USDA Forestry Service Autism Grant

Center for Leadership in Disability receives grant from USDA for autism research

Atlanta, GA. – The Center for Leadership in Disability (CLD), located within the School of Public Health’s Center for Healthy Development (CHD) at Georgia State University (GSU) is pleased to announce it has received a $160,650 grant from the 2016 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service’s National Urban and Community Forestry Challenge.

These funds support a multi-phased study over the next three years that will examine the impact of tree canopy in urban landscapes on the symptoms of children with autism. The studies will look at the relationship between nature walks and behaviors associated with autism stress responses, and memory in children with autism participating in community partner’s summer programs.

Brian Barger, PhD, Research Assistant Professor at GSU will collaborate with university researchers and community partners in Georgia, Arizona, Nebraska, Colorado and South Carolina.

“We are building on prior studies of other populations, researching the relationship between natural environments and stress, depression, memory and capacity to focus,” said Dr. Barger, “and we will take that approach and extend those findings to focus the lens on children with autism.”

In addition to scientific articles, research teams will work directly with community partners to develop a “Lessons Learned” document aimed at providing practical advice to nature groups interested in working with children with autism.

“We are excited about the grant funding,” said Daniel Crimmins, PhD, director of the CLD. “This research will give us another tool to pass on to caregivers and communities to use towards improving care for children with autism and related disabilities.”

The Center for Leadership in Disability (CLD) is a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), one of 67 programs in the country funded by the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, US Department of Health and Human Services. CLD is located within the GSU School of Public Health’s Center for Healthy Development.