The UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment (CART), led by Daniel Geschwind, MD, PhD and Susan Bookheimer, PhD, comprises outstanding faculty from the UCLA Departments of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Neurology, Human Genetics, Pediatrics, Biostatistics, and the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. The collaborative CART team of clinicians and scientists have integrated their research, clinical, and treatment programs to provide a unique, groundbreaking multidisciplinary approach to studying and caring for individuals with ASD—including studies in molecular genetics, brain imaging, and infant/toddler development, the use of scientific models, and interventions for infants through adults, including children who are minimally verbal. In addition, CART faculty work to build strong partnerships with members of the autism community.
CART scientists pursue innovative scientific investigations to uncover the underlying causes of ASD, identify markers of risk and prognosis, and advance the science of ASD treatments. They then disseminate these findings to the community in order to promote best practices in clinical care and treatment and to help caregivers understand scientific discoveries.
The UCLA Child and Adult Neurodevelopmental (CAN) Clinic, lead by James McCracken, MD and Amanda Gulsrud, PhD, within CART offers comprehensive diagnostic evaluations and pioneering treatment for children with a wide range of developmental disabilities, and it is the primary home for outpatient care for individuals with ASD of all ages. A newly developed clinical arm of the CAN Clinic, known as the Care and Research in Neurogenetics (CARING) Clinic, led by Shafali Spurling Jeste, MD, provides multidisciplinary evaluation and care for children with suspected or identified genetic variants that relate to their neurodevelopmental disorder. These two clinics bring together outstanding clinicians from multiple disciplines—including psychology, neurology, psychiatry, and genetics.
The CAN and CARING Clinics represent the dynamic intersection where clinical care and the latest research come together. The clinical experience informs and focuses CART research on the pressing, most relevant challenges in the field and latest research findings are integrated into treatments recommended and provided to CART’s patients and their families.
CART-affiliated treatment programs include the KidsConnect, led by Tanya Paparella, PhD and Stephanny Freeman, PhD, and the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relationship Skills (PEERS®), led by Elizabeth Laugeson, PsyD. These programs provide social skills training through short-term treatment programs for preschoolers through early adulthood with ASD.
Training and Education
A fundamental goal of CART is to ensure that the scientific knowledge gained about ASD is disseminated to the community. One of the training programs offered is the UCLA CAN REACH Training Program, led by Amanda Gulsrud, PhD and founded by Stephanny Freeman, PhD and Tanya Paparella, PhD, provides cutting edge empirically driven information, training, and resources on ASD to community professionals and parents to enhance the lives of individuals and families affected by ASD.
Many of the innovative interventions developed at UCLA are now widely available for clinical patients. A focus is to work with Los Angeles communities that are underserved and under resourced to bring educational opportunities and interventions to communities that otherwise would not have access to them through the center’s community- partnered research and clinical scholarship programs. CART investigators are ready to translate the daily results of research and treatment in order to offer hope to affected families. CART also plays a significant role in developing the ASD clinicians of the future. One of CART’s crucial goals is to train the most outstanding students to become the physicians, psychologists, and researchers who will propel this field into a future of improved understanding of and treatment for individuals with ASD.
CART clinicians and investigators are deeply engaged with the greater Los Angeles autism community through educational lectures, presence at local community outreach events, a newsletter that informs the community about the center’s insights and efforts, and the development of a resource database to inform caregivers and families about options for care and treatment around Los Angeles.