Organization for Autism Research

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is autism?

A: Autism is part of a larger group of disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. Autism is a developmental disorder that emerges in early childhood with signs and symptoms appearing by the age of 18 months. People with ASD often have difficulties with social and communication skills. ASD affects each individual differently with a range of symptoms occurring at varying intensities from mild to severe. Within this range or “spectrum,” one person may have a high level of intelligence and yet not have the basic social skills required to navigate everyday life. In contrast, another person may have delayed learning of language skills and be highly dependent on others.

ASD is comprised of 3 of the 5 diagnostic disorders which make up Pervasive Developmental Disorder, or PDD. The 3 disorders are Autistic Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, and PDD Not Otherwise Specified, or PDD NOS. The remaining 2 PDDs are Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Rett Syndrome and are not as prevalent as ASD.

Q: What distinguishes OAR from other autism organizations?

A: OAR shares many of the same goals as other parent-led, autism organizations. What’s most distinct about OAR is its singular focus on applied research, i.e. studies that will help provide tangible and practical benefits to the autism community and OAR’s emphasis on providing useful, timely, “family friendly” feedback through its Autism Information Program. As a young and vibrant organization, OAR is charting a new course that complements the ongoing efforts of the other biomedically-focused research organizations.

Q: How does OAR raise funds?

A: OAR’s funding comes from many sources including contributions from the Board of Directors, donations from other autism groups, corporate sponsorships, special events such as the RUN FOR AUTISM, Combined Federal Campaign and private workplace campaigns, grants, and general donations. In short, the general public supports OAR. For more information or to make a donation online, jump over to our Support Us page or contact OAR’s staff.

Q: How do I join OAR?

A: Time and interest are all it takes. OAR is not a traditional membership organization and does not collect dues. Members of OAR are those who share in OAR’s values and interests. Some use OAR’s information resources in the various ways they experience autism in their lives and may never make a donation. Others are people whose time and interests include their personal talent, professional expertise, and financial support. All have equal standing within OAR’s ranks. What brings people to OAR and makes them part of the organization is their interest in OAR’s mission. OAR does not want to place obstacles, especially monetary ones, between its information resources and those who need them most. Nor does OAR want to invest time and money that could be spent on research programs in the administrative details of membership.

OAR does rely heavily on grassroots support from friends and volunteers to fulfill its mission. Rather than assess dues or charge access fees, OAR asks its “members” to place their value on OAR’s programs through a once-a-year, voluntary contribution. OAR also works with volunteers in order to raise awareness and funds through locally hosted special events. Sign up here to join our growing list of friends and concerned citizens.

Q: How does the Grant Program work?

A: OAR announces grant opportunities through a Request for Proposals (RFP) process based upon research priorities developed by OAR’s Scientific Council. Depending on the specific area of interest and research objectives, OAR will solicit studies through an open competition or through a directed competition. All current RFPs can be found here. Sign up to be informed of future grants by clicking here.

Q: What is a Pilot Study and why are such studies important?

A: A pilot study is an initial or preliminary investigation designed to test research hypotheses, gather data, and validate the scientific approach and methodology for a particular area of research interest. It is important as a test bed for ideas and as an evaluation and assessment measure before investing further in a major study. Especially for new and up and coming investigators, pilot studies are vital stepping-stones to more significant grants. OAR’s intent in encouraging and supporting pilot studies is to stimulate new studies in applied research, specifically studies that result in outcomes, findings or knowledge of practical value to the autism community.