University researchers have received a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to fund studies that evaluate the driving skills of teens with autism spectrum disorders, mainly Asperger’s syndrome and high-functioning autism. The co-investigators of the study, Medicine Prof. Daniel Cox and Education Prof. Ron Reeve, who is also a licensed clinical and school psychologist, hope to teach students with these disorders how to drive effectively with the use of a virtual reality simulator.
The grant supporting the research was part of the Department of Defense’s budget to help people with autism spectrum disorders. Reeve and Cox received the grant after submitting a proposal request to the department. Of the 71 applications submitted for the grant, only three proposals were funded.
“We were very fortunate,” Reeve said. “We are just excited about it and hope that we can help these kids lead more normal lives.”
The Defense Department's autism research program is funded in the U.S. Army Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation Medical Advanced Technology account. It is administered as a Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), similar to current programs for breast, prostate, and ovarian cancers. Research funded by CDMRP is peer-reviewed, and benefits from the direct input of consumer advocates, and is targeted to the most innovative, promising research in the field.