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Anderson Center for Autism Institutional Review Board (IRB) to Help Support Research Efforts

Date May 19, 2023

On the heels of recent news from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that autism prevalence rates are now 1 in 36, Anderson Center for Autism has announced the launch of its first-ever Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Anderson’s executive team noted that its newly-formed IRB is already accepting research proposals, and will meet on a rolling basis as submissions are received.

Proposals can come from professionals, graduate students, scholars, field experts, other agencies, and colleagues internal and external to Anderson Center for Autism.  Each research proposal will be assessed by Anderson’s IRB for potential risk and reward before an approval or disapproval determination is made, with a focus on whether each proposed research project fully protects the human rights of research subjects.

Chair of Anderson’s IRB, Gina Feliciano, Phd, SAS, BCBA-D,LBA (who also serves as Chief Program Officer at Anderson) said:  “It is incredibly exciting to work for an organization that is making this kind of investment into supporting those who want to engage in critically important and forward-thinking research.  The launch of our IRB really speaks to Anderson Center for Autism’s visionary leadership and our agency’s willingness to do everything possible to carry out our mission of optimizing the quality of life for people with autism.”

“In order to present at a conference or publish, research efforts must first be approved by an IRB like ours. In the past, if someone wants to conduct research, it has been really tough to find an independent IRB like the one we just established.  So many of these researchers have had to attempt to affiliate with a university in order to get proper approvals, but in most cases, universities tend to decline if there is not an existing relationship with that researcher.  So our IRB has the potential to really empower so many intelligent, insightful, hard working people to do what they need to do to help our entire field continue to make valuable improvements and progress,” Feliciano commented.

Anderson’s IRB is composed of scientists – such as behavior analysts and special educators – and non-scientists, who represent areas such as finance and adult residential services. According to Feliciano, the group also “just recruited an additional member who identifies as neurodiverse.”

All IRB members have completed mandatory training through CITI (The Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative), which, according to its website (about.citiprogram.org), “is dedicated to serving the training needs of colleges and universities, healthcare institutions, technology and research organizations, and governmental agencies, as they foster integrity and professional advancement of their learners.”

Patrick Paul, CEO/Executive Director of Anderson Center for Autism, stated:  “Having an IRB will not only support much-needed research by students, scholars, colleagues, and field experts, but it will also allow Anderson to develop relationships with agencies who likewise want to contribute and innovate.  We all need to work together if we are going to maximize potential for the 1 in 36 diagnosed with autism, and this is yet another step toward building a society that is better-prepared to do so.”

Feliciano explained some of the proposal criteria, and hopes that Anderson’s IRB will “quickly gain momentum.”

“Each research proposal will need to be complete with an abstract, literary citations, consent forms, procedures/plans, and methodologies before it can be reviewed by Anderson’s IRB.  A quorum (5 people) will be required to make any decisions about whether the proposal is deemed to be one with ‘no risk, minimum risk, or risk – and one in which the benefits outweigh any risk.’  We expect that most of the proposals will have to do with training, so we do not expect many requests that would pose any danger or risk, but we are here to assess each one and hope word will spread quickly that we are ready to accept submissions.  I anticipate that we will see many research proposals which can lead to changes in instructional methodologies, staff training topics, and capacity-building of agencies.  But we all know that research leads to higher-quality service delivery across the board, and every person out there who puts their time and energy into conducting research will help our entire field make strides.”

Paul reflected:  “Our team at Anderson Center for Autism is truly passionate about their work in the field, and this is an example of their collective dedication to our mission.  I am extremely grateful and proud of the way our team envisioned and put into action their strategy to launch this IRB, and I look forward to seeing its far-reaching impact.”

Anderson Center for Autism, originally established nearly a century ago in 1924, has long been providing educational, vocational, and residential services for people with autism.  Its award-winning programs are rooted in the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis and evidence-based practices, drawing students and residents from all over the United States to experience its school and residential offerings.  In addition, Anderson Center International (ACI) has for many years hosted scholars from countries throughout the world for a 12-18 month training program at Anderson’s Staatsburg campus; during that period, scholars gain the education needed to improve schooling, workplace environments, and overall therapy and care for people with autism upon returning to their home countries.

Another well-known aspect of the organization is Anderson Center Consulting and Training (ACCT), which ensures that individuals, leaders, municipalities, schools, businesses, and entire communities have the training needed to gain designation as being “Autism Supportive.”  The agency also recently opened two Anderson Early Learning Academy locations, in Pine Plains and Latham, NY, and The Anderson Center Clinic in Latham.

“We continue to position our agency as a leader in the field,” said Patrick Paul.  “And we intend to grow, expand, and do all we can to support those impacted by autism and their families.”

To learn more about submitting a research proposal to Anderson Center for Autism’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), call Anderson Center for Autism’s IRB Chair, Gina Feliciano, Phd, SAS, BCBA-D,LBA, at 845-889-9047 or email gfelicianophd@andersoncares.org.