KU researchers awarded $2.4 million grant to study adolescents with autism-causing disorder

Kansas University researchers have been awarded a five-year, $2.4 million grant to study the effects of parenting on the development of adolescents with a disorder known as the leading genetic cause of autism.

KU announced the grant, from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, on Wednesday.

The grant will enable university distinguished professor Steven Warren and associate professor Nancy Brady of KU’s department of speech-language-hearing: science and disorders to continue a 10-year longitudinal study of the effect of parenting on 55 children with Fragile X syndrome, now adolescents, and their mothers, according to KU. Fragile X syndrome is a single-gene disorder that is the most common cause of inherited developmental disability and the leading genetic cause of autism.

“Because this is one of the longest studies ever on individuals with FXS, we can ask fundamental questions about the relationships between environment and development over time that other people can’t,” Warren said in KU’s news release. “There is a lot of research on the biology of FXS going on throughout the world, but much less on the environment’s effect over time.”

The study will examine how now parenting observed in early and middle childhood predicts differences in adolescent behavior and development, as well as how that differs based on gender and other factors.

Collaborators on the project are Leann Smith, assistant clinical professor and senior scientist at the University of Wisconsin Waisman Center in Madison, and Kandace Fleming, associate scientist at the KU Life Span Institute. Researchers also will partner with Elizabeth Berry-Kravis, professor of pediatrics, neurological sciences and biochemistry at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.