Trinity Repertory Company

A performance of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol might be part of your family’s holiday tradition. But for some families with autistic children, the bright lights and loud noises of a typical performance make that tradition nearly impossible. 

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

A $12.5 million dollar donation from toy maker Hasbro’s founding family will help launch a new institute at Brown University to study children’s health. The collaboration with local hospitals will focus on new approaches to kids’ most urgent health problems.

The early focus of the new institute will be to dig deeper into the drivers behind asthma, autism, and obesity. Hasbro Children’s Hospital pediatrician-in-chief Dr. Phyllis Dennery will help lead the effort.

John Bender / RIPR

Cranston police have begun special training to help them work better with people with autism. The training is geared toward preventing a police encounter from escalating.

Every Cranston police officer will be trained to recognize the signs of autism. And they’ll be equipped to respond to emergencies involving adults or kids with autism. Cranston police Lieutenant Mark Freeborn says the training should help avoid the misinterpretation that autistic behavior is disobedient, or aggressive.

The Rhode Island Consortium for Autism Research and Treatment (RI-CART) is trying to enroll 2000 kids and adults with autism spectrum disorders in a confidential statewide registry.

Researchers from Brown University, Bradley, and Women and Infants Hospital hope to gather data from registrants to conduct multiple studies over the coming years. Why?

There's an informal but vital network of health care providers, toiling away in neighborhoods and towns everywhere. They may not be doctors or nurses, or CNAs, or techs, but they care for elderly parents and spouses with dementia, children with disabilities, and relatives with injuries. They're family caregivers, and sometimes they need a break.

Here's some help, or at least some promising news, for them.

Connecticut's insurance department has just issued a bulletin that will affect how insurers cover autism - or could. According to this Kaiser Health News story by Michelle Andrews, autism advocates have worked hard over the years to ensure complex conditions like autism get the kind of insurance coverage they need - for long-term behavioral therapy, for example. But now:

I reported recently on the growth of brain science in Rhode Island, mentioning some of the many scientists, doctors, and institutes involved and some of the diseases they're hoping to tackle.

But of course, as with any story, I learned much more in the course of my reporting than I was able to include. Here are a few more neuroscience highlights in the Ocean State:

A collaborative effort to research and treat autism is rolling out in Rhode Island. This new consortium includes universities, hospitals and state agencies.

The Rhode Island Consortium for Autism Research and Treatment, or RI-CART, brings doctors researchers and educators together to advance autism research and put a spotlight on the disorder. Dozens of organizations are involved, including Bradley Hospital, Brown University and the Rhode Island Department of Education.

Mike Cohea / Brown University

Brown University researchers say they have discovered a possible genetic variation that can lead to autism and an intellectual disability. What’s more, the discovery may explain why one sibling can be affected while another isn’t.