Autism is a complex condition with variable impact on different individuals across the lifespan. We already know what outcomes we want to prevent that often accompany autism: disability, poor health, and exclusion. Discovery of risk and resilience processes in the developing brain is key to understanding disorders like autism. With this knowledge, we can design strategies to identify and support those at risk, so that they reach their optimal outcomes. The translational program in risk and resilience addresses this goal by simultaneously advancing discovery while ensuring that available knowledge is used to transform health systems.
Our objectives are (1) to investigate underlying brain function mechanisms that amplify risk or enhance resilience, (2) map developmental pathways that differentiate individuals in their outcomes, and (3) initiate QRR (Quebec Risk and Resilience Cohort), Quebec's first study in risk and resilience within periods of transition. We enrol infants with a biological risk factor increasing their chances of developing autism/related disorder in childhood and autistic youth who are at risk for mental illness. We will follow up infants and youth over a two-year period to investigate brain and behavioural development and monitor outcomes. Our program also uses translational strategies to ensure maximal benefits to other researchers, families, and health systems. We use ‘open science' principles, expanding access to previously collected and new data.
We integrate our research within routine care pathways in hospitals by involving families, professionals, and health systems' decision makers locally and internationally. Finally, we begin to translate available knowledge into effective and scalable ‘care packages' to be delivered by front-line professionals. We tailor and pilot test these interventions with QRR families, building local and international capacity towards clinical trials in the future. In doing so, we can reduce the current global burden on society.