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Autism Science Foundation Announces 2013 Research Enhancement Grant Recipients

On November 12, 2013, the Autism Science Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to funding autism research, announced the recipients of research enhancement mini grants. These grants are intended to enable researchers to expand the scope or increase the efficiency of existing grants, or to take advantage of changes or findings that have occurred in or around the project that warrant more funding. Six projects were selected for funding.

“Our goal with this funding mechanism is to speed up the pace of research and remove research obstacles” said ASF president Alison Singer. “We want researchers to be able to move quickly when they’ve made the kind of breakthrough that just needs a bit more funding to exploit rapidly”.

The following projects were selected for enhancement grant funding:

Sex Differences in the Neural
Mechanisms of Treatment Response
Dr. Pam Ventola/Yale University

This grant will support a 16-week Pivotal Response Treatment trial to expand work funded by Dr. Kevin Pelphrey’s center. This funding will add an additional cohort of girls and will focus on the sex-based differences in neural response to treatment, which is not included in the current NIH funding.

Use of Real Time Video Feedback to
Enhance Special Education Teacher Training
Dr. Jessica Suhrheinrich/University
of California at San Diego

Funds will be used to purchase iPads for teachers to enable real-time feedback during a study implementing classroom based Pivotal Response Training in preschool through fifth grade special education classes. This is significant because this study will focus on teachers who were not previously able to master PRT.

The Effects of Autism on the Sign
Language Development of Deaf Children
Dr. Aaron Shield/Boston University

This grant will expand the control group of typically developing deaf children to compare to deaf children with ASD. Findings from this study will inform the eventual adaptation of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule and other instruments for use with deaf and hard-of-hearing children. It will also inform the design of future interventions with deaf and hard-of-hearing children with ASD.

Cross-Modal Automated Assessment of Behavior during Social Interactions in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Dr. Adam Naples/Yale University

This grant supports implementation of hardware to monitor a child’s facial expression, gaze, speech, and posture during recording of neural activity in Dr. James McPartland’s lab. This technology will enable simulation of interpersonal interactions based on a child’s verbal and nonverbal behavior. This study will investigate the brain mechanisms of multimodal reciprocal social interaction for the first time.

Role of Astrocytic Glutamate Transporter GLT1 in Fragile X Syndrome
Dr. Haruki Higashimori/Tufts University

This grant will allow for promising new discoveries in mice with Fragile X Syndrome to be tested on human brain tissue samples. This is significant because it will bridge their findings from rodent models to humans and help further validate a new therapeutic target for Fragile X and autism. This study builds on a finding during Higashimori’s Autism Science Foundation Post-Doctoral fellowship.

Partners in Schools: A Program for Parents and Teachers of Children with Autism
Dr. Gazi Azad/University of Pennsylvania

Funds will provide financial incentives for urban, public school parents and teachers to participate in a study testing a new paradigm to improve parent-teacher communication about evidence-based interventions. This project will result in a new culturally sensitive tool for communication improvement, which is the first step in fostering family-school partnerships for children with autism.


The Autism Science Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity. Its mission is to support autism research by providing funding to scientists and organizations conducting autism research. ASF also provides information about autism to the general public and serves to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and the needs of individuals and families affected by autism. To learn more about the Autism Science Foundation or to make a donation visit

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