visit our site map Skip Navigation

Go to the Autistica homepage


Donate to Autistica
Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook Subscribe to our eNews
Researcher working in a lab on twin study

Our Research

Autistica is the UK’s largest charitable funder of autism research. Founded in 2004, we have raised and invested over £4 million in pioneering research to understand the causes of autism, improve diagnosis and explore new interventions.

Understanding Causes

By funding research into the causes of autism we can help answer the question that parents often ask, which is why does my son or daughter have autism? Scientists look at how genetic and environmental factors may affect brain development and in turn behaviour. Piecing this information together gives an avenue of knowledge to develop new interventions.

Map of England showing location of our research projects

Improving Diagnosis

Both parents of children with autism and adults on the autism spectrum continue to wait for long periods between when they first have concerns that something may not be quite right and when they eventually receive a final diagnosis. This period of waiting often leads to worry, doubt and frustration, and may mean key opportunities for intervention are missed. With more research we can help improve practitioner knowledge and reduce the average age of diagnosis.

Evidence-based Interventions and Associated Conditions

Once a diagnosis is received there are few interventions on offer and little research evidence that tells families what will have the greatest beneficial effect. Early intervention is key to providing children with the best outcomes, but support also needs to be provided across the lifetime and targeted at specific points in development. There remains a lack of knowledge about the co-occurring difficulties that go along with autism (e.g. metal health problems; sensory sensitivity) and these are often the problems that families have greatest concerns about and require interventions for.

Promoting developments in research

Autistica realise the importance of supporting projects that provide an infrastructure to conduct autism research in the UK. These projects focus on providing data resources that are open to the research community, or help families access information on research projects, or that may encourage the next generation of scientists into autism research.

Future priorities

Autistica has always funded excellence in research and basic science but in 2012 the charity began consulting with families about what they see as future priorities for autism research. In listening to this consultation we will be prioritising three areas of research in the coming years:

  1. To continue funding excellence in researching early diagnosis and early intervention
  2. To fund research that looks at autism across the adult lifespan and into old age
  3. To develop interventions for those co-occurring difficulties that go along with autism (e.g. mental health problems) but often remain undiagnosed and untreated

We heard from families that they want medical research to be making a difference to their lives now and so our future research funding will focus heavily on translational research to take the important discoveries in basic science through to having a beneficial impact for families.

Our Funding Policy

Autistica uses a peer review process to make sure that the science we fund is of the highest quality. We are members of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) which reflects the rigour of our funding process. Final funding decisions are made with the guidance of Autistica’s Scientific Review Panel made up of UK and international researchers.