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Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston , MA

Principal Investigator: Hugo Theoret, Ph.D.

Motor Output & Mirror Cell Systems in Autism Studied by Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (funded through NAAR)

Many individuals with autism demonstrate difficulty performing simple motor imitation. This project will use a method called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to study the motor cortex and mirror cell system in adults with Asperger's syndrome. Dr. Theoret will assess the integrity of the motor cortex and mirror neuron system to gain insight into the basic cortical dysfunction that may lead to autism spectrum disorders. Dr. Theoret will use this information to investigate how these abnormalities interact with emotional processing and self-awareness, two areas of human cognition believed to be impaired in autism. The insights derived from the proposed experiments have the potential to increase our understanding of the causes of autism and lead to new therapeutic interventions.

Harvard Medical School

Hugo Theoret

Massachusetts Advocates for Children, Boston, MA

Establishment and Support of the Autism Special Education Legal Support Center

The goal of this project is to provide training, technical assistance, and advocacy services necessary to ensure that children with autism receive equal educational opportunities. Goals include: Providing parents with information about state-of-the-art services and programs available to meet individual needs of students with disabilities; Insuring that children with autism receive special education services necessary to reach their potential in areas impacted by their disability; Increasing public awareness and understanding of the potential and competency of individuals with autism, targeting policy makers, media, educators, service providers, as well as the general public. The Autism Special Education Legal Support Center will accomplish these goals by: providing community-based workshops for parents, educators, and medical professionals regarding legal rights and range of service options available for children with autism; providing a hotline to give legal and technical assistance to families of children with autism; training attorneys to increase representation of low-income students with autism to ensure that children receive legally mandated special education services; and providing information to the media, the legislature, and other policy makers regarding changes necessary to ensure children with autism receive services that reflect their potential.

Massachusetts Advocates for Children

Massachusetts General Hospital , Boston , MA

Principal Investigator: Martha R. Herbert, M.D., Ph.D.

Neuroimaging of Young Children at High Risk for Autism (funded through NAAR)

In this project, Dr. Herbert will obtain MRI scans of siblings of individuals with autism at about the time of their 14-month old evaluations. These MRI scans have the potential to provide unique and crucial data related to the earliest signs of abnormal development in children who may later receive a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Although many of the brain abnormalities present in autism are believed to occur prior to birth, there appear to be some abnormalities that occur after birth. Research has shown that head and brain size in individuals with autism are normal at birth but grow faster than normal during the first years of life. It has been suggested that this early increase is due to an increased amount of white matter. Dr. Herbert will analyze the MRI scans to learn about the size of various brain structures and to obtain information about the tissue characteristics in different parts of the brain. This research may provide a greater understanding about such abnormal brain growth and may lead to treatments designed to normalize the process.

Department of Neurology - Massachusetts General Hospital

Martha Herbert

New England Medical Center, Atlanta , GA
2000, 2001, 2002, 2003

Callaway Gardens Annual Autism Genetics Workshop

The purpose of the Callaway Gardens Annual Autism Genetics Workshop is to share unpublished data, ideas, and suggestions within the Autism Genetics Cooperative group, form limited collaborations for specific purposes, and generally spend 3½ days discussing how to find genes that predispose people to autism. This event was co-sponsored with National Alliance for Autism Research.

New England Medical Center

Personal Advocacy and Lifetime Support (PALS), North Waltham, MA
2002, 2004

Operating Support and Support for the Printing of PALS, Inc. Volunteer Packet

The NLM Family Foundation provides support to PALS, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help parents and other caregivers establish and maintain a lifetime plan for a safe and secure future for their loved one with special needs. Many families with an individual with special needs often express concern over what will happen to their loved when they are gone. PALS believes that the best guarantee of a safe and secure future for individuals with special needs is a circle of caring, committed friends, family members, supporters, and professionals actively involved in their lives. The cornerstone of PALS is a Personal Support Network, which consists of people who make a long term commitment to be in a voluntary relationship with individuals with special needs.

Personal Advocacy and Lifetime Support (PALS)

Syracuse University, Facilitated Communication Institute, Syracuse , NY

Principal Investigator: Douglas Biklen, Ph.D.

The NLM Family Foundation has supported the Facilitated Communication Institute for several years.  Through the Core Funding Grant, the Strategic Planning Grant and the Lurie Scholarship Fund, the NLM Family Foundation supports the FC Institute's activities in facilitated communication training, documentation and demonstration, and reinitiates a strategic planning process to better focus the Institute for the next 5-10 years of work in the field of autism and inclusion. The Foundation also provided a grant to Dr. Biklen to support his work in collecting autobiographical accounts from people with autism who had been previously considered low functioning but now communicate fluently and some even independently with use of FC.  Dr. Biklen has written a book of autobiographical accounts of seven individuals with autism published in 2005, entitled Autism and the Myth of the Person Alone .

Doug Biklen


TASH, Baltimore, M.D.

Grant 1: A Program to Increase Opportunities for People with Autism to have an Impact on Disability Related Public Policy

Grant 2:  Creation and Dissemination of a CD-Rom / Website Action Guide On Influencing Public Policy as it Relates to Disability Issues

Grant 3:  Assistance for the Production of a Television Documentary on Living with Autism

TASH is an international association of people with disabilities, their family members, and professionals advocating for inclusion of all people in all aspects of society. Their concern is with human dignity, civil rights, education, and independence for all individuals with disabilities.  The NLM Family Foundation is supporting three grants at TASH.  Grant 1 provides funding for the development of self advocacy programs for people with disabilities.  Grant 2 provides funding for the creation and dissemination of a CD-rom/ website highlighting key lectures and workshops from a TASH International Conference.  Grant 3 provides funding for the production of a PBS television documentary which highlights the experiences of people with autism and communication difficulties whose lives were enriched once they were provided with tools to foster communication.


Breaking the Barriers: New Ways of Thinking that Lead to Civic Participation (Pre-Conference Session ) Boston , MA

The purpose of this pre-conference session was to explore the extent to which people with autism, many of whom communicate with Facilitated Communication, were interested in becoming more involved in public policy work, and to begin to explore what system changes were necessary to allow this to occur. The event was an interactive dialogue aimed at exploring the changing perceptions of autism and communication. The pre-conference session was intended to move beyond training and research to support FC users to develop a voice nationally in order to influence policy.


University of Connecticut, Storrs , CT

Principal Investigator: Letitia Naigles, Ph.D.

The Development of Language Comprehension in Children with Autism: A Longitudinal Study Using the Intermodal Preferential Looking Program (funded through NAAR)

Dr. Naigles is investigating early language acquisition in children with autism. Is the process of language acquisition in children with autism similar to that of typically developing children? What do language comprehension measures reveal about the process and products of language acquisition in children with autism? Dr. Naigles plans to access language of children with autism using comprehension measures that may reveal both hidden strengths and weaknesses in their language acquisition. Using a method called "Intermodal Preferential Looking", a child observes two simultaneously presented video events while listening to linguistic stimulus that describes only one of the events. If the child watches the matching event more than the nonmatching event, the child is inferred to have comprehended the linguistic stimulus. This method has been used on typically developing toddlers, and the researchers have already successfully applied it to three children with autism. This research has the potential to provide information concerning treatment strategies and insights into deficits and strengths in language comprehension of children with autism.

Letitia Naigles

University of Illinois, The Psychiatric Institute, Chicago , IL

Principal Investigator: Stephen Porges, Ph.D.

Stimulating Social Communication in Adolescents and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Neurological Approach

The goal of this project is to demonstrate the efficiency and efficacy of the Listening Project, a biologically-based behavioral intervention derived from the Polyvagal Theory, on adolescent and adult individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  The Polyvagal Theory provides a neurobiological explanation for specific neural mechanisms associated with the spontaneous social behavior expressed by humans.  This project is based on the premise that social behavior is a naturally occurring emergent property of the human nervous system.  According to this model, positive social behavior is dependent on the nervous system being in a specific state. Intervention strategies that foster this state will have a positive impact on the social interaction skills of people with autism.   The research program focuses on the development, evaluation, and application of this class of interventions in a cohort of adults with autism.

The Psychiatric Institute

Stephen Porges

Volen National Center for Complex Systems, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA

Understanding Autism: A Grant to Fund New Initiatives in Autism Education and Research at the Volen Center and the Center for Behavioral Genomics at Brandeis University

This project is comprised of three components: (1) Support for creation of a neurobiology course at Brandeis focused primarily on autism spectrum disorders; (2) Support for a symposium to celebrate the opening of the Behavioral Genomics Center and 10-year anniversary of the Volen Center.  The symposium will explore aspects of autism dealing with cognitive systems, neuroscience, and molecular issues. (3) Support for visiting scholars with autism expertise who will be participating in research collaborations, teaching, and symposia.  Projects will be run by a steering committee consisting of Dr. Susan Birren, Dr. Marty Krauss, Dr. Sasha Nelson, Dr. Clarence Schutt and Dr. Art Wingfield.

Volen National Center for Complex Systems



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