Autism spectrum study to look at autism variance among individuals

June 13, 2012
The Center for Autism and Development Disabilities Research and Epidemiology (CADDRE) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is beginning the second phase of its Study to Explore Early Development (SEED II) to search for causes of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other developmental disabilities in preschool-age children.
Dr. Julie Daniels

Dr. Julie Daniels

Julie Daniels, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology and maternal and child health at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, is the study’s principal investigator.

“We know very little about what causes autism,” Daniels said. “The symptoms of autism present very differently among individuals with the disorder, so the severity and the co-occurring health conditions vary considerably. By evaluating extensive data to characterize children’s health and family histories, SEED will further our understanding of events and exposure that may lead to the development of autism and help us understand how autism varies across individuals.”
SEED II is a continuation of a project initiated in 2006. In June 2011, NC SEED received a $5 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct the second phase of the study, for which participants now are being enrolled. Phase II of the study will explore any relationship ASD and other developmental disabilities might have with a variety of factors, including infection and immune function within families, medical issues during pregnancy, the role of genetics, and family lifestyle characteristics. Researchers also will work to understand the influence of health and behavior of young children on development.
In North Carolina, SEED II will enroll 600 families from Alamance, Chatham, Davidson, Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, Johnston, Orange, Randolph or Wake counties. Families with children who are developing typically or who have developmental disabilities or autism are asked to participate, along with their biological mothers and fathers.
UNC CADDRE researchers from the Gillings School of Global Public Health include Amy Herring, ScD, director of the training program in environmental biostatistics and professor of biostatistics, and Kathleen Thomas, PhD, research associate at the Cecil B. Sheps Center for Health Services Research and adjunct assistant professor of health policy and management.
School of Medicine researchers include Arthur Aylsworth, MD, pediatric geneticist and professor of pediatric medicine; Rebecca Edmondson Pretzel, PhD, director of clinical services and head of psychology at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities and associate professor of psychiatry; and Debra Reinhartsen, PhD, head of speech-language pathology at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities and clinical associate professor of speech and hearing sciences.
Five other research sites are part of the CADDRE network and will participate in SEED II. They are located in California, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. The data coordinating center and laboratory are operated by Michigan State University and Johns Hopkins University, respectively.
Families who want to participate in the study may call Daniels toll free at (866) 633-8003 or visit the SEED website for further information.


UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: Linda Kastleman, communications editor, (919) 966-8317 or