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Project information

The British Autism Study of Infant Siblings-BASIS

Autistica’s researchers at BASIS are working with infants and their families to find the very first signs of autism in babies and develop new treatments so that support can be given as early as possible. The aim is to share this research with doctors across the country so that it has a real impact.

April 2012 - March 2015

Charity information: Autistica

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  • Need


    600,000 people in the UK have autism. Autism affects each person uniquely, but for too many, autism is a lifelong struggle. Parents typically notice that something is different about the way their child is developing at around 18 months old, however the average age of diagnosis is currently five years. The delay in diagnosis not only causes great strain and uncertainty for families, but also means key opportunities for intervention are missed, at a time when it could be make the most difference.


    BASIS is working with over 400 families nationwide to understand the very earliest signs of autism in infants, with the ultimate aim of developing a marker to support earlier diagnosis. To date the team have made significant discoveries, such as finding autism markers in infants as young as four months. BASIS shares its findings through a network of 32 affiliated projects, and through overseas collaboration, so that all children with autism can have the very best start in life.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Describe and understand the earliest symptoms of autism during the first 2 years of a child’s life.


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    What success will look like

    Success will be new early markers identified in infants considered to be ‘high risk’, sharing of this information with doctors, families and scientists.

    Aim 2

    Identify early markers that can predict a later diagnosis of autism, meaning earlier interventions.


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    What success will look like

    Success will be new research into new interventions.

    Aim 3

    Identify further risk factors that place some infants at even higher risk of later diagnosis.


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    What success will look like

    Success will be the identification of other risk factors apart from being a sibling. Production of publications that identify those children who are in ‘high risk’ groups.

    Aim 4

    Facilitate collaboration among clinical scientists & basic scientists working on high risk sibling


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    What success will look like

    Success will be sharing findings through our database which currently has 955 families and 60 health trusts registered. Growth of the BASIS network.

  • Impact


    We want a reduction of average age of diagnosis from five to three years of age.

    We want families to have access to interventions that are scientifically proven and at the point of diagnosis.


    The biggest challenge for the project is that once recruited, there have been some challenges around families missing sessions, often because plans need to change due to the autistic older sibling’s needs. However, the BASIS team have developed fantastic relationships with new families and they are continually surprised by the commitment of families to the research and almost all cancelled sessions are promptly rescheduled.


    Send regular update reports about this project as well as newsletters about all our work. Supporters are regularly offered visits to see researchers and meet with our Infant Scientists and their families. We share news about our publications, awards and the latest findings.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £671,384

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £479,236 Salaries Total researcher salaries
      £47,658 Travel Travel for research participants and staff
      £144,490 Admin All costs relating to administration, publications, IT and consumables
  • Background


    BASIS is based at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development at Birkbeck College, London University, but works in collaboration with research centres that cover the rest of the UK, including Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh and more.
    Autism affects all people equally, regardless of socio-economic status or ethnicity, so we actively involve families from all communities to take part in our research and drive our research priorities.


    Our primary objective is that people with autism and their families and carers receive the support they deserve at the right time. But autism represents an unmet need to society as a whole. The costs of care and unemployment are significant. And so the poor levels of investment in research to make life easier is in effect a false economy, with both the human and economic cost grave.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Autistica is the leading UK charity working in the field of autism research. We fund leading teams across the UK, and our funding rigour has been independently assessed by the Association of Medical Research Charities. We have been working with the award-winning Birkbeck research team for over four years, and their senior team members are internationally renowned as leading experts in the field.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Professor Mark Johnson

    Principal investigator with international credibility in autism research. He brings insight, expertise and leadership to BASIS.

    Ms Janice Fernandes

    Recruits families to the study and liaises with parents. She is crucial to the success of BASIS and for continuity of family contacts.

    Dr J. Guiraud

    An experienced scientist who oversees the daily running of the network, ensuring quality of testing and training on standardised assessments of autism

    Kim Davies

    A highly qualified research assistant who tests the newly recruited infant siblings.

An infant scientist!

An infant scientist!


Pays for one family to take part in BASIS research

In a time of austerity, the question is not 'Can we afford to invest in autism research?' but 'Can we afford not to?'

Professor Martin Knapp, London School of Economics