Autism Science Foundation Announces Two Additional COVID-19 Grants

The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and funding innovative autism research, today announced its fifth round of COVID-19 Research Grant recipients. The latest grantees are Dr. Allison Shana Nahmias and Dr. Matthew Lerner of Stony Brook University and Dr. Shuting Zheng, University of California San Francisco. 

This new funding will help grantees examine ways to improve mental health services for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). One study will examine the efficacy of an online intervention to help autistic adolescents deal with pandemic stress, while another study will examine ways to improve mental health services for autistic adults.

ASF initially launched its COVID-19 grants in early 2020 to support scientists who were struggling to continue their research studies when institutions were shut down. The mechanism then evolved to fund research examining the unique effects of COVID-19 on people with autism, and to study ways to make permanent improvements to diagnoses and treatment based on service gaps the pandemic brought to light.

“The lingering mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to impact so many people with autism. Our goal with this latest round of funding is to provide support for people in the short-term, and to examine ways to make lasting improvements to mental health services that will aid people with autism long after the pandemic is over,” said Dr. Alycia Halladay, Chief Science Officer of ASF.

The following projects have received funding:

Allison Shana Nahmias, Ph.D.

Stony Brook University

Title: Evaluating an Online Intervention to Help Autistic Adolescents Deal with Pandemic Stress 

Most mental health interventions require multiple clinician visits, can be costly, and are not feasible for many families from diverse socioeconomic communities.  This project will study the effects of a single-session intervention, successfully utilized with neurotypical adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic, to see if it is also successful in supporting autistic adolescents. Stressful events have increased during the pandemic, resulting in additional mental health challenges throughout the ASD community.  

Shuting Zheng, Ph.D.

University of California San Francisco

Improving Mental Health Service Delivery for Individuals with Autism

Only about half of autistic adults who reported experiencing symptoms of depression during the pandemic received treatment for their depression due to problems accessing services. This project will expand a longitudinal study of autistic adults reporting their own experiences with mental health care. The goal is to better understand the different factors that support or deter mental health support, learn how autistic adults receive and prefer to receive support, and then improve the services they receive.

NEW YORK — April 13, 2020 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF) invites applications for its new COVID-19 Pivot Grant Program. This funding is intended to help scientists manage challenges they are facing in conducting research projects due to the COVID-19 emergency. 

The funding is meant to help cover new costs encountered due to adaptations or modifications of an original research plan as a result of the current shutdown across research institutions. Grants of up to $3,000 are available for a six-month term to help researchers conform to current restrictions due to the COVID-19 emergency.

“The research world has changed drastically and dramatically, practically overnight, but the needs of autism families have not,” said ASF president Alison Singer. “We must be nimble and flexible in supporting the research community so that we can continue discovering the causes of autism and developing new treatments. This new grant mechanism is just one of ASF’s many new efforts to respond quickly to the changing needs of the autism community.”

ASF intends this to be a fast-turnaround mechanism and expects to support multiple calls for awards this year. During this first round, awards will be limited to those with established university or research institution affiliation. Priority will be given to pilot or feasibility grants that were in process as well as to investigators who are in earlier stages of their careers (pre-doctoral training to seven years after post-doc completion).

“We encourage researchers to think outside the box on how to meet the challenges we currently face,” said ASF Chief Science Officer Dr. Alycia Halladay. “We have thought of some potential uses but there are certainly research situations we haven’t even contemplated that warrant support.”

Some potential uses of funds include: honoraria associated with participant retention; costs of new biological agents or preparations proposed to either pivot or readjust the research plan; direct storage costs of biological agents to preserve previously acquired samples; costs of technological platforms or technological tools to collect data from families remotely; and costs associated with making materials available to families or to other researchers.

For more information on how to apply, click here.

About the Autism Science Foundation
The Autism Science Foundation (ASF) is a 501(c) (3) public charity. Its mission is to support autism research by providing funding to scientists and organizations conducting autism research. ASF also provides information about autism to the general public and serves to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and the needs of individuals and families affected by autism. To learn more about the Autism Science Foundation or to make a donation visit www.autismsciencefoundation.org.   

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Forefront Communications for Autism Science Foundation
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