Autism Spectrum Disorders (CASD): Research

The Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders (CASD)conducts a variety of research studies, investigating the genetic, neurocognitive, behavioral, and social factors associated with autism. We are always seeking participants, including both children on the autism spectrum as well as typically developing peers.

Studies may include:

  • Child specific oral and written feedback and referrals
  • A general ASD assessment and intervention resource guide
  • Monetary compensation for time/parking
  • Many children and families report great satisfaction at having contributed to a better understanding of ASD and executive functions
  • You become part of our network of over 1000 families who receive our newsletters and updates on events

Contact Us:

Please call our research line or email us for more information about our research studies.

Clinical services and helpful resources

  • Phone: 301-765-5432

Research Topics

One of the Center’s main targets of interest is studying dysfunction in executive function (EF), which can help to better understand repetitive, inflexible and disorganized behaviors in ASD and underlying, biologically based brain abnormalities in ASD. 

Research topics include:

  • Working memory: Remembering information and using it to complete a task.
  • Inhibition: Stopping an action or behavior that may have been appropriate earlier but is now inappropriate.
  • Implicit learning: Learning that occurs naturally. That is, the individual is not given specific instructions to memorize the material.
  • Cognitive flexibility: Shifting attention from one task to another or to view a stimulus in multiple ways.
  • Processing speed: The speed with which an individual can take in information and make an accurate response.

Learn more about our Autism Spectrum Disorders Research at Children's National. 


Autism and the Flexible Brain

Autism and the Flexible Brain

Criteria to qualify for the study:

Children with high-functioning ASD under 6 to 12 years

Study details: 

Autism and the Flexible Brain: What brain regions and genes contribute to inflexible thinking and behavior in autism?

What is the purpose of this study?

We are studying the brain and genetic basis of restricted interests and repetitive behaviors in ASD.  Inflexible thinking is one reason children with ASD may struggle with transitioning activities, and adapting to changes in their environment. Identifying the biological basis of these ASD symptoms will inform the development of new treatments.

Who can participate?

High-functioning children with an ASD between 6 and 12 years of age.  Typically developing children between 6 and 12 years of age for our comparison group.

What does the study involve?

This study will include approximately 5-9 hours of total time.  This will occur in 1-2 Neuropsychological/ diagnostic sessions, parent questionnaires and interviews, saliva samples are collected for genetic research at our clinic, and 1-2 imaging sessions at Georgetown University’s MRI center.

Feedback on diagnostic information and parent report can be provided. Families will be financially compensated for their time. Click here to view our social story for imaging appointments.

How do I get more information?

Contact us at 301-765-5425 or autism@childrensnational.org.

Autism Sibling Study

Autism Sibling Study

Criteria to qualify for the study:

Individuals with an ASD from ages 3 - 25 and an infant 14 months old or younger

Study details:

What cognitive delays put infants at higher risk for developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?

What is the purpose of this study?

We are working with researchers at the University of Maryland to study language and other cognitive skills that may predict whether a child is at a higher risk for developing an ASD. 

Who can participate? 

Families with a child with an ASD (of any age) AND a younger infant sibling 14 months or younger. 

What does the study involve?

Infants and their parents will make 3 visits to the University of Maryland’s College Park campus. Infants may see images on a video monitor, or hear recorded sounds of people talking, and we will record how long he or she pays attention to different items.  Infants receive a prize for participation.

Individuals with an ASD and their parent will make one visit to the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Children’s National Medical Center for a play-based assessment and a parent interview. Feedback on assessments will be provided.

How do I get more information?

For more information, contact Tess Wood at the Infant Studies Lab at 301-405-4233 or AutismSiblingStudy@umd.edu.

Cognitive Flexibility and Autism Genes Study

Cognitive Flexibility and Autism Genes Study

Criteria to qualify for the study:

Individuals with an ASD from ages 3 - 25

Study details: 

Which genes affect inflexible thinking and restricted interests in ASD?

What is the purpose of this study?

We are starting a new study that investigates the genes that may cause (or worsen) ASD symptoms, such as the need for sameness, difficulty with transitions, and odd interests. These symptoms look different across all children with ASD, and this study will identify a subgroup of children that are most affected by these symptoms. Identifying this subgroup at the genetic level will inform the development of new treatments. 

Who can participate? 

A child with an ASD between 3 and 25 years of age. 

What does the study involve? 

This study will include collecting saliva from your child with ASD. It may also include a visit to our center for collecting diagnostic information, parent questionnaires, or parent interviews. 

Feedback on diagnostic information and parent report can be provided. Families will be financially compensated for their time. 

How do I get more information? 

Contact us at 301-765-5425 or autism@childrensnational.org.

Brain Function and Behavior in Autism

Brain Function and Behavior in Autism

Criteria to qualify for this study:

Individuals 13 years and up with ASD

Study details: 

How does brain function relate to behavior in ASD?

What is the purpose of this study?

We are working with the National Institutes of Health to study the relationship between genes, brain function and behavior in individuals with ASD. 

Who can participate? 

High-functioning individuals with an ASD ages 13 and older.  Typically developing individuals ages 13 and older.

What does the study involve?

This will occur in 1-2 Neuropsychological/diagnostic sessions, parent questionnaires and interviews, saliva samples are collected for genetic research at our clinic, and 1-2 imaging sessions at the National Institute of Health’s MRI center.

Feedback on diagnostic information and parent report can be provided. Families will be financially compensated for their time

How do I get more information?

Contact us at 301-765-5425 or autism@childrensnational.org.

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