New CDC Funding Will Expand Knowledge about Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Young child playing with a wooden slider toy

Over the next five years, CDC will invest more than $16 million to carry out follow up studies to the Study to Explore Early Development (SEED). SEED is one of the largest studies in the United States to help identify factors that may put children at risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities. Over 6,000 children and their families have completed the study, including approximately 1,700 children with ASD. Understanding the risk factors and expression of ASD from childhood through early adulthood will help us gain knowledge to improve the health and functioning of individuals with ASD as they mature, as well as service use and needs, and impact of ASD on their families.

During 2006-2020, CDC previously funded three phases of SEED.  In these earlier phases, three groups of young children (2-5 years of age) were studied – children with ASD, children with other developmental disabilities, and children in the general population. Detailed information was collected from children and their mothers about the child’s development and health, the mother’s pregnancies, and the family’s health. Biospecimens were also collected. The three groups of study participants are compared to better understand genetic and environmental factors related to having ASD, health conditions among children with and without ASD, and the range of developmental and behavioral characteristics in children with ASD.

“We are so grateful to the families across the United States who participated in SEED and made possible this critical work to better understand the complex factors that put children at risk for autism and other developmental disabilities,” said Georgina Peacock, MD, MPH, Director, Division of Human Development and Disability, CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

“This next phase of SEED follow up studies will be an important step in expanding knowledge about children with autism as they grow into adolescence and adulthood. This information will help us better meet their needs and those of their families in the years to come,” said Dr. Peacock.

In the upcoming phase, CDC will fund five study sites* to analyze existing data and biospecimens from preschool-aged children and their families who participated in SEED.  Funding will also support follow up studies of previous SEED participants to obtain information through early adulthood on their health and functioning, service use and needs, and the impact of ASD on their families. In addition to funding five external study sites, CDC will conduct the study as a sixth site.


  • University of Colorado Denver/ Anschutz Medical Campus
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • University of Wisconsin System, Board of Regents

*CDC serves as an intramural study site

More Information

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