Autism Clinical Trial Looking for More Participants

By: Suzanne Wilson Email
By: Suzanne Wilson Email

March 26, 2013

With news suggestions that one in every 50 US children have some form of autism, clinical trials to treat the symptoms are needed now more than ever.

A new trial, called ConnectMe, is looking to improve the lives of kids with autism by addressing social interaction issues. It's the largest global clinical trial focusing on a drug that could treat the social interaction side of autism. So far, globally, 556 children with autism have participated in this trial. In Charlottesville, there have been several participants so far but, with any study, the more people involved, the better.

Dr. Vishal Madaan, Medical Director at the UVa Child and Family Psychiatry Clinic and Principal Investigator for the local ConnectMe Trial location, said, "There's really nothing, no such available medications or drugs that are approved by the FDA for the core symptoms of autism."

Teachers at the Virginia Institute of Autism (VIA) work daily with children to improve the social interaction side of autism.

Emily Callahan, Director of Outpatient Behavioral Services at the Virginia Institute of Autism, said, "We work on teaching those skills that come so naturally to other kids. Like, how do you respond when somebody greets you, how do you initiate a play interaction, what do you do when somebody disagrees with you in a polite manner."

The drug in use for the study is Memantine. It's FDA approved for patients with Alzheimer's and was found to incidentally improve their social interactions. ConnectMe is looking into how it can hopefully help children with autism.

Callahan said, "A lot of the medications looked at in the past have looked at more reducing behavioral challenges and aggressive behaviors and I really think it's important for us to be looking at how we can enhance some of those pro-social behaviors that are going to make them be able to participate more fully in their community."

Unfortunately, there is no cure for autism but the goal of the study is to find out how to improve the lives of children with it.

Dr. Madaan said, "What you're looking at is potentially having an option that could help with the social interactions which, as I said, is really the core problem."

Callahan said, "I don't know if it will necessarily change what we're doing. I see this as being more able to enhance and supplement what we're doing."

To find out if your child is eligible for the ConnentMe clinical trial visit or call Dr. Madaan's office locally at (434) 243-3678.

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