Creating a Friendlier Space

People with Autism struggle with conventional environments that we work in every day. Across the U.S., people are pushing for spaces in which individuals with this disorder can feel welcome and happy, especially in a school environment. For example, at the Bancroft School in New Jersey, students are taught in larger classrooms and are given specialized vocational training to prepare them for the world outside. In New York, the Learning spring School provides students with breakout rooms for stress relief and open spaces where things like light intensity can be controlled. Everything from increasing natural light, sign shapes and patterns, rounded corners, floor material, to sensory support should be considered when developing an area for those with ASD to thrive!

Click this link to visit the complete article on Spectrum News, written by Rebecca Horne, and watch the video about space design and ASD below.


New statistics on Autism Prevalence

Figure from Spectrum News.

A new estimate found that the prevalence of autism has risen from about 1 in 59 children (cited by the CDC in April 2018) to 1 in every 40 children.  Two separate studies, both published earlier this week, found this to be the case (Kogan et al., 2018; Xu et al., 2018).  One speculation that researchers made for this jump in prevalence is that these recent surveys were completed by parents, which may produce higher estimates than other methods, and that proof of diagnosis was not required.  Both studies also acknowledge that autism prevalence varies significantly by state, as seen in the above figure from Spectrum News.

Please follow these links to the referenced articles, as well as a Spectrum News article that covers this development in greater depth, if you’d like to learn more.


Kogan, M., Vladutiu, C., Schieve, L., Ghandour, R., Blumberg, S., Zaboltsky, B., … Lu, M. (2018). The prevalence of parent-reported Autism Spectrum Disorder among U.S. children. Pediatrics, 142(6). doi: 10.1542/peds.2017-4161

Xu, G., Strathearn, L., Liu, B., O’Brien, M., Kopelman, T., Zhu, J., … Bao, W. (2018). Prevalence and treatment of patterns of autism spectrum disorder in the United States, 2016. JAMA Pediatrics. Published online December 03, 2018. doi: 10/1001/jamapediatrics.2018.4208

link to Kogan et al. study:

link to Xu et al. study:

link to Spectrum article:

link to Disability Scoop article:

SW Autism Conference 2018

Bernier Lab spent a great, productive day at the SW Autism Conference in Chehalis, WA.  We shared information about current research studies at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Autism Center and met with families and providers about services.  It was great to be a part of this conference! A special thank you to Daniel Cho for representing our research lab and institutions!6

Why is Raphe Bernier excited about SPARK?

Raphe Bernier discusses his research and why he’s excited about SPARK!

The goal of the SPARK project ( is to collect genetic information on 50,000 individuals across the country with ASD and their families. Anyone with a diagnosis of autism can participate! Participation includes online registration, consenting to be contacted about future research studies, and the delivery of a saliva sample. These samples will be analyzed for ASD-related genetic differences. Families may choose to have their genetic testing results sent to a medical provider of their choice, should a genetic difference related to ASD be found.  If you are interested, please contact Theo Ho, the study coordinator, by email ( or by phone (207-987-7917).