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FSU researcher wins $2.4M in grants to pursue early detection of autism
Date:10/15/2009

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A Florida State University College of Medicine researcher has been awarded two separate grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) totaling $2.4 million to continue her work in detecting autism in children as young as 18 months.

Amy Wetherby is director of the Autism Institute in the College of Medicine. For a decade her FIRST WORDS Project has screened children to identify early red flags of various autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Among those red flags are a child's reluctance to look at the face or eyes of others; a delay in the use of gestures, sounds and words; a tendency not to share excitement or interests; and a fixation on certain objects.

The younger the child, the more subtle the red flags but the greater the chances of working with the family to lessen the negative effects. People with autism can have many strengths, Wetherby said, citing Albert Einstein as a prime example. For some people, however, autism is a severe disability.

"The symptoms themselves can actually impair learning," Wetherby said. "Just like cancer, the earlier we can catch it, the far better the outcomes."

In the United States, she said, most children who have autism are usually not identified until somewhere between ages 3 and 5. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening children between ages 18 and 24 months. The problem, Wetherby said, is that there is no well-validated, ASD-specific screener for that age group for use in pediatric settings.

A $1.9 million, two-year grant from the NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development will fund research that aims to develop such a screener. Wetherby's collaborators are Eva Petkova at the New York University Child Study Center and Catherine Lord at the University of Michigan Autism and Communication Disorders Center.

A total of 600 children will participate. The researchers will study several
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Contact: Ron Hartung
ronald.hartung@med.fsu.edu
850-645-9205
Florida State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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FSU researcher wins $2.4M in grants to pursue early detection of autism
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