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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

ASPIRE Research at UNC School of Medicine

One of the great things about the Triangle is the wealth of autism resources and research being conducted in the field of ASD at the University of North Carolina. There are a number of important autism-related programs affiliated with UNC Chapel Hill, such as the TEACCH Autism Program, CIDD (Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities), and the Frank Porter Graham (FPG) Child Development Institute.

Another key autism program at UNC is the ASPIRE Research Program, (Adolescent, School-age Psychiatric Intervention Research Program) led by Dr. Linmarie Sikich within the UNC School of Medicine. ASPIRE conducts studies in the fields of pediatric and adolescent autism, schizophrenia, psychosis, or bipolar conditions. They recruit local families to participate in research studies, such as the SOARS study that investigates the effects of oxytocin as a possible stimulant for the social regions of the brain

Last fall I had the opportunity to meet with one of the research staff team from ASPIRE to discuss their STORY study. Certainly every family has to make their own decisions about what studies or treatments are appropriate for their situation, and we at CHART do not advocate a specific program. That said, I thought that the STORY study was an exciting resource for families of young children who suspect their child may have autism. The purpose of the study is to try to identify a screening tool that uses genes to help predict an autism diagnosis.

The reason I was excited to share the STORY study with our readers is because it involves a FREE autism evaluation for the children selected to participate. In addition, the research team can usually get children in for the evaluation within a much shorter time frame than other programs can - think weeks instead of many months. Considering what a barrier access to a timely, affordable evaluation can be, that is a tremendous benefit for study participants. There is one blood draw, but no medications or other treatments are involved.

To be considered for the study, children must be at least 1 1/2 years old and under 5 years old with a suspected developmental delay, but no formal autism diagnosis. To learn more, download the flier below or contact ASPIRE at 1-800-708-0048.

As always, if you find this resource helpful, please share it with others. Stay tuned for information soon about the Autism Society of North Carolina Orange Chatham chapter's upcoming Summer Camp Fair - it is always must-attend event!

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