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Laura Klinger, PhD, Principle Investigator of the study and Executive Director of TEACCH, will use the grant from Autism Speaks to conduct a landmark 40-year follow-up study of individuals served by the TEACCH Autism Program. Mark Klinger, PhD, and Joseph Piven, MD, are co-investigators on the study.

Dr. Laura Klinger, Director, TEACCH Autism Program

The grant was announced by Autism Speaks on Jan. 3. Dr. Klinger’s grant was one of 14 new research projects that received funding.

“As the numbers of children diagnosed with ASD increase, there is a growing concern that the resulting increase in adults diagnosed with ASD will overwhelm our current educational, employment, and residential support programs,” Dr. Laura Klinger stated. “However, little is known about the long-term outcome and needs of middle age and older adults with ASD. We simply don’t know whether the quality of life improves, declines, or plateaus for individuals with ASD who are past the transition to adulthood years. Additionally, little is known about how symptoms change from childhood to mid-adulthood and what factors predict adult outcome. This is a relatively unchartered research field.”

The purpose of the proposed study is to conduct a longitudinal study examining adult outcome in middle-aged adults with ASD who were diagnosed during childhood by the University of North Carolina TEACCH Autism Program. Approximately 7,000 children with ASD were served between 1965 and 2000 and are now adults. The goal of this study is to survey 400 of these adults and their caregivers.

“With this latest round of grants, Autism Speaks is funding a wide scope of studies ranging from basic research to innovative technologies to understanding autism across the lifespan,” says Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Geri Dawson, Ph.D. “We extend our deep thanks to the donors who make this possible and to the scientists who are our partners in this work.”

On their website, Autism Speaks notes that the study, “represents a unique opportunity to study outcomes in older adults with ASD. The results have the potential to influence legislative and community service decisions that affect adults with ASD.”

Dr. Laura Klinger is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Executive Director, of the TEACCH Autism Program. Co-Investigator Mark Klinger, PhD, is Associate Professor of Allied Health Sciences and Research Director of the TEACCH Autism Program. Co-Investigator Joseph Piven, MD, is Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities.

read more about Autism Speaks Research Grants