The Arkansas Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (AR ADDM) Program of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) recently was awarded a four-year grant of $2.17 million by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The Arkansas monitoring program tracks the number and characteristics of 8-year-olds with autism spectrum disorder and/or intellectual disability. The new funding will enable the monitoring program to continue that work while also tracking 4- and 16-year-olds. 

“In this grant competition, we were one of only two new sites nationwide chosen to track 16-year-olds, an expansion to three from only one site before,” said Maya Lopez, M.D., the program’s principal investigator and an associate professor in the UAMS College of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics. “We deeply appreciate this funding renewal because it means we can continue gathering data to promote developmental screening in health and educational services and to connect these children with appropriate services.” 

Although previous grant cycles funded statewide monitoring, this new period focuses on central Arkansas. The program includes investigators with UAMS and operates in collaboration with the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas Department of Education. 

Since 2000, the ADDM network has conducted autism spectrum disorder surveillance among 8-year-old children. This year ADDM has initiated the monitoring of 16 year-olds to help inform public health strategies for adolescents with autism. There are now 11 monitoring sites in different regions nationwide. 

Tracking 16-year-old adolescents with autism can also provide valuable information on transition planning in special education services and after the high school years. Sites will analyze the data to better understand increases over time in the number of children identified with autism and carry out education and outreach activities in their local communities. 

In this new funding cycle, UAMS received $1.57 million for four years of monitoring 4- and 8-year-olds, and $600,000 in a supplemental grant for the same period for monitoring 16-year-olds.