Massachusetts General Hospital creates program for adults with autism

Courtesy of a gift from a wealthy family affected by autism, Massachusetts General Hospital now has the means to create one of the country's first comprehensive programs providing specialized medical care to adults with autism. The program's formation comes as a growing number of children diagnosed with autism are set to age into adulthood over the next several years.

The program is being funded by a $29 million gift from Nancy Lurie Marks and her family foundation, money which will not only help adults, but will also expand services for children with autism and train physicians. Marks is part of the family that had a controlling interest in publisher Harcourt General Inc. and Neiman Marcus, and has a close adult relative with autism.

Her gift will pay for an electronic patient data repository, adult neurologists, social workers to help adults find work and housing, and communication programs evaluating children and adults for devices producing speech on a keyboard.

Among other things, the new MGH program will help physicians learn to recognize autistic adults' real health problems, which they may communicate in ways different from those with better verbal skills. For example, properly trained doctors might recognize that an autistic adult who hits their head might be expressing pain from a physical condition, rather than needing antipsychotic drugs.

To learn more about the program:
- read this piece from The Boston Globe