ARRA IMPACT REPORT:
Autism Spectrum Disorder – Treatments & Interventions


Public Health Burden
Current estimates suggest that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects as many as 1 in 88 U.S. children.1 ASD is associated with a wide range of developmental issues, but the core symptoms are problems with social interactions and communication skills, as well as repetitive and stereotyped behaviors. Symptoms usually appear before age three, and can cause delays or problems that develop from infancy to adulthood.

Behavioral Interventions - JobTips
Because ASD symptoms can exist throughout the lifespan, interventions targeting life transitions are of critical importance. ARRA-funded investigators have identified interventions to improve career-oriented skills for transition-age youth with ASD. For example, JobTips is one of the first online employment resources tailored to people with ASD (http://www.do2learn.com/JobTIPS/index.html). The site, produced by Virtual Reality Aids, Inc., provides helpful information on developing important job-related skills, such as how to interview and how to communicate effectively and appropriately at work. The website also offers resources to clinicians, parents, educators, and job coaches. To date, JobTips is visited by over 30,000 new users each month, and at least 25 high schools in the nation have adapted the website into a curriculum for seniors.2

Therapeutic Drug Discovery
Although medicines for treating ASD symptoms exist, none have been designed specifically for use in ASD. The following ARRA-funded project is examining the role of the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin in regulating social behaviors and anxiety with the goal of identifying new treatments for ASD. Scripps Research Institute investigators have been developing and testing a class of small molecules which can modulate the activity of oxytocin and vasopressin with therapeutic potential to ameliorate symptoms of anxiety and stress.3 As a result of this work, the investigators have filed five patent applications.4,5,6,7,8

Contributing NIH Institutes & Centers

  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22456193
  2. 1RC1MH088812-01 - STRICKLAND, DOROTHY CAY - VIRTUAL REALITY AIDS, INC. - SAINT AUGUSTINE - FL
  3. 1R01MH082878-01A1 - ROBERTS, EDWARD - SCRIPPS RESEARCH INSTITUTE - LA JOLLA - CA
  4. Patent Application #61/440,495 Modulators of Receptors for Oxytocin and Vasopressin with Therapeutic Potential: Spiro-dihydroisobenzofuranyl-piperidines and Analogues Thereof
  5. Patent Application #61/440,450 Modulators of Receptors for Oxytocin and Vasopressin with Therapeutic Potential: Piperazines and Analogues Thereof
  6. Patent Application #61/440,462 Modulators of Receptors for Oxytocin and Vasopressin with Therapeutic Potential: Pyrimidines and Analogues Thereof
  7. Patent Application #61/440,474 Modulators of Receptors for Oxytocin and Vasopressin with Therapeutic Potential: Quinazolines and Analogues Thereof
  8. Patent Application #61/440,483 Modulators of Receptors for Oxytocin and Vasopressin with Therapeutic Potential: Thiazoles and Analogues Thereof