By Ellie Stutsman
Staff and researchers at McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH), McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences have come together to form the McMaster Autism Research Team (MacART) to explore how to improve the delivery of care and services for kids with autism and their families.
Following the launch of the new Ontario Autism Program, MacART has begun the Pediatric Autism Research Collaborative (PARC) Project.
The aim of the Ontario Autism Program is to ensure child and youth ASD services are delivered consistently across the province, while the PARC Project is working to develop a research protocol that can be embedded into the delivery of these services. This will help researchers gain a better understanding of what contributes to healthier outcomes for children with autism. In turn, this will lead to improved individualized, family-centred treatment and care within the available services.
“Our researchers are global leaders in the study of autism heterogeneity,” says Stelios Georgiades, founder and co-director of MacART. “The PARC Project will make use of novel methods, developed by our team, to examine the variable trajectories of children and families receiving services in the new Ontario Autism Program.”
The PARC Project will allow the ongoing collection of data from children who receive a new ASD diagnosis. It’s been designed for minimal burden on families as the data used is data that’s already collected during a child’s visits to the ASD service program at MCH. There are additional optional stages to the project whereby families allow additional data to be collected.
“We’re excited to have researchers and clinicians working together in a collaborative way,” says Dr. Caroline Roncadin, clinical director of ASD services at the MCH Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre. “The PARC Project will have the potential to produce research findings that can directly inform the clinical care we provide families.”
This unique approach of moving autism research into the clinic encourages collaboration among the families, researchers and clinicians whose lives are touched by ASD. The eventual goal of the PARC Project is to enroll every child and family within the ASD service program into the research protocol. These efforts contribute to MacART’s vision to advance autism care through meaningful research.
Ellie Stutsman is a Public Relations Specialist at Hamilton Health Sciences.