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Autism Research, Parent-Training Centers Get Cash Infusion

Nine sets of researchers will split $100 million in grant money from the National Institutes of Health to research different aspects of autism.

The awards, spread out over the next five years, are part of the Autism Centers of Excellence research program. This year, the research will expand to look into children and adults who have limited or no speech, links between autism spectrum disorders and other genetic syndromes, potential treatments, and the reasons why these disorders are more common among boys than girls, said Alice Kau, Ph.D., of the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. That's one of the five National Institutes of Health entities funding the Autism Centers of Excellence Program.

Autism spectrum disorders affect about 1 in 88 children. But, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism is almost five times more common among boys at a rate of 1 in 54, than among girls, where the rate is 1 in 252.

The nine awards for 2012 will support research at individual centers or at research networks, which involve multiple institutions, dedicated to studying autism. There's a complete list here.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Education said this week it's funding more training-and-information centers for parents of students with disabilities. This year, there will be a total of 101 centers, which include four new ones in Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Puerto Rico. Here is a complete list of all the different centers. There is at least one in every state.

The centers provide training and information for parents so they are equipped to work with schools on their children's early-intervention and special education needs. Some of the centers work specifically with underserved populations such as minority parents in the Denver and New Haven, Conn., areas.

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