A Message from the Director

I know most of you are “COVID fatigued” and eager to get back to a normal routine after nearly a year of disruptions to your everyday lives. Although the pandemic has resulted in major interruptions to your lives, we hope that some good will result from this experience. It could help us unlock innovative ways to diagnose autism remotely and provide increased access to clinical services via telehealth. At the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development, we are investigating the effectiveness of remote autism assessments and caregiver coaching interventions that are provided in a virtual setting. Center investigators have received an Autism Science Foundation grant to study the mental health consequences of the pandemic in autistic children and are compiling information about parent-reported stress. 

We have adapted our ongoing investigations (such as our National Institutes of Health-funded Autism Center of Excellence study) and have continued to share our research findings. We recently published an article in the journal, Autism, that indicates repetitive behaviors and gastrointestinal problems may be connected in children with autism. Many of the Center’s clinical services are now being delivered via telehealth. We continue to advocate for equitable access that prioritizes individuals with disabilities and are offering our community and professional events virtually. In this issue of Connections, you will find out what we have planned for Autism Awareness Month as well as how our resource library is expanding.

Thank you for being our partners throughout this difficult time. We look forward to the future with hope for better ways to serve more individuals on the spectrum and their families.

Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D.
Director, Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development
Gut Issues May Aggravate Repetitive Behaviors in Kids with ASD
A study published in the journal Autism helps establish that gastrointestinal symptoms may exacerbate repetitive behaviors in children with autism, or vice versa, and could one day help lead to new interventions. Study leader Payal Chakraborty, a former Center for Autism investigative team member and currently a graduate student at Ohio State University, was joined by center investigators Kimberly Carpenter, Ph.D., Samantha Major, M.H.S., Megan Deaver, Ph.D., Saritha Vermeer, Ph.D., Brianna Herold, M.S., Lauren Franz, M.B., Ch.B., Jill Howard, Ph.D., and Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D. Read the journal article here.

Center Study will Examine Pandemic's Mental Health Consequences on Kids with Autism
The Autism Science Foundation has announced its third round of COVID-19 Research Grant recipients. The grantees include the Center for Autism’s Dr. Marika Coffman, who will lead a study to examine the pandemic’s mental health consequences on autism-related behaviors. The findings will help inform future efforts to understand who is most susceptible to mental health issues and what contributes to resilience. Dr. Coffman will be joined by Center researchers Drs. Kimberly Carpenter, Naomi Davis, and Geraldine Dawson. 
The Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development is a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Autism Center of Excellence, a designation given to only a handful of research centers in the US. Through our Autism Center of Excellence study, we provide children diagnosed with both ASD and ADHD proven behavioral intervention treatment at no charge. Learn more here or contact us at 888-691-1062 or autismresearch@dm.duke.edu    [Pro 00085179]
Autism Science Foundation's "Research Recap" Notes Multiple Center Studies

In its recap, 2020: A Year Like No Other, the Autism Science Foundation, a not-for-profit organization funding innovative autism research, highlights last year's scientific discoveries that significantly affected families impacted by autism. The comprehensive round-up notes several investigations led by Duke Center for Autism researchers and highlights studies focused on new treatments, understanding of the brain, early diagnosis methods, gender differences, and more.
Check out Here’s an Idea! - a new “mini-video” series featuring center psychiatrists and psychologists sharing practical tips in response to challenging situations facing autistic individuals and those who care for them. In these three-minute videos, real-world advice is geared specifically to four audiences: Parents/caregivers of young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Parents/caregivers of teens with ASD, Autistic adults, and Individuals who care about or work with individuals with ASD. Watch it here and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to see our next spots!
by Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, a renowned global self-advocate, educator, author, and parent on the autism spectrum. Ms. Onaiwu will join us on April 7, 4:00 p.m. Eastern, to share “More Than Seeds: Digging Deep to Find Our Resilience, Our Beauty, and Our Value.” Ms. Onaiwu will highlight attributes of autism, examine them from a neurodiversity lens, and explore concepts of individual and collective worth. The event is FREE, OPEN to the PUBLIC, and will be held VIRTUALLY. Please REGISTER IN ADVANCE here.
Dr. Geraldine Dawson to Keynote 2021 Autism Society of NC Annual Conference with "The Autism and ADHD Connection" 
The Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC) will host its 2021 conference virtually, March 19-20. Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., director of the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development, opens the conference with a keynote presentation, “The Autism and ADHD Connection,” March 19, 9:15 a.m. See the full schedule and register here.  
Do you have a student attending a NC public school?
NC PTA Special Education Committee Hosts Virtual Town Hall
Jill Howard, Ph.D., director of Early Intervention Services at the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development, presents "Tips for Helping Students on the Autism Spectrum in a Remote Learning Environment" at the NCPTA Special Education Inclusion for All Town Hall, March 6,10:00 a.m. Register in advance.
Raising a Child with Autism During the Pandemic

Duke University Global Health Institute’s “One Question, One Minute” latest video features Center for Autism psychiatrist, research scientist, and global health specialist Lauren Franz, M.B., Ch.B., explaining how the pandemic has exacerbated the struggles faced by families with children on the autism spectrum — especially those in low-income settings around the globe. 
FREE Online Caregiver Coaching Modules Available!
The article, 4 Steps to Promote Joint Activity Routines between Children, Parents During COVID-19, published in Special Ed Connection, Nov. 4, 2020, provides advice to therapists who coach parents to build joint activity routines. These routines are a key component used in the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), a play-based, relationship-focused early intervention for young children with ASD.
Once It’s Time to Travel Again – Ease Planning & Prep with our Travel Toolkit
New “Social Narratives” samples & tips just added
Our Travel Toolkit eases planning and helps caregivers support the sensory needs of neurodiverse children. Clinicians with the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development, Tara Chandrasekhar, M.D., Rachel Aiello, Ph.D., Marika Coffman, Ph.D., and Carla Wall, M.S., loaded the Travel Toolkit with info, tips, and samples. NEW Social Narrative samples and tips have just been added
Be social with us!