UW Today

This is an archived article.

May 30, 2008

200 Washington, Oregon families with one autistic child each sought for study

Scientists searching for the causes of autism are taking a new and hard look at families who have only one child with the developmental disorder.

Recent research has shown that the majority of autism cases occur in families with just one child who has disorder, and that’s why the University of Washington’s Autism Center is seeking 200 Washington and Oregon families to participate in a new North American study.

The UW is one of 13 institutions in the United States and Canada participating in the Simons Simplex Collection, which is designed to collect DNA samples from 2,000 families that have one child affected by autism. The project is funded by the Simons Foundation, a New York-based philanthropic organization.

The UW Autism Center is interested in recruiting families throughout Washington and in the greater Portland, Salem and Bend areas in Oregon. To be eligible, a family must have one child between the ages of 4 and 18 diagnosed with autism. Both biological parents must be willing to participate and give blood samples along with their child. In addition, if there are siblings over age 4, one would be asked to give blood.

Families with a child who is suspected of having autism by parents, a doctor or school, also will be eligible, according to Raphael Bernier, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral science who is directing the project at the UW.

In addition to the blood draws, the primary caregiver in families selected to participate will be interviewed about the family and life history and medical record of the child with autism. The child also will be given a diagnostic evaluation including cognitive and neuropsychological tests. The entire process takes about four hours and families will be paid $250. Parents also will be given a diagnostic report on their child.

In some cases, the evaluations can be done in a family’s home town. If travel to Seattle is necessary, funds are available to reimburse families.

“This new study is important because it is made up of a collection of universities all working together using the same protocols,” said Bernier. “We need to make sense of what is going on in this type of autism, and this study offers a chance to look at families that make up the majority of cases of people with autism so we can develop interventions and treatments.”

Parents who would like to enroll their families in the study or who have questions may contact Erin Kipple, project coordinator, at (800) 994-9701 or emh2@u.washington.edu

Other institutions participating in the study are Baylor, Columbia, Emory, Harvard, McGill, Vanderbilt, Washington and Yale universities and the universities of California, Los Angeles; Illinois at Chicago, Michigan and Missouri.


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For more information, contact Bernier at (206) 685-7585 or rab2@u.washington.edu.