New Study Hopeful in Defining Subgroups of Autism

A recent grant of $1.2 will allow researchers in Maine to attempt to fill the gap that is, what the difference is between an autistic child who is high functioning and able to communicate, and a non-verbal low functioning child with autism. Leader of the study Dr. Matthew Siegel, director of the developmental disorders program at MaineHealth’s Spring Harbor Hospital in Westbrook, is grateful to this grant and excited for the study to commence. In partnership with hospitals in Rhode Island,New Hampshire,Baltimore,Colorado, and Pittsburgh, the researchers will study and track the progress of about 500 to 1,000 children diagnosed with autism. Blood samples will be analyzed for the potential genetic factors of autism, as well as behavioral studies and intelligence tests.


Dr. Siegel explained that the inspiration for the study stemmed from the children who have been admitted to the 30-day or longer overnight programs at SpringHarbor, for aggressive acts or self-destructive behaviors. While we are gaining more information on autism each day, there is a still this gap on the difference between subgroups. While high functioning children with autism can potentially explain their feelings and emotions, those who are non-verbal do not have the same luck. Dr. Siegel said, “I’m so hopeful that with this research we can help the kids who need the most help, the children that we understand the least.”[i]


This study is a 2-year study, funded by the Simons Foundation and the NLM Family Foundation. The team is excited to hopefully shed light on the more severe autistic group of children, and eventually more effective medicine and treatment programs and therapies.

[i] “Kennebec Journal” Maine researchers given $1.2 million for autism study. 10 Oct 2013. Web. <>

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