The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)announced that they are funding 12 research projects to identify the best practices and most effective treatments for autistic people at three key stages of life. This comes on the heels of last summer’s renewal of the Autism CARES act by Congress and last year’s finding of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee that access to services is a major issue for families with autistic members.
“Despite the significant number of people of all ages identified with ASD, access to effective services remains inconsistent at best. Parents are often left to navigate what is available as best they can, and worry for the future as their affected children grow into adulthood,” said Thomas Insel, director of the NIMH. “This research is aimed at testing care strategies, adaptable across communities, in which identification of need and engagement in optimal interventions and services will be standard for all ages.”
The NIMH will provide $7.9 million in the first year of funding for the projects. Some of those projects will determine how best to identify and diagnose children with autism as early as possible and how to ensure those children are connected with intervention services. Another set of projects will focus on people preparing for the post-high school transition, testing methods to improve school-based service coordination for transition services, build parent advocacy skills, and how to teach transitioning young adults self-regulation and self-determination. The last set of research projects will examine techniques to help adults with autism develop social skills, gain employment, and achieve independent living.
Federal officials say the studies are designed to highlight approaches that are effective for individuals with autism spectrum disorders of any ethnic or economic background in addition to strategies at these three key life stages.