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World Autism Awareness Day 2020

CU Anschutz scientists play leading role in skill development, genetics research

Author Staff | Publish Date March 31, 2020

On this year's World Autism Awareness Day, we take a look at some of the innovative autism research happening at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. 

CU Anschutz researchers are finding new ways to improve social and communication skills for children with autism using equine therapy, researching new genetic aspects to autism severity that were previously hidden, and more. 


Equine therapy research led by Robin Gabriels, PsyD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, found that a 10-week course in therapeutic horseback riding reduced irritability and hyperactivity while improving the social communication skills of youth with autism spectrum disorder. The initial study was recently awarded a $2.5 million grant to further investigate those findings. 


James Sikela, PhD

At the same time, research led by James Sikela, PhD, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine is focused on a complex area of the human genome (a gene coding family called Olduvai) and the role it plays in the severity of autism symptoms. 

While this year’s World Autism Awareness Day might be less public as we all practice safe social distancing, you can still find ways to "Light It Up Blue" on Thursday, April 2