AIR-P (MGH-scheduled to sunset)

January 20, 2021

The AIR-P (MGH-scheduled to sunset), is led by Karen Kuhlthau, PhD. The key goals for the AIR-P Network from 2015 to 2020 were two-fold:

  1. To conduct multi-site research on evidence-based interventions that improve physical health of children and adolescents with ASD and developmental disorders, especially underserved populations.
  2. To transform AIR-P into a multi-site Autism Learning Health Network (ALHN) which will provide a collaborative laboratory for developing and testing evidence-based interventions and accelerating the adoption of effective interventions and system management approaches into practice.

During the 2015-2020 funding cycle, the AIR-P conducted multiple research projects and worked collaboratively with Autism Speaks (AS) on network activities including the Autism Learning Health Network project.


At this time AIR-P (MGH-scheduled to sunset) is winding down several of its research activities. Some of our activities were paused due to restrictions on research activities that were put in place in response to the Covid-19 outbreak. We are completing these studies as some of these limitations are lifted.

ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) Autism represents an innovative telemedicine-based platform that connects local Primary Care Providers (PCPs) with autism specialists across our network medical centers. During ECHO Autism clinics, specialists provide education in best-practice treatment protocols, case-based learning, and co-management. This 10-site study builds upon a pilot study that was conducted at the University of Missouri's Thompson Center for Autism in 2015. After the end of the study, sites had the option of continuing ECHO Autism clinics and several are currently doing so.

The AIR-P Dental Study, "Improving Participation in Dental Care and Oral Health Outcomes for Underserved Children with ASD," is a randomized controlled trial to compare the efficacy of the established AIR-P Dental Toolkit to a combined regimen involving the Dental Toolkit and a parent-mediated behavioral intervention. Study objectives included improving home dental hygiene, oral health, and compliance with dental procedures in underserved populations with ASD. The study met and completed enrollment goals (N= 119) and showed favorable results. Several manuscripts have been submitted for publication.

The AIR-P PETRA Study, "Physical Exercise To Reduce Anxiety" successfully completed its initial 1-year pilot phase and has now expanded into a 3-year multi-site study to examine the feasibility and efficacy of a physical exercise intervention to reduce anxiety in children from underserved families. The physical exercise program incorporates the new key guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control for physical exercise in children. Enrollment and data analysis are completed and the study team is writing up findings of the study.

The one-year pilot study, "Ameliorate Childhood Obesity Risk from Newer Antipsychotics for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ACORN)" is adapting and testing an empirically-validated pediatric weight management program (Healthy Habits for Life; HH4L) for youth with ASD who gain weight on second-generation antipsychotics. This study will serve as a pilot mechanism to expand upon the findings in multiple ATN sites in a large-scale, randomized control trial while measuring cardiometabolic outcomes. It has completed enrollment and is finalizing data collection.


The Autism Learning Health Network (ALHN) works in collaboration with AIR-P, Autism Speaks Foundation (AS) and the James M. Anderson Center for Health Systems Excellence (AC) at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. LHNs use ongoing and transparent outcome measurement, shared learning across practices, and quality improvement methods, to standardize care processes across systems while customizing care to individual patient needs. They provide data for comparative effectiveness research that can lead to new interventions and rapid implementation of these in treatment of physical conditions. The network registry is live, with about 2000 patients and families enrolled. The Autism Learning Health Network has also expanded with the addition of nine new sites across the U.S.


The AIR-P continues to partner with families, clinicians, researchers, and other Autism CARES Act sponsored programs on dissemination efforts. Successful partnerships with these programs have increased AIR-P presence at various scientific meetings, including abstracts at International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) and Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS), and papers submitted for publication. We had 12 posters presented virtually at INSAR 2020. The network also published 24 new research papers.

For more information on the AIR-P, please visit our public website: