Autism and Your Child

What is autism?

What causes autism?

How is autism diagnosed?

If my child has autism, does it mean that he or she is mentally retarded?

Research Background

At UCLA NPI Dr. Cronin's role was focused on assessment and recruitment of individuals affected by autism. Standard practice in autism research is to administer a psychological assessment battery that includes but is not limited to the following measures: Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale (ADOS). These measures are complex and require a specific level of training and proficiency before an examiner administers them to a participant. Beginning with the UCLA Research Unit on Pediatric Psychopharmacology (RUPP, 1997), Dr. Cronin was trained on these measures and continues to maintain reliability in administration. She also trained and supervised research assistants (pre-doctoral and post-doctoral psychologists) in their use of the measures.

Participation with the RUPP co-investigators afforded Dr. Cronin the privilege to work and to learn from the leaders of autism research across the country. This experience allowed her to build both professional relationships with researchers at other sites, and learn the complicated assessment battery, laying the foundation for her role in future research at UCLA. Subsequently, the UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment was awarded successive center grants. Dr. Cronin conducted and supervised diagnostic assessments for the variety of research projects.

In addition, the Simons Simplex Consortium was a multi-site genetic study funded by the Simons Foundation. Similar to the other UCLA research, this study has sought well-characterized families with more than one child but only one child identified with autism. The inclusion criteria have been particularly strict in an attempt to identify genetic underpinnings of autism, but also to collect a great deal of information on the symptoms and behaviors associated with autism. The results of this study are being utilized by many researchers and some of the analyses are contributing to the body of research being used to inform the diagnostic criteria for the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Data collection for this study was particularly rigorous and Dr. Cronin supervised the clinical team to insure the data integrity and participants' diagnoses.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) through the organization Abt and Associates (Cambridge, Massachusetts) examined medical records of children diagnosed with autism and who have been members of health maintenance organizations since their birth (Environmental Exposures and Autism Study). This allowed for a retrospective analysis of the children who have received vaccines and whether there is an increased incidence of autism. Abt and Associates hired Dr. Cronin as a research examiner and in the spring of 2007 the data collection was completed.

Dr. Cronin has been asked to serve as a consultant for autism research not only at UCLA but at the University of California, Irvine.