Research

For decades, scientists have been searching for the ultimate answers that will cure and prevent autism. Currently, there is no known cause or cure. However, treatment is very effective and research efforts continue to unlock the mystery to this fastest growing developmental disorder. In addition to the diagnostic, therapeutic, and residential services the Autism Treatment Center provides, research is vital to better understanding the disorder that currently afflicts 1 in every 50 children. ATC lays claim to internationally-recognized scientists, researchers, and doctors who research, write, and publish various articles about autism.

These publications are read and debated within the autism community to better serve those with this disorder and to, someday, open the world to so many children and adults with autism.

All research at ATC must relate to the mission and purpose of ATC. Some studies are limited to individuals who receive services from ATC and others are open to the community. ATC collaborates and/or receives funding from foundations, medical schools, universities and other agencies to conduct research projects.

Current Research

Evaluation of the Play Wisely Program in Children with Autism

The purpose of the study is to examine the effectiveness of the Play Wisely intervention for enhancing the parent-child relationship while developing the essential learning foundation skills in children with a diagnosis of autism, pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These essential learning foundation skills include: attention, recognition, and memory skills.  In this study, we are evaluating the effectiveness of PlayWisely therapy for children with autism, ages 2 to 10 years of age.

The program is one-on-one with a PlayWisely coach for 30 minutes, twice a week, for three months. The study began in July of 2011 and so far 17 children have participated. Although the study is still ongoing and the data has not been analyzed yet, the results have been very promising. It is apparent that the children enjoy the program and seem to benefit from it.

Human-Robot Interaction System for Early Diagnosis
and Treatment of Childhood Autism Spectrum Disorder

The purpose of this study is to investigate the differences in sensory-motor abilities between children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and those with normal-typical development. Children will interact with a robot and virtual environments projected on a large screen.  Depending on the developmental level, children will sit, stand, walk, and reach for objects. The children will be observed and their motor performance will be recorded with the intent of identifying a sensory-motor behavior marker that could potentially be used for earlier diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.  ATC is working with UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth to conduct this study.

 

Past Research

Raising Glutathione Levels in Children with Autism

The study examined the use of nutraceutical supplemental programs to determine their efficacy in raising GSH levels in children with autism.
Autism symptoms, side effect burden, treatment adherence, and clinical global impressions were measured.

Principal Investigator – Dr. Janet Kern 
Co-Investigator – Dr. Carolyn Garver
Funded by ARI (Autism Research Institute)

Evaluation of Equine-Assisted Activities in Autism

The purpose of the study was to evaluate the impact of equine-assisted activities provided by Spirit Horse Therapeutic Riding Center on the parent-child relationship, sensory processing, language, autism severity, behavioral outcomes and quality of life in persons with autism.

Principal Investigator – Dr. Janet Kern
Co-Investigator – Dr. Carolyn Garver
Funded by Timberlawn

Vagus Nerve Stimulation and Autism

Kay Lewis, University of Texas, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Pediatrics and Neurology with ATC- to determine the possibility of mitigation of autism symptoms as a result of VNS implants for epilepsy control. Preliminary results have been promising. Possible future study: Dr. Lewis has recommended that, in a fashion similar to the current VNS project, ATC should conduct baseline and intervention evaluations, on a proposed study of possible interventions, e.g., ear drops or electronic masking, to increase Speech-in-Noise Intelligibility in individuals with autism. This is arguably the auditory analog of the visual perceptual-social deficit discussed as mind blindness.

Principal Investigators –
Dr. Kay Lewis and Alonzo Andrews
Funded by Autism Treatment Center

Sensory Processing Issues in Autism

The purpose of the study was to better understand the extent of and the role of sensory dysfunction in autism, study the mechanisms underlying sensory defensiveness in ASD, and evaluate participants in terms of age and severity. 

Principal Investigators –
Dr. Janet Kern and Dr. Carolyn Garver

CAT-D (Computer Accommodations for Texans with Disabilities)

The project proposal: ATC with UT Department of Special Education, College of Education - to expand diagnostic services to evaluate for augmentative communication devices; to develop training systems utilizing hand-held computers, presented by video clips a task analysis to prompt interaction, self-care, vocational, and leisure skills. 

Principal Investigators –
Dr. Jeff Sigatos, Dr. Mark O’Reilly and Alonzo Andrews

REAP (Research and Evaluation of Autism Preparation) Center, under the auspices of Cheryl Fielding:
Educational Psychology Department, College of Education, University of Texas Pan American

To prepare UTPA students to participate in and/or conduct full individual evaluations (FIE) of children suspected of having autism and to provide appropriate educational recommendations for public school instructional and related services.


With the ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) – a state-of-the-art assessment protocol as a centerpiece, interdisciplinary team members from throughout the state can convene with teleconferencing to evaluate an individual at the REAP center, and develop recommendations through a grand rounds process.

TRAINA (Texas Research and Information Network for Autism)

After a TIF (Telecommunication Infrastructure Fund) grant established a virtual classroom, with the San Antonio and Dallas centers and the University of Texas Pan American, originating at Southwest Texas University (Dr. Webber’s graduate Autism class), and was the impetus for conceptualizing the virtual clinic. 

Principal Investigators –
David Young, Dr. Carolyn Garver and Alonzo Andrews
Funded by CAT-D project

The Effects of a Comprehensive MRT-based Elimination Diet
on CNS Function in Individuals with ASD

The ATC conducted, as a follow-up to the previous year’s pilot study, a study of the Mediator Release Test, to determine if this blood test could be an efficacious means of determining food sensitivities in order to mitigate CNS system. To be published in conference proceedings: Building Bridges. Sunderland: Univ. of Sunderland, Autism Research Unit (2002). Presented at two state, one national, and one international conference. 

Principal Investigators –
Dr. Ted Kniker and Alonzo Andrews
Funded by Autism Treatment Center

The Possible Role of Intolerance to Milk/Dairy and Wheat/Gluten Foods
in Older and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

The ATC investigated possible metabolic processes relevant to ASD and a dietary intervention to improve Central Nervous System dysfunction (2001). Published in conference proceedings: An Autism Odyssey. Sunderland: University of Sunderland, Autism Research Unit (183-191). This study was the subject of two Reuters-London articles, April 5, 2001 and June 13, 2001, and was cited in the Autism Research Review International (ARRI), Dec. 2001 and ANDI (Autism Network for Dietary Intervention) News, summer 2001, as well as being presented at two state, one national, and one international conference. This was the Autism Treatment Center’s initial entry into the research arena. 

Principal Investigators –
Dr. Ted Kniker and Alonzo Andrews
Funded by Autism Treatment Center