The Autism Research Institute (ARI) was established in 1967 by autism pioneer and advocate, Dr. Bernard Rimland. Dr. Rimland single-handedly destroyed the claim that autism was caused by poor parenting in his 1964 book titled Infantile Autism. He also founded the Autism Society of America and was the head consultant for the movie Rain Man. In the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, ARI focused much of its efforts on studying and disseminating information on behavioral therapy (i.e., Applied Behavior Analysis), as well as nutrition and diet. In the 1990s, ARI expanded its work to include medical and sensory interventions. Since his passing in 2006, ARI continues to follow Dr. Rimland's vision by maintaining many of his initiatives as well as establishing new ones (for example, a ground-breaking initiative run by and for adults on the spectrum). As you will read below, ARI is actively involved in many aspects of autism.
Moving Forward: The Expanding Mission of ARI
- Diagnosis and Assessment. In the 1960s, Dr. Rimland developed the E-2 checklist to diagnose "classical autism" (or Kanner syndrome). ARI continues to score the diagnostic checklist for no charge for families and professionals throughout the world. ARI recently began a new research project to determine whether or not the autism spectrum can be divided into valid subgroups. If there are true subtypes of autism (rather than a continuum), these findings will be very helpful for researchers who are studying both the underlying causes and the most effective treatments. Families are currently completing the checklist, and we plan to analyze the data in mid-2014. The checklist has also been translated into Spanish, French, and Italian.
ARI also provides a free online assessment tool called the Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (or ATEC). The ATEC is used by parents, teachers, researchers, and other professionals to monitor how well someone is doing with regard to several domains, comprising speech/language/communication, sociability, sensory/cognitive awareness, and health/physical/behavior. The ATEC has been translated into several different languages including Chinese, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. Several hundred thousand ATECs have been completed over the past 15 years.
- Underlying causes of Autism. Since the 1960s ARI has been actively studying the underlying cause(s) of autism. The subtype survey mentioned above may provide insight into one or more causes. In addition, ARI funds two major tissue banks including the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Brain and Tissue Bank, and the Massachusetts General Hospital gastrointestinal tissue bank. ARI also awards grants to researchers worldwide who are studying various aspects of physiology including the gastrointestinal, immune, metabolic, and neurological systems.
- Medical and Nutritional Problems. ARI was the first national autism organization to bring attention to the rather severe medical problems and nutritional deficiencies often faced by people on the autism spectrum. In the 1990s ARI published a book, with many updated versions, titled Autism: Effective Biomedcal Treatment. This was the first book written for physicians on how to treat their patients with autism. This year ARI published a research-based book titled Nutritional Supplement Use for Autism Spectrum Disorder, which was written for physicians, nutritionists, and parents.
ARI organizes at least two think tanks a year in which researchers and experienced physicians meet to discuss both medical and nutrition-related issues. ARI also sponsors an active online discussion group where scientists and physicians discuss new research. In addition, many of ARI's grants support research focused on medical and nutrition issues.
- Adults on the Autism Spectrum. ARI began an initiative in 2002 to focus on issues related to adults on the autism spectrum and their families. Over the past 10 years, we have (1) organized the book Families of Adults with Autism: Stories and Advice for the Next Generation, published by Jessica Kingsley Press; (2) established an innovative program run by adults on the spectrum, called the Autistic Global Initiative (AGI); (3) sponsored one-day adult tracks at our conferences; and (4) published a quarterly e-newsletter Adults with ASD eBulletin.
Currently, housing options and employment opportunities are two major concerns for adults on the spectrum. Over the past two years, AGI has developed an extensive 12-week online course to support residential and daily living needs for teenagers and adults. The course went online in September, and professionals and parents worldwide have participated. Within a month or two, we will launch an online employment portal to help those on the spectrum, their families, and potential employers learn about various aspects of employment.
- Sensory, Behavior, and Trauma Issues. Since the 1990s, ARI has conducted research on various sensory problems experienced by people on the autism spectrum including auditory, tactile, and vision issues. More recently, ARI has collaborated with researchers at the University of Louisville to study these areas using physiological as well as neurophysiological assessment measures. (Note: sensitivies to various auditory, visual, and touch stimuli in their environment are problems commonly reported by people on the autism spectrum.)
ARI started a new initiative to better understand and develop ways to treat self-injurious behavior, which is one of the most devastating problems often associated with autism. This project involves developing a network of experts in various areas, including behavioral, medical, and sensory expertise. We also plan to sponsor a think tank next year on trauma issues related to physical and sexual abuse, as well as other emotionally painful experiences.
- Distribution of Science-Based Information. Since its founding in 1967, ARI has distributed relevant science-based information to parents and professionals worldwide. This includes maintaining and updating our popular website, www.autism.com, and sponsoring up to three online webinars a month including various topics such as medical treatment, diet, nutrition, behavior, and much more.
Since 1986, ARI has published a hardcopy science newsletter, the Autism Research Review International (ARRI), which summarizes the relevant international research in medicine and education. We also publish four e-newsletters including (1) ARI's e-newsletter (monthly); (2) the Adults with ASD eBulletin (quarterly); (3) Clinical Research in Autism (bimonthly; for obstetricians, pediatricians, and nurses); and (4) the Autism Network for Deaf/Hard of Hearing and Blind/Visually Impaired e-newsletter (quarterly). ARI also moderates a popular online support list serve called ARISupport, and a toll-free resource call center (833-281-7165).
- Global Networking. Since its founding, ARI has been the hub of communication among families, professionals, and non-profit groups worldwide. ARI houses the Global Autism Collaboration, consisting of more than 110 non-profit organizations. ARI is also one of the few autism organizations that is a Non-Government Organization (NGO) associated with the United Nations. This year ARI sponsored two panels on autism on World Autism Day at the United Nations. In addition, ARI sponsors outreach meetings; and in 2013, conferences were held in Colombia, Ghana, the Philippines, Russia, and the Ukraine.
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The staff at ARI is dedicated to improving the quality of lives for families and individuals with autism spectrum disorders. We rely on the generosity of donors in order to continue helping individuals with autism spectrum disorders, and to advance autism research. We need and appreciate your support - DONATE NOW