Current Environment:

Our research

The Autism Spectrum Center at Boston Children’s Hospital is dedicated to providing the best care for children with ASD and their families. Part of what is so special at Boston Children’s is the cutting edge research being done to try to understand ASD better. If you are interested in having your child participate in research please see the studies below that are currently accepting new participants. Some are studying treatments and others are observing specific things about individuals with ASD. If any of these seem interesting to you and you want to hear more about it please contact the research coordinators listed under the study description. We need your help to learn about autism!

Observational/non-interventional studies

Unprecedented Times call for Unexpected Measures: Exploring Caregiver Experiences of Stress and Support During COVID-19

What is the study about? During the COVID-19 pandemic, adults caring for children are faced with a range of new challenges. As a caregiver of a child that is cared for at Boston Children’s Hospital, we are interested in learning more about your experiences of stress and support during the pandemic. We are asking parents and caregivers that are interested to complete a survey and an optional Zoom interview about their experiences as a caregiver of a young child during the pandemic.

Who can be in this study? Caregivers (i.e., parents or guardians) of children between 4 and 8 years of age.

What does study participation involve? Completing an online survey (20 to 30 minutes).

Whom do I contact if I am interested in learning more about this study? Email nicole.melita@childrens.harvard.edu or call 203-673-6029.

The Neuroanatomical Basis for Face Processing Deficits in Autism Spectrum Disorder

What is the study about? We are interested in studying face processing in teens!

Researchers are working hard to understand symptoms that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have difficulties with, such as face processing. Difficulties with face processing can have substantial effects on everyday life for some individuals. In order to better understand face processing, we hope to figure out where these face processing issues are arising in the brain. This research could help us to provide targets for treatment and could aid in the development of biomarkers for future detection.

Who can be in this study? We are currently recruiting individuals who either have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or who are typically developing and are between the ages of 15 to 18 years old.

What does study participation involve? The study involves one virtual visit and one in-person visit to Boston Children’s Hospital:

The first study visit will be completed virtually. It will involve a series of computer/paper testing designed to measure face processing and should last around 2.5 hours.

The second study visit will take place at Boston Children’s Hospital. It will involve an MRI with some simple face recognition tasks. The second study visit will last up to three hours.

Whom do I contact if I am interested in learning more about this study? Email CohenLab@childrens.harvard.edu

BRIDGE Study (BRain Indicators of Developmental Growth)

What is the study about? This study is investigating how differences in brain activity affect learning, language and behavior in children with Fragile X Syndrome, Down syndrome, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Down syndrome is the most common cause of intellectual disability, while Fragile X syndrome is the most common inherited form of intellectual disability. In addition to cognitive and learning difficulties, children with Fragile X syndrome and Down syndrome often struggle with language delays. Many of these challenges overlap with Autism Spectrum Disorder. One of our goals is to find brain markers that predict cognitive, language, and behavioral difficulties in these groups. Another goal of ours is to better understand the differences in brain activity between young children with and without Fragile X and Down Syndrome, and whether these differences are similar in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Who can be in the study? Boys aged 24 to 66 months that have been diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Additionally, we are recruiting both boys and girls aged 24-66 months with Down syndrome (DS) or who are typically developing (TD).

What does study participation involve? This study involves two visits to the lab, spaced one year apart. Each visit will take three to four hours. The visits include clinical and behavioral assessments that will evaluate your child's thinking, motor skills, language skills, and social communication. We will also measure your child's brain activity using EEG. EEG is a safe, comfortable, and radiation free way to measure brain activity in response to different sounds and pictures. All families will receive a written report with information about their child's current developmental level. We provide free parking, childcare for siblings during visits, and a small payment for participating.

Who do I contact if I am interested in hearing more about the study? Email BRIDGEstudy@childrens.harvard.edu or call 617-919-6619.

Project CRUSH (Competence in Romance and Understanding Sexual Health)

What is this study about? Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital and UMass-Boston are seeking adults on the autism spectrum to help develop a dating and sexuality training program.

This research study will examine what factors (if any) impact the ability of adults on the autism spectrum to gain and use knowledge about dating and sexual relationships. The goal is to work together with adults on the spectrum to develop a new knowledge- and skills-based training program to meet their specific sexual health and dating needs. It is important to learn from adults on the spectrum about what kinds of information and skills are most important and how to best measure change in dating and sexual outcomes.

Who can be in the study? Verbal adults on the autism spectrum, ages 18 to 26.

What does study participation involve? Participation will include one phone call and two in person visits. During the study, researchers will collect information about dating and romance, sexuality, and training preferences. A close relation will be asked to respond to a brief questionnaire and there is an optional part of the study for parents or caregivers. All participants will receive a small payment for participating and free parking. In addition, feedback about some testing will be provided. Study participation can occur virtually or in person.

Who do I contact if I am interested in hearing more about the study? Email projectCRUSH@childrens.harvard.edu or call 617-919-4108.

IDEA Study (Individual Development of Executive Attention)

What is this study about? The Faja Lab is seeking 4-year-olds to participate in a research study. We are seeking:

  • Children who have been diagnosed with, or are suspected to have, autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Children who have developmental delays
  • Children with typical development

The aim of the project is to better understand the development of executive control-how children manage complex or conflicting information while working towards a goal. This skill has been linked to social and academic functioning and is often reduced in children with ASD. We hope the study will provide valuable information that will lead to improved interventions for young children with ASD and developmental delays and better prepare them for the demands of school.

Who can be in this study?

  • 2-year-olds with autism spectrum disorder (or concerns about autism), developmental delays, or no developmental concerns
  • 4-year-olds with autism spectrum disorder (or concerns about autism), developmental delays, or no developmental concerns.

What does study participation involve? Participation will include visits over three years in order to track development. Each year will include:

  • Three visits to Boston Children's Hospital with activities to evaluate each child's developmental level, language and social functioning, and interaction style. Visits will also include a series of games to assess each child's problem solving skills.
  • An EEG, which is a non-invasive recording of brain activity.
  • Completion of questionnaires.

The first year will also include two phone calls to determine if the study is a good fit and collect some preliminary information about each child.

Who do I contact if I am interested in hearing more about this study? Please email ideastudy@childrens.harvard.edu or call 617-919-4108.

Neural Markers of Fragile X Syndrome

What is this study about? The purpose of this study is to improve our understanding of how differences in brain activity affect learning, language, and behavior in children with Fragile X Syndrome (FXS). Currently there is no effective treatment for FXS. Our goal is to find brain markers that predict cognitive, language, and behavioral difficulties in young children with FXS, and to better understand differences in brain activity between children with and without FXS.

Who can be in this study? Boys or girls 32 to 84 months old who have been diagnosed with Fragile X or are typically developing.

What does study participation involve? This study involves a single three- to four-hour visit to the lab. The visit includes clinical and behavioral assessments that will evaluate your child's thinking, motor skills, language skills, and social communication. We will also measure your child's brain activity using EEG. EEG is a safe, comfortable, and radiation free way to measure brain activity in response to different sounds and pictures. All families will receive a written report with information about their child's current developmental level. We provide free parking, childcare for siblings during visits, and a small payment for participating.

If you are interested in participating or would like more information, please email FXSNeuralMarkers@childrens.harvard.edu or call 617-919-6619.

Congenital Heart Disease Autism Spectrum Disorder Sequencing Initiative (CHD-ASD Sequencing Initiative)

What is the study about? The goal of the CHD-ASD sequencing study is to find genetic factors that cause autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and congenital heart disease (CHD).

Who can be in this study? Individuals ages 2 and older who were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and congenital heart disease (CHD) that required an operation in the first five years of life or a catheter procedure in the first year of life. Additionally, one or both biological parents of the child are welcome to provide a sample (saliva or blood), but individuals whose biological parents are unavailable are welcome to participate.

What does study participation involve? Participation may be done entirely from home and takes less than one hour. Participation includes one virtual visit with the research team, a brief collection of the medical and family history, and saliva or blood sampling for genetic testing. There is no cost to participate. Participants will not receive any compensation for enrolling in this study.

Whom do I contact if I am interested in learning more about this study? Email zoe.frazier@childrens.harvard.edu or call 617-919-7370.

Treatment studies

GW-ASD: An Interventional Study to Evaluate the Safety and Efficacy of CBD Oral Solution (GWP24003-P) in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

What is the study about? The study is aiming to learn more about autism and examine whether or not an investigational medication, GWP42003-P (cannabidiol oral solution), helps communication, social skills, and patterns of behavior in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Who can be in this study? If your child is aged between 6 and 17 years, and has a diagnosis of autism, they may be eligible to take part.

What does study participation involve? Participation involves six study visits (three of which may be done from home) over about 17 weeks (four months). There will also be four phone calls with the study doctor. Participants will have behavioral and cognitive testing, physical exams, blood and urine tests, and tests to look at heart functioning (for safety). Parents/caregivers will answer questions about the participant’s behavior and medical history, and how they are coping in daily life.

Whom do I contact if I am interested in learning more about this study? Email meaghan.dyer@childrens.harvard.edu or call 617-355-5898.

ASD-related studies

BRIDGE Study (BRain Indicators of Developmental Growth)

What is the study about? This study is investigating how differences in brain activity affect learning, language and behavior in children with Fragile X Syndrome, Down syndrome, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Down syndrome is the most common cause of intellectual disability, while Fragile X syndrome is the most common inherited form of intellectual disability. In addition to cognitive and learning difficulties, children with Fragile X syndrome and Down syndrome often struggle with language delays. Many of these challenges overlap with Autism Spectrum Disorder. One of our goals is to find brain markers that predict cognitive, language, and behavioral difficulties in these groups. Another goal of ours is to better understand the differences in brain activity between young children with and without Fragile X and Down Syndrome, and whether these differences are similar in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Who can be in the study? Boys aged 24-66 months that have been diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Additionally, we are recruiting both boys and girls aged 24-66 months with Down syndrome (DS) or who are typically developing (TD).

What does study participation involve? This study involves two visits to the lab, spaced one year apart. Each visit will take two to four hours. The visits include clinical and behavioral assessments that will evaluate your child's thinking, motor skills, language skills, and social communication. We will also measure your child's brain activity using EEG. EEG is a safe, comfortable, and radiation free way to measure brain activity in response to different sounds and pictures. All families will receive a written report with information about their child's current developmental level. We provide free parking, childcare for siblings during visits, and a small payment for participating.

Who do I contact if I am interested in hearing more about the study? Email BRIDGEstudy@childrens.harvard.edu or call 617-919-6619.

Neural Markers of Fragile X Syndrome

What is this study about? The purpose of this study is to improve our understanding of how differences in brain activity affect learning, language, and behavior in children with Fragile X Syndrome (FXS). Currently there is no effective treatment for FXS. Our goal is to find brain markers that predict cognitive, language, and behavioral difficulties in young children with FXS, and to better understand differences in brain activity between children with and without FXS.

Who can be in this study? Boys or girls 32 to 84 months old who have been diagnosed with Fragile X or are typically developing.

What does study participation involve? This study involves a single three- to four-hour visit to the lab. The visit includes clinical and behavioral assessments that will evaluate your child's thinking, motor skills, language skills, and social communication. We will also measure your child's brain activity using EEG. EEG is a safe, comfortable, and radiation free way to measure brain activity in response to different sounds and pictures. All families will receive a written report with information about their child's current developmental level. We provide free parking, childcare for siblings during visits, and a small payment for participating.

If you are interested in participating or would like more information, please email FXSNeuralMarkers@childrens.harvard.edu or call 617-919-6619.

GW-ASD: An Interventional Study to Evaluate the Safety and Efficacy of CBD Oral Solution (GWP24003-P) in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

What is the study about? The study is aiming to learn more about autism and examine whether or not an investigational medication, GWP42003-P (cannabidiol oral solution), helps communication, social skills, and patterns of behavior in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Who can be in this study? If your child is aged between 6 and 17 years, and has a diagnosis of autism, they may be eligible to take part.

What does study participation involve? Participation involves six study visits (three of which may be done from home) over about 17 weeks (four months). There will also be four phone calls with the study doctor. Participants will have behavioral and cognitive testing, physical exams, blood and urine tests, and tests to look at heart functioning (for safety). Parents/caregivers will answer questions about the participant’s behavior and medical history, and how they are coping in daily life.

Whom do I contact if I am interested in learning more about this study? Email meaghan.dyer@childrens.harvard.edu or call 617-355-5898.

IDEA Study (Individual Development of Executive Attention)

What is this study about? The Faja Lab is seeking 4-year-olds to participate in a research study. We are seeking:

  • Children who have been diagnosed with, or are suspected to have, autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Children who have developmental delays
  • Children with typical development

The aim of the project is to better understand the development of executive control-how children manage complex or conflicting information while working towards a goal. This skill has been linked to social and academic functioning and is often reduced in children with ASD. We hope the study will provide valuable information that will lead to improved interventions for young children with ASD and developmental delays and better prepare them for the demands of school.

Who can be in this study?

  • 2-year-olds with autism spectrum disorder (or concerns about autism), developmental delays, or no developmental concerns
  • 4-year-olds with autism spectrum disorder (or concerns about autism), developmental delays, or no developmental concerns.

What does study participation involve? Participation will include visits over three years in order to track development. Each year will include:

  • Three visits to Boston Children's Hospital with activities to evaluate each child's developmental level, language and social functioning, and interaction style. Visits will also include a series of games to assess each child's problem solving skills.
  • An EEG, which is a non-invasive recording of brain activity.
  • Completion of questionnaires.

The first year will also include two phone calls to determine if the study is a good fit and collect some preliminary information about each child.

Who do I contact if I am interested in hearing more about this study? Please email ideastudy@childrens.harvard.edu or call 617-919-4108.

Project CRUSH (Competence in Romance and Understanding Sexual Health)

What is this study about? Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital and UMass-Boston are seeking adults on the autism spectrum to help develop a dating and sexuality training program.

This research study will examine what factors (if any) impact the ability of adults on the autism spectrum to gain and use knowledge about dating and sexual relationships. The goal is to work together with adults on the spectrum to develop a new knowledge- and skills-based training program to meet their specific sexual health and dating needs. It is important to learn from adults on the spectrum about what kinds of information and skills are most important and how to best measure change in dating and sexual outcomes.

Who can be in the study? Verbal adults on the autism spectrum, ages 18 to 26.

What does study participation involve? Participation will include one phone call and two in person visits. During the study, researchers will collect information about dating and romance, sexuality, and training preferences. A close relation will be asked to respond to a brief questionnaire and there is an optional part of the study for parents or caregivers. All participants will receive a small payment for participating and free parking. In addition, feedback about some testing will be provided. Study participation can occur virtually or in person.

Who do I contact if I am interested in hearing more about the study? Email projectCRUSH@childrens.harvard.edu or call 617-919-4108.

The Neuroanatomical Basis for Face Processing Deficits in Autism Spectrum Disorder

What is the study about? We are interested in studying face processing in teens!

Researchers are working hard to understand symptoms that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have difficulties with, such as face processing. Difficulties with face processing can have substantial effects on everyday life for some individuals. In order to better understand face processing, we hope to figure out where these face processing issues are arising in the brain. This research could help us to provide targets for treatment and could aid in the development of biomarkers for future detection.

Who can be in this study? We are currently recruiting individuals who either have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or who are typically developing and are between the ages of 15 to 18 years old.

What does study participation involve? The study involves one virtual visit and one in-person visit to Boston Children’s Hospital:

The first study visit will be completed virtually. It will involve a series of computer/paper testing designed to measure face processing and should last around 2.5 hours.

The second study visit will take place at Boston Children’s Hospital. It will involve an MRI with some simple face recognition tasks. The second study visit will last up to three hours.

Whom do I contact if I am interested in learning more about this study? Email CohenLab@childrens.harvard.edu

Unprecedented Times call for Unexpected Measures: Exploring Caregiver Experiences of Stress and Support During COVID-19

What is the study about? During the COVID-19 pandemic, adults caring for children are faced with a range of new challenges. As a caregiver of a child that is cared for at Boston Children’s Hospital, we are interested in learning more about your experiences of stress and support during the pandemic. We are asking parents and caregivers that are interested to complete a survey and an optional Zoom interview about their experiences as a caregiver of a young child during the pandemic.

Who can be in this study? Caregivers (i.e., parents or guardians) of children between 4 and 8 years of age.

What does study participation involve? Completing an online survey (20 to 30 minutes).

Whom do I contact if I am interested in learning more about this study? Email nicole.melita@childrens.harvard.edu or call 203-673-6029.

Congenital Heart Disease Autism Spectrum Disorder Sequencing Initiative (CHD-ASD Sequencing Initiative)

What is the study about? The goal of the CHD-ASD sequencing study is to find genetic factors that cause autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and congenital heart disease (CHD).

Who can be in this study? Individuals ages 2 and older who were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and congenital heart disease (CHD) that required an operation in the first five years of life or a catheter procedure in the first year of life. Additionally, one or both biological parents of the child are welcome to provide a sample (saliva or blood), but individuals whose biological parents are unavailable are welcome to participate.

What does study participation involve? Participation may be done entirely from home and takes less than one hour. Participation includes one virtual visit with the research team, a brief collection of the medical and family history, and saliva or blood sampling for genetic testing. There is no cost to participate. Participants will not receive any compensation for enrolling in this study.

Whom do I contact if I am interested in learning more about this study? Email zoe.frazier@childrens.harvard.edu or call 617-919-7370.

Are you interested in learning about new studies for which your child(ren) may be eligible?

Read more about our research

Exploring autism by way of 3 rare genetic disorders

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Babies’ EEG patterns predict whether they will develop autism

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‘Face blindness’ could shed light on autism

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Pupil dilation and heart rate, analyzed by AI, may offer early autism diagnosis

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Rare recessive mutations pry open new windows on autism

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