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Oct. 8, 2018

Autism and neurodevelopmental disorder program achieves center status

Established five years ago, a Michigan State University program, which focuses on autism and neurodevelopmental disability research and outreach, has officially achieved center status becoming C-RAIND, or the Center for Research in Autism, Intellectual and other Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

Supported by the Office of the Provost, Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, and 11 other MSU colleges, the new designation will open doors to better research and service funding opportunities, as well as position the university as a leader among notable organizations such as the National Institutes of Health and Association of University Centers on Disabilities.

“C-RAIND’s mission was born from the needs of the individuals themselves, their families and service providers, and by listening to the people on the front lines who are dealing with the issues we research every day,” said Ian Gray, a founder of the program and former vice president for research and graduate studies. “By getting people in the same room with our researchers, by listening and hearing what each other has to say, that gives our researchers the passion to solve these problems. They are responding to a cry for help.”

The new center will continue to build synergies on campus with neuroscience faculty and the Institute for Quantitative Health Science and Engineering, as well as expand partnerships with Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital involving pediatric neurology and the Van Andel Institute related to neuroepigenetics.

“What makes C-RAIND visionary is its approach to interdisciplinary research and embracing the lifespan,” said Michael Leahy, co-founder and co-director of C-RAIND. “We cover early prevention and epidemiology, applied behavioral analysis therapy for preschoolers, transitioning from school to work, all the way to services for adults. There is an extraordinary need for research to develop new programs and new interventions, and we are determined to meet those needs by going right out into the communities where we belong.”

Because C-RAIND involves different colleges across campus that cover a number of different disciplines, Nigel Paneth, co-director, added that this gives the center the advantage of having a multitude of perspectives for problem solving.

“C-RAIND promotes research that transcends traditional boundaries, producing research that is broader and more nuanced than the more traditional approach that can suffer from a narrowness of perspective,” he said. “This is the future of complex problem-solving, not only in research but also in teaching and training the next generation of researchers.”

Moving forward, the center will continue to implement early-intervention programs around the state to help improve the quality of life for individuals, and their families, who are affected by learning and behavioral disabilities.

“The sole focus of C-RAIND is to make people’s lives better as rapidly as possible,” said MSU Provost June Pierce Youatt. “To get the best outcomes for people, you need the best knowledge and the best research. C-RAIND moves us forward on all of those fronts.”

To learn more, visit the C-RAIND website.

By: Angie Kankula