The research mission of the division includes developing centers of excellence and clinical research programs in selected neurodevelopmental disability fields, such as autism, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, mitochondrial disease and Down Syndrome. We are also exploring new paradigms for developmental disability services in order to address patient and family concerns in a timely manner without compromising individualized patient care of the highest quality.
As an example of our ongoing research efforts, Vanderbilt has been designated as one of only 15 institutions in the country to participate in the Autism Treatment Network (ATN). The ATN is a network of elite centers dedicated to improving medical care for children and adolescents with autism by offering comprehensive diagnosis, treatment, care and counseling. ATN institutions benefit from access to standardized protocols and assessments, a national database, and a community of autism physicians and behavioral specialists who will develop and implement empirically derived treatment practices. Vanderbilt also has the ability to submit research proposals that utilize the ATN database, which provides for high quality data collection on well-characterized individuals across a variety of disciplines and for the development of treatment practice parameters.
Dr. Ashford's research focus is the support of families with children with developmental disabilities, with emphasis on early indentification, improving the quality of interventions, and the dissemination of relevant information. She is a participant in the LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities) grant in the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, a training program focusing on preparing health professionals to assume leadership roles and develop interdisciplinary team skills, advanced clinical skills, and research skills in order to meet the complex needs of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and related disabilities.