UCSB’s Center for Asperger Research was recently awarded a $250,000 grant by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation to help fund research in the field of autism.

Initially founded in 2007 with the help of a $930,000 grant from the Broad Foundation, the center is an offshoot of the university’s Koegel Autism Center, which strives to discover new innovations and advancements in the understanding of autism. Researchers from the center say the newest grant aims to further understanding of Asperger’s syndrome — a domain of autism — and create social interaction courses to aid those already affected by it.

According to a press release, individuals with Asperger’s syndrome tend to portray a certain set of characteristics: notable intelligence, good language and cognitive skills, social awkwardness, a lack of empathy, inability to socialize fully and the propensity to take intense interest in a single object or topic.

Lynn Koegel, director of the Broad Foundation, said the center aims to educate staff on the disorder and how to promote social interaction from afflicted individuals, in addition to researching means for a cure or more effective treatment. It seeks to minimize misdiagnoses and help instructors understand the social interactions of students afflicted with Asperger’s syndrome by properly training pediatricians and faculty from local junior high and high schools in diagnosing it.

Karen Denne, spokeswoman of the Broad Foundation, said the Broads’ money funds extensive medical research and art programs.  
“The Broads are lifelong philanthropists and are very supportive of the work at the Center for Asperger Research at UCSB,” Denne said.

UCSB students who struggle with the disorder are the primary focus of the campus research initiative. A wide range of services ranging from job interview skill classes to how to deal with roommate and academic problems is available at UCSB to help afflicted students interact with their peers.

Currently, there are openings in the clinic for undergraduates to get involved, namely the 199 internship course which can be taken for UC credit. Contact autism@education.ucsb.edu for more information.