Autism and Development Team
Lab Director: Prof. Tony Charman
Autism and Development Team (ADT)
We aim to increase the understanding of cognitive and behavioural development in individuals with autism and the factors that influence this over time. Our interests extend from the basic science of cognitive development and behaviour to the clinical application of this work via screening, diagnostic, epidemiological, intervention, and 'at risk' studies.
Find out about the staff that work in the Autism and Development Team.
British Autism Study of Infant Siblings (BASIS)
The British Autism Study of Infant Siblings (BASIS) is a collaborative research network for the study of infants at-risk for autism. The primary aim of BASIS is to provide a platform for the study of infants at-risk for autism in the UK and to facilitate collaborative links between scientists working in the area. Using newly developed techniques for studying brain and behaviour in infants, BASIS scientists investigate whether there are any differences in development between infants who have brothers or sisters with autism and those who do not. In the long term, this will help identify the early signs of the disorder, allowing for earlier and more effective intervention aimed at improving the quality of life of children with autism. BASIS is funded by the Medical Research Council, Autistica and the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI).
As a part of the BASIS network, the ASD team runs two different studies at KCL:
Studying Autism and ADHD Risks (STAARS)
The STAARS study is part of the BASIS network. In the ADT lab at KCL, we see 2- and 3-year-old children who have been participating in this study since infancy. Some of these children have a higher likelihood of developing Autism or ADHD because of an older sibling, or in some cases a parent, with a Autism or ADHD diagnosis.
In SuperSTAARS the ADT team follows-up 6- to 9-year-old children who have previously participated in the BASIS or STAARS studies.
The Preschool Autism Communication Trial (PACT) found that a therapy to enhance parent-child communication in children with autism can help to improve their social communication. However, it did not show that the benefit spread wider into the school environment. In PACT-G, we extended the parent-child therapy model to see if we could help children to transfer the newly acquired communication skills from the home to the school. The study is running until the end of March 2019 and we will assess the impact of the PACT-G intervention across preschool and middle childhood. The study is sponsored by Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and involved families in the north-east and north-west of England, and London. PACT-G is funded by the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) Programme, an Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research partnership.
Improving Autism Mental Health (IAMHealth)
The IAMHealth study is a programme grant funded by the National Institutes of Health Research (NIHR) entitled “Improving outcomes for people with autism spectrum disorders by reducing mental health problems”. The programme started in May 2014 and will run for 5 years. The programme is led by Prof. Emily Simonoff and Tony is involved in the ‘Predictors’ work package that aims to identify early risk and protective factors for mental health problems in people with autism and the ‘Treatment’ work package that develop a parent training intervention to reduce the impact of behavioural difficulties.
The Autism Innovative Medicine Studies-2-Trials (AIMS-2-Trials) are the largest world-wide projects focused on the identification and validation of biomarkers for Autism Spectrum Disorder and the testing of new treatments. AIMS 2 brings together autistic people and their families, academic institutions, charities and pharmaceutical companies to study autism and provide an infrastructure for developing and testing new therapies. In line with the autism community’s priorities, the consortium will also focus on why some autistic people develop additional health problems that severely impact both quality and length of life