors we capitalize Autistic because they see it as their identity, similar to Black, Native American, or Latinx.

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