Major goals of the network are to develop standards of treatment for people who have autism and to build a national autism database, said Geraldine Dawson, director of the UW's Autism Center. The database will collect information on the range of medical conditions from which people with autism suffer and those treatments that have been tested and have been found to be effective.
In addition to the UW Autism Center, other medical institutions joining the Autism Treatment Network are Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, as well as individual physicians at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Ore., and Columbia University Medical Center in New York. Other partners in the network include the Northwest Autism Foundation and the Cure Autism Now Foundation, a leading funder of autism research.
"There are hundreds of thousands of children and families in the United States struggling with autism," said Seattle businessman Richard Fade, a co-founder of the Autism Treatment Network. "They face a tremendous challenge. This is especially true with regard to medical issues and access to treatment. There are still large gaps in our overall understanding of the disorder."
Dawson said the Autism Treatment Network is being modeled after the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Children's Cancer Network, which have spurred dramatic gains in medical science's ability to treat those conditions.