Treatment Guided Research


The objective of treatment-guided research is to bring research and treatment together to help people now. It involves learning about the different ways people respond to treatments so that through helping people, we can gain valuable insights into the workings of autism. Many people with autism have chronic medical conditions that are often ignored. Through treatment-guided research, we can learn what is contributing to these conditions and look at autism as a whole-body condition, not a mental health disability.

Under the direction of Dr. Martha Herbert, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, the objective of the Autism Society’s Treatment-Guided Research Initiative (TGRI), is to support a new generation of treatment-based research that will bring early and effective treatment to all people with autism. “We need both to help those who need it now, and to learn more about providing the most effective help,” states Dr. Herbert in her article Treatment-Guided Research: Helping People Now with Humility, Respect and Boldness (Autism Advocate, First Edition 2008). “Ideally, this should mean a marriage of research with treatment, with research improving treatments and treatment responses informing the direction of research.”

Treatment-guided research seeks to turn current treatment experience collected by families every day into data for science. It does not simply wait wait for basic science to eventually result in treatments while letting present treatments and their outcomes go unexamined. It also means doing science that respects the complex individuality of each person with autism rather than lumping people together as if they were all the same. It is the Autism Society’s hope that this initiative will encourage policymakers, researchers and practitioners to work together to help people who are living with an autism spectrum disorder now.

Below are selected articles that were featured in a special Autism Advocate issue (First Edition 2008) on treatment-guided research. Most of the articles below are in PDF format. You will need Adobe Reader to view them. If you don’t already have it installed on your computer, you can download it for free at


Autism Society members have online access to the Autism Advocate, along with a biweekly e-newsletter, advocacy alerts, conference updates and much more. Become a member of the Autism Society and access the full edition of the Autism Advocate Special Edition on Treatment-Guided Research.