For any parent of a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it’s essential to keep up with some of the fantastic research findings connected to ASD. Much of it is innovative, and almost all of it is informative. Autism research has come a long way from when those in the autistic community were shunned.
But who are the most prominent autism researchers? And what fields of study related to autism spectrum disorder, are they studying? Some have a genuine passion for the autistic community, while others are on the autism spectrum themselves. Let’s take a look at 25 of the most prominent autism researchers. These researchers are not, by any measure, the only prominent researchers, and many others are making a difference.
1. Dr. Temple Grandin
She may be the most prominent autism researcher of all time. Temple Grandin is an autistic person with a doctoral degree in animal science and a renowned author and autism researcher. She has shared her story of growing up on the autism spectrum and how that has influenced her life skills and development.
I had the pleasure of attending one of Temple Grandin’s motivational speeches shortly after my younger son, Joey, was diagnosed with autism. Much of her focus was on her autism research and how it helped her with her animal science studies. She is unique and one-of-a-kind, and I highly recommend any parent of autistic children listen to her speeches.
2. Dr. Catherine Rice
Another of the most prominent autism researchers in at least the United States, if not the entire world, Dr. Catherine Rice, is an epidemiologist who has worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She helps document the number of children in the USA who are diagnosed with autism.
Dr. Rice’s autism program helps train professionals who assess and diagnose autistic people in the United States. She was also involved in molecular autism research which looks at behavioral characteristics of ASD in preterm children.
3. Susan Stokes
A well-known autism consultant in the Midwestern United States, Susan Stokes is also a speech pathologist and autism advocate. She is heavily involved with educational research, especially research that helps improve schools for autistic children.
Stokes has served as a faculty member at many higher education institutions in Wisconsin. Her research has also encouraged better outcomes in communication for autistic children in schools.
4. Dr. Ami Klin
Dr. Ami Klin focuses on early detection and early intervention in his autism research. As the Chief of Autism and Related Disorders at the Marcus Autism Center, he studies high-tech eye tracking to detect signs of autism sooner.
His research also focuses on the social mind and the brain and how it is connected to autistic people of all ages. Dr. Klin also works at the Emory School of Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics.
5. Dr. Lonnie Zwaigenbaum
As the co-director of the Autism Research Centre, Dr. Zwaigenbaum is another autism researcher with a focus on early development in autism. He, and his colleagues, followed a group of infant siblings of children with autism as part of their research.
Scientists, such as Dr. Zwaigenbaum, are working to identify specific risk markers connected to autism. They hope this autism research can lead to an earlier diagnosis.
6. Dr. Helen Tager-Flusberg
Dr. Helen Tager-Flusberg serves as the director of Boston University’s Center for Autism Research Excellence, with her research focused on language and social-cognitive development for autistic individuals.
Between her research and her work as a professor of neurobiology, she has had several of her works published and served on the editorial boards of professional journals.
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7. Dr. Sally Rogers
Dr. Rogers is the co-developer of the Early Start Denver Model, used to develop and improve treatments for early autism. This model has been covered extensively in Autism Parenting Magazine. Her primary focus is on developmental and treatment research.
Dr. Rogers travels the globe, training autism therapists on how to use the Early Start Denver Model. Her research model has been used to improve the language and behavior of autistic people.
8. Dr. Robert Schultz
Dr. Robert Schultz studies basic mechanisms to support attention and learning for children on the autism spectrum. He has helped develop a reinforcement-based intervention to guide social skills using computer games.
As part of his research, he is now studying oxytocin to investigate its effects on social interactions for those on the spectrum. He is also a renowned public speaker giving lectures about autism worldwide.
9. Dr. Gregory Abowd
As the father of two autistic boys, Dr. Abowd studies the importance of technology and autism. His research led to him teaching college classes at Georgia Tech University. Dr. Abowd works to integrate advanced technology, which can be used daily to assist those on the spectrum. His work has made it easier to recognize and diagnose autism spectrum disorder and other disorders.
Prof. Abowd is the Dean of Northeastern University College of Engineering.
10. Dr. Edward Brodkin
Dr. Brodkin’s research focuses on psychopharmacology for autistic people. He uses mice to study the brain and behavior. His research strives to find a way to improve the treatment of autistic people in social settings.
His primary focus, as director of the Adult Autism Spectrum Program at Penn University involves helping autistic adults find and keep jobs. It has become a primary focus in recent years as we’ve learned more about autism, and there’s a vast market for autistic employment.
11. Dr. Paul Ashwood
What is the connection between the immune system and autism? That is the purpose of the research being conducted by Dr. Paul Ashwood at the University of California Davis. He studies how the immune and nervous systems rely on each other and, in turn, can affect each other.
His most recent research is on top of his first-of-its-kind gastrointestinal pathology research. Those studies found a connection between the gastrointestinal tract and children on the spectrum.
12. Dr. Dennis Wall
Dr. Dennis Wall, sometimes called the “bad boy of autism research,” studies the biology behind autism and looks for early diagnostics and therapeutic intervention. He has developed a test that helps refine the tools used to detect autism.
Dr. Wall has also been named Director of the Hartwell Autism Research and Technology Initiative. This initiative is designed to collect the necessary data to decode autism and deliver those tools to families in need.
13. Dr. Jill Locke
With a doctorate in Educational Psychology, Dr. Jill Locke has focused her work on social interventions for autistic students in elementary schools.
Dr. Locke has modified a socialization intervention for autistic kids. Faculty and staff at schools can use this modification method to help autistic kids interact with their peers during unstructured playtime.
14. Dr. Connie Kasari
As one of the founders of the Center for Autism Research and Treatment at UCLA, Dr. Kasari has focused on early social communication development for non-school-aged children. She is looking to improve peer relationships for children with autism.
She is also an advocate who has served on the advisory board of several organizations that help ASD children and their families.
15. Dr. Olga Solomon
What is the connection between autism and applied linguistics? That’s the purpose of the autism research being conducted by Dr. Olga Solomon at the University of Southern California. She uses clinical psychology, communication disorders, and electrical engineering to determine how social relationships are developed among children with autism.
Her research has two main goals. The first is to figure out how to shape the environment to fit the child, as opposed to previous efforts by many to shape the child to fit the environment. The second is to see the impact animals can have on autism therapy.
16. Dr. Steven Scherer
Focusing on genetic research, Dr. Steven Scherer is widely credited with advancing autism research. His work has contributed to advancing copy number variation within autism research. His research has been documented in several scientific papers, leading to many prestigious honors.
17. Dr. Young-Shin Kim
Dr. Kim is a child psychologist and epidemiologist who focuses on the prevalence of autistic people, especially children, in South Korea. She researches the potential causes of ASD, including genetics, environment, and how the two interact.
Dr. Kim also developed the direct screening method that determined 1 in 38 school-aged children in South Korea are on the spectrum. That same direct screening method is now being used in the United States.
18. Brooke Olson
Does your child use a device like an iPad to communicate? You may have Brooke Olson to thank for that. She founded the iTaalk Autism Foundation after her son made great strides in communication thanks to her work with him and an iPod Touch. She developed a training series recognized as one of the most helpful apps for kids on the spectrum.
On a personal note, my son uses an AAC device to communicate as he is nonverbal. The programs on his device have allowed him to ask for food, drinks, car rides, and to play outside. I’m forever grateful for everyone who worked to improve communication technology so my nonverbal son can tell me what he needs clearly and concisely.
19. Dr. Maja Mataric
While advancements in robotics may not be appealing to everyone, there’s no denying the work of Dr. Maja Mataric’ has come a long way in improving life for autistic kids. She uses robotics to assist autistic individuals and help improve social interaction. The research has been shown to support autistic students in their times of need.
20. Dr. David Amaral
Studying biological factors when it comes to autism research, Dr. David Amaral uses antibodies from autistic people and their mothers to try to find a biological base for autism. His work led to him being named director of the MIND Institute at the University of California Davis.
He has also received awards from the National Institute of Mental Health, the Macarthur and McDonnell Foundations, the Sloan Foundation, and the McKnight Foundation.
21. Dr. Liz Pellicano
Liz Pellicano is a professor at Macquarie University in Australia. Most of her research is focused on autistic kids and their cognitive profiles. She has evaluated the challenges those with autism face in their everyday life. She has applied it to assist with making educational policies that increase the understanding of autism.
22. Adam Dinsmore
Working with Liz Pellicano, Adam Dinsmore has pushed for a focus on improved autism research funding in the United Kingdom. He has pushed for greater involvement from the autistic community regarding research and priorities. Dinsmore’s work has tried to improve the daily lives of autistic people.
23. Dr. Tony Charman
Tony Charman is a King’s College in London professor focusing on autism, mental health, development, and interventions. He studies the social cognitive development in children with autism using screening, diagnostic, epidemiological, intervention, and ‘at risk’ studies. Charman has also worked with autism advocacy groups in the United Kingdom and the United States.
24. Dr. Jackie Robinson
Jackie Robinson served on an autistic researchers committee to get autistic people more involved as autistic researchers. Robinson was just one of many involved in a study that focused on how much autism research is done on autistic adults rather than with the help of an autistic person or the autism community.
25. Dr. Luke Beardon
Luke Beardon worked with Jackie Robinson on the study, encouraging more autistic scientists to do autism research. A lecturer at Sheffield Hallum University, Beardon has worked with the autism community as a practitioner, trainer, and researcher. He has also worked with the National Autistic Society to develop a residential service for young autistic adults.
Undoubtedly, autism research has come a long way over the years. More focus is being put on the community and accepting people with autism rather than trying to change them.
We can thank the work of these 25 researchers and too many other researchers to name. The work of researchers is making the world a better place for those we love with autism. I, for one, can’t wait to see what else they discover in their research.