Children's Hospital Media and Press Relations
Department of Pediatrics Newsletter Archive
CDC Names Vanderbilt to National Autism Monitoring Network
January 15, 2015

The Centers for Disease Control has awarded Vanderbilt University $1.8 million over the next four years to monitor the number and characteristics of 8-year-olds with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other intellectual disabilities. Vanderbilt is one of 10 sites across the country funded by the CDC to form the Autism and Development Disabilities Monitoring Network.

Zachary E. Warren, Ph.D.
Zachary E. Warren, Ph.D.

“This funding will increase our fundamental scientific understanding of ASD and changes in prevalence,” said Zachary Warren, Ph.D., associate professor of Pediatrics and principal investigator for the CDC ADDM grant at Vanderbilt. “It will also provide us with critical information that will enhance our ability to care for children with ASD in our own backyard.”

The number of children diagnosed with autism or a related disorder has increased significantly over the past 30 years. In a CDC report from 2010, about 1 in 68 children across the country was identified with ASD.

Investigators at Vanderbilt are seeking to more accurately quantify the prevalence of children in Middle Tennessee with ASD. Funding will also help determine the age of diagnosis and identify groups of children who may be missing an accurate diagnosis. The network will also attempt to understand the increases in the number of children identified with ASD and start education and outreach activities in their communities.

The Vanderbilt ADDM site will conduct two waves of population estimates of ASD and intellectual disability via comprehensive medical and educational record surveillance. The surveillance includes a focus on understanding ASD in traditionally under-represented and under-ascertained groups.

“A unique feature of the Vanderbilt site is surveillance among children in state custody, one of the most vulnerable groups of children,” Warren said. “We are fortunate to have a long standing relationship with the Department of Education, the Department of Children’s Services, and the Tennessee Department of Health to proactively understand how best to care for children with special health care needs.”

The Vanderbilt ADDM network team includes, Melissa McPheeters, Ph.D., MPH, as director of epidemiology; Richard Epstein, Ph.D., MPH, as director of epidemiology for vulnerable populations; Pablo Juarez, M.Ed., BCBA, as director of stakeholder engagement; and Richard Urbano, Ph.D. as data coordination lead. 

The ADDM network was created in 2000 to determine the scope of ASD across the country. CDC will invest more than $20 million to enhance tracking at ADDM sites.  Vanderbilt is one of two sites added to the network in 2015.

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