Brittany Hand

Assistant Professor Brittany Hand, PhD, OTR/L, discovered her passion for occupational therapy (OT) and working with individuals on the autism spectrum while growing up in Groveport, Ohio, southeast of Columbus.

The first in her family to go to college, Dr. Hand said she chose The Ohio State University because it has one of the best OT programs in the country. Her analytical skills lent themselves to research, and with her mentor’s encouragement, she went on to earn her doctorate from Ohio State.

Now, thanks to a $360,000 grant from Autism Speaks, Dr. Hand’s research could ultimately help transform primary medical care for adults with autism on a national scale. What’s more, the subject of her research – the Center for Autism Services and Transition (CAST) – is based at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and offers specialized medical care for adults with autism that is unique in the nation.

“Research tells us that many adult primary care providers feel they lack the skills and tools needed to effectively treat adults with autism. This can make it difficult for adolescents and young adults with autism to connect with an adult provider who is sensitive to their needs and equipped to provide modifications to improve the patient’s comfort,” Dr. Hand said. “My goal is to demonstrate that CAST makes primary care more accessible for adults with autism and to eventually scale this model of care beyond Ohio State.”

A major global funder of autism research, Autism Speaks allocated $4.7 million in September 2019 to 26 researchers. More than half of that funding supported projects, including Dr. Hand’s, with a goal of improving the transition to adulthood.

Each year, at least 50,000 children with autism age out of pediatric health care and services, creating a need to modify adult systems of care to meet the needs of this growing population.

Ohio State’s CAST has been providing specialized medical care for adults with autism since 2014. In those five years, the CAST patient population has grown from 100 per year to more than 750.

With the three-year Autism Speaks grant, Dr. Hand and her five-person research team will perform a comprehensive evaluation of CAST. The study will compare CAST patient health outcomes and health-related costs to matched national samples of publicly and privately insured adults with autism. Additionally, the researchers will use patient self-report data and interviews with patients, providers, and caregivers to identify strengths of CAST areas in need of improvement.

How you can help

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Make a gift online to support the CAST program

Donate by Mail

The Office of Medical Center Development
P.O. Box 183112
660 Ackerman Road
Columbus, OH 43218-3112

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