Bringing the Autism Spectrum Into Focus
Updated April 24. Originally published April 7, 2017
Across Georgia Tech, researchers, faculty members, and students from every discipline are devoted to finding the causes of and effective treatments for autism.
Autism and autism spectrum disorder are names for a complex group of disorders of brain development characterized by repetitive behaviors and difficulties in social interaction and communication. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 68 children in the United States is affected by this prevalent disorder.
Each week in April, we will add more stories to this page of our autism-related work.
Autism at Georgia Tech Wrap Up
Jennifer S. Singh, author of Multiple Autisms: Spectrums of Advocacy and Genomic Science, recalls the various ways this question has been answered in the past.
A visual depiction of the cost, benefits, and outcomes of early detection and treatment of autism spectrum disorder; autism prevalence in the state of Georgia; and stories from affected families.
Georgia Tech's educational and support programs provide students with mild intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to experience college in full.
In 2015, Georgia Tech began offering a postsecondary academy for high school graduates with mild intellectual and developmental disabilities. The program, Excel, provides these students with a learning experience in which they can build on their education, life skills, and independence.
Students who participate in the four-year program earn two certificates: one in social growth and academic enrichment, and a second that also incorporates career exploration.
Georgia Tech’s Excel program now has $40,000 to improve programming for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, thanks to the Student Alumni Association’s 2016 Gift to Tech. Each year, the association donates a "Gift to Tech," which benefits a different campus initiative selected by members.
"SAA’s gift not only provides much needed funding, but validates the importance of Excel and ensures students will be able to contribute their gifts to society," says Ken Surdin, director of the Excel Program.
The Georgia Tech Counseling Center hosts a weekly group meeting for students with ASD and Asperger's to help them improve relationships in their lives.
Autism research in computing runs the gamut from helping clinicians diagnose and manage the disorder to informing research in artificial intelligence.
While autism research at Georgia Tech began with just one researcher for the most personal of reasons, today it involves a network of scientists, labs, and students.
“One of our strengths is that we can make things better now,” says Rosa Arriaga, senior research scientist in the Georgia Tech School of Interactive Computing.
A Georgia Tech research team has developed a mobile phone-based telehealth application that allows parents to easily collect in-home videos of their child’s behavior and share them with a diagnostician for remote diagnostic assessment for autism.
Electrical and computer engineering professor Ayanna Howard launched Zyrobotics, which develops mobile-accessible technologies for children with cerebral palsy, autism, and other challenges.
“Our products engage both typical children as well as children with special needs, such as children with autism or cerebral palsy," Howard says. "Our focus is to ensure all children are provided equal access to fun and engaging educational STEM curriculum.”
Sociological research of autism seeks to understand the study and treatment of the disorder in its social, cultural, and political context.
Jennifer Singh, an associate professor in Georgia Tech's School of History and Sociology, has chronicled the history of genetics-focused autism research. Her research illuminates larger questions about how biomedical research priorities are set and, ultimately, who benefits from the massive research investments of time and money.
Jennifer Singh sets out to discover how autism emerged as a genetic disorder and how this affects those who study autism and those who live with it.