Institute for Autism Research at Canisius University Receives $379,731 Federal Grant

October 25, 2018

Buffalo, NY – The Institute for Autism Research (IAR) and Department of Psychology at Canisius University received a $379,731 federal grant from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS). The grant, from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging, will fund research examining the relationship between aging and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in older adults.

The grant was awarded through a highly competitive scientific review process, and awardees were selected by a panel of experts within the field. Research will be conducted by study investigators Jennifer Lodi-Smith, PhD, Jonathan D. Rodgers, PhD, James P. Donnelly, PhD, Christopher Lopata, PsyD and Marcus Thomeer, PhD.

“Research on autism spectrum disorder in older adulthood lags significantly behind that of research in other age groups,” said Lodi-Smith and Rodgers. “This grant will allow us to better understand the life outcomes of adults with ASD.”

“The IAR has a strong history of developing and validating treatments for the clinical impairments of children with high-functioning ASD in their comprehensive MAX psychosocial intervention programs,” said Margaret C. McCarthy, PhD, vice president for academic affairs.  “This grant enables Canisius researchers to extend their contributions to the science of ASD and their expertise on aging to an incredibly important area of scholarship.”

In this project, Canisius will partner with community organizations to recruit individuals aged 65 and older to participate in a two-phase study protocol. Study participants will complete a set of online surveys and a sub-sample will then complete a battery of in-person assessments. Participants will be characterized on ASD symptoms alongside multiple domains of aging including physical health, cognitive performance, and psychological well-being. This project will facilitate subsequent longitudinal studies of aging in adults with and without ASD characteristics. This project will also test potential indicators of positive aging outcomes with the aim of identifying targets for future intervention research in this understudied and underserved population.

A diagnosis of ASD is NOT necessary to participate in this study. Individuals with varying degrees of ASD characteristics, from minimal to high, will be included in the study. Participation from adults of all ages is welcome, with a particular interest in understanding autism in individuals age 65 and older.

To participate in this study, please visit

Funding is provided through the NIH’s R21 grant mechanism, which encourages exploratory research.  This highly competitive program only funds one in five applications per year. Funded applications must be in an area of promising and new research and at the beginning of a substantial program of scientific work.

The Institute for Autism Research is an interdisciplinary collaborative research center dedicated to understanding autism spectrum disorder and enhancing the lives of those affected and their families. Researchers from diverse backgrounds work together to address critical questions involving causes, development, assessment, clinical treatment, and education. This research work has led to development of several new and effective treatments which are provided by IAR staff to community partners and schools.

Researchers at the IAR are also dedicated to training the next generation of researchers and practitioners through advanced academic, research, and clinical and community-based experiences.

For more information about the Institute for Autism Research at Canisius University, visit

Canisius University is one of 28 Jesuit universities in the nation and the premier private university in Western New York.