New Ontario university research into autism coming thanks to province’s Autism Scholars Awards

As the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders continues to rise, the Ontario government is funding new research into the most effective therapy for children, and new drug treatments that could enhance social interaction, as a result of the 2015 Autism Scholars Awards.

Two University of Toronto graduate student researchers – Tracy Yuen and Donald Wang – will receive awards of $20,000 and $18,000 respectively from the Autism Scholars Awards program, administered by the Council of Ontario Universities (COU). The program was established in 2004 by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to support research into the disorder, which is estimated to affect one in 77 children.

“Autism spectrum disorders are said to be the most common childhood brain development disorders,” says Max Blouw, President of Wilfrid Laurier University and Chair of COU. “The Autism Scholars Awards allow Ontario university researchers to help diagnose these children and work to improve treatments.”

Tracy Yuen, a PhD student at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto, receives the Doctoral Award to identify the most effective intensive behavioural intervention for young children with an autism spectrum disorder. She will also examine the cost-effectiveness of diagnostic genetic testing. As prevalence of the disorder continues to climb, her findings could help guide policymakers in anticipating changes in health care demand.

Donald Wang, who is pursuing a Master’s degree in pharmacology, is investigating new drug therapies that could enhance social functioning in children with autism spectrum disorders. People with autism spectrum disorders often have difficulty communicating and can have impaired social interaction and repetitive behavioural problems.

“Ontario universities thank the Ontario government for funding this important research into autism spectrum disorders,” says Bonnie M. Patterson, COU President and CEO. “Investments like these help to ensure the province is an attractive place for the best scholars to work, study, and live.”

Click here to learn more about this year’s recipients.


COU is the voice of Ontario’s universities, promoting the value of education, research and innovation that leads to social, cultural and economic success.

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