Recent surveys in the United States suggest that as many as 1 in 68 children will be diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), compared to previous estimates of 4 to 5 per 10,000. This makes autism more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined.
ASD spreads across all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, and disproportionately affects boys. ASD includes autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder - not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS, including atypical autism), and Asperger syndrome. While it is unclear whether the growing number of children diagnosed with ASD is due to an actual increase in the frequency of the disorder or the result of broadened criteria, a diagnosis of ASD typically means a lifelong need for services and supports to function within the family and community. Despite some progress in understanding ASD, too much is unknown.
The Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training (K-CART) includes two major branches: discovering insights into the primary neurobehavioral basis for ASD and interventions to prevent and treat the impact of ASD on individuals and families and our society at large.
Researching the Neurobehavioral Basis of ASD
Impact: Behavioral and cognitive neuroscience research holds the greatest potential for uncovering the causes of ASD, ultimately leading to preventing the disorder.
Identifying the primary neural or cognitive basis for ASD remains elusive. The greatest promise for major scientific breakthroughs likely rests with the behavioral and cognitive neuroscience of ASD. A renowned and dedicated group of University of Kansas researchers has come together through K-CART to advance science in this crucial area.
Research to Improve the Management of ASD
Impact: New work by K-CART will include larger clinical trials and interdisciplinary collaborations to greatly expand knowledge and develop proven strategies to manage ADS.
A second priority area of research concerns the careful and rigorous evaluation of interventions to improve the outcomes of individuals with ASD and families. Partners for the autism initiative have conducted important research to address the core features of autism such as social-communication and behavioral interventions, language disorders in children and the genetics of language acquisition and augmentative communication systems.