The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, is launching what it says is the largest ever federally financed study into the causes of autism.
The $7.8 million study will be conducted over five years in six states: California, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. It will include as many as 2,700 children ages 2 to 5, both with and without autism.
By focusing on young children, researchers hope to zero in on the events of pregnancy and early childhood, while parents’ recollections are fresh, said Diana E. Schendel, the science liaison for the study, which will be led by the Centers for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research and Epidemiology. Known as CADDRE, the research agency was created as part of the federal Children’s Health Act of 2000.
In addition to the large size of the study sample, the multistate approach makes it unique, said Ms. Schendel, who is also the principal investigator for the Georgia CADDRE site. By studying children throughout the country, researchers hope to get a representative sample.
Abnormal responses to childhood infections, abnormal hormone function, and genetics are among the many possible causes of autism that scientists hope to study, Ms. Schendel said.
Autism and autism spectrum disorders such as Asperger’s syndrome are believed to affect between two and six children per 1,000 in the United States. The disorder is characterized by problems in speech and social-skills development, as well as repetitive behaviors and routines.
A version of this article appeared in the November 08, 2006 edition of Education Week