WESTBROOK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Two Maine doctors just got a major grant to study autism in children. Doctors Matthew Siegel and Susan Santangelo of Spring Harbor Hospital and Maine Medical Center Research Institute have a 2-year $1.2 million dollar grant from the Simons Foundation and the NLM Family Foundation.
Dr. Siegel said the idea for the study came from his own work at Spring Harbor with children who have severe autism. He noticed that most autism studies have worked with higher functioning kids.
"What really made me want to do this study, and what we really want to know is can we understand the differences between different types of children who have autism, so children who speak, children who don't speak, those kind of differences. And the field doesn't understand those differences very well," Siegel said.
The study will involve about 500 kids at 6 hospitals around the country, including Spring Harbor. Researchers will observe the children's behavior, their intelligence level, and their communication skills among other things. They also will take a blood sample. The hope is to get more funding to do genetic tests on those samples, identifying which genes are responsible for certain symptoms of the disorder.
Sigel said, "And my hope and dream is that maybe that will lead to target treatments for certain kinds of kids. Not just to say, 'This is a child with autism, they're having a hard time, we're going to do X, or give them medicine Y,' but rather, 'This is a child with autism subtype 1a, and we know through tests that this particular treatment, this particular medicine, this particular communication system works best for them.'"