Edmonton autism researchers join North American network

June 29, 2011

Opportunity to better address needs of children with autism spectrum disorders

EDMONTON – Autism researchers and clinicians at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital are now linked to hundreds of their counterparts across the U.S. and Canada since joining the Autism Treatment Network (ATN), a prestigious U.S.-based research initiative, this month.

The Glenrose, together with the Stollery Children’s Hospital, was recently awarded a grant of $417,000 over three years by the ATN to work on improving standards of medical care for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), a complex, neurobiological condition that inhibits a person’s ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges.

“We are really proud to be associated with the Autism Treatment Network,” says Dr. Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, Co-director of the Autism Research Centre at the Glenrose.

“The funding of an Edmonton site reflects on the excellence of our clinical and research programs supporting children with autism spectrum disorders. Being part of the Autism Treatment Network gives us the opportunity to better address the medical needs of children with ASD in a more coordinated and comprehensive way.”

Making decisions based on sound research and evaluation is among the goals outlined in the
5-Year Health Action Plan, jointly developed by Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Government of Alberta and supported by the province’s 5-Year Health Funding Plan.

ASD is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in North America, currently diagnosed in one in 110 children, affecting four times as many boys as girls. Its causes are unknown; however, research indicates lifelong interventions can result in significant improvements.

The ATN pools the expertise of more than 200 practising physicians, nurses, specialized therapists, behavioral specialists and clinical researchers at 17 leading children’s hospitals and academic medical centres. The Glenrose is only the second Canadian ATN site.

The network is a project of Autism Speaks, a not-for-profit group whose mission is to change the future for people who struggle with ASD. The group funds research into the causes, prevention, treatments and finding a cure for autism, as well as raising awareness, and supporting family services and advocacy programs.

Edmonton resident Tami Alger believes the sharing of knowledge within the network will positively affect the treatment her six-year-old daughter receives at the Glenrose.

“The Autism Treatment Network will help create a coordinated and holistic link between our daughter’s autism and all of her other medically complex needs,” says Alger.

“It will help in putting together all the pieces of her puzzle.”

Autism Speaks raises funds through corporate partnerships as well as through its North American Walk Now program, held in more than 80 locations across Canada and the U.S.

“We are very proud of the world-class research being led by Dr. Zwaigenbaum and his team,” says Suzanne Lanthier, Executive Director of Autism Speaks Canada. “Our annual Edmonton Walk event raises money to help support wonderful research initiatives like the ATN.”

In 2010, Autism Speaks Canada funded close to $70,000 in community grants to local agencies working directly with children, youth, adults and families in the Edmonton area.

For more information on Autism Speaks Canada and the Edmonton Walk, please visit www.autismspeaks.ca.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than 3.7 million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.

- 30 -