2017 Autism Innovations and Global Impact:

The State of the Science

In the inaugural 2-day scientific conference of the Els Center of Excellence, renowned leaders in autism research, government, and service provision will gather to discuss the state of the science in autism spectrum disorder with a unique emphasis on innovation and impact. The featured presentations at this historic event reflect the global mission of Els for Autism which has foundation offices in the United States, Canada, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. It is the belief of Els for Autism that through state-of-the-art science, policy enhancements, and evidence-based treatment and service provision, people on the autism spectrum can fulfill their potential to lead positive, productive, and rewarding lives.

 

Speakers will discuss the impact of global autism research from a variety of perspectives, including what we have learned about the fundamental nature of autism from developmental neuroscience and neuroimaging, the challenges and opportunities in the diagnosis and care of those affected by autism as well as the translation of research to practice across the globe, the important contributions that longitudinal treatment studies can make in helping us understand the course of autism and enhance outcomes over time, and the critical importance of autism research being a government priority.

Autism in Africa and Other Low Resource Environments

Speaker
Petrus de Vries, Ph.D
Objectives
  1. Understand the current state of research about ASD in Africa.
  2. Understand the research gaps, challenges and opportunities in ASD research in Africa.
  3. Develop knowledge about active research in various African countries in ASD.
  4. Develop insights into the advocacy, awareness-raising, research, clinical and policy needs for ASD in Africa.
Abstract

Here we will present the state of the art about ASD in Africa and similar low-resource environments. Firstly we will present a comprehensive review of all ASD research ever performed in Sub-Saharan Africa, next give some directions and needs for research, and finally present a range of active projects across Africa that aim to enhance the knowledge-gap about ASD in Africa while improving the lives of people affected.

Open Science and Large-scale Evaluations of the Intrinsic Brain Architecture in Autism

Speaker

Adriana DiMartino, MD

Objectives
  1. Attain an up-to-date appraisal of the brain imaging methods.
  2. Identify current brain imaging findings most relevant to clinical practice.
  3. Learn the goals, strengths, and challenges of open science with a particular focus on ABIDE.
Abstract

This presentation will highlight the power of open science and the role of brain imaging to accelerate discovery of the neural mechanisms underlying autism spectrum disorder. The Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange (ABIDE) has brought the model of open data sharing into brain imaging of autism by: 1) launching the first open-access brain imaging repository aggregating over 1000 data-sets of individuals with autism and comparisons from multiple international institutions in 2012 and 2) enhancing the ABIDE data repository in size and characterization in 2016. An overview of the primary results emerging from these groundbreaking initiative will highlight emerging concepts and reveal the differential role of brain systems in the physiopathology of both core symptoms and comorbid psychopathology in autism.

Culture and Autism Spectrum Disorder: Current Challenges and Opportunities in Diagnosis and Care

Speaker

Roy Richard Grinker, Ph.D

Objectives
  1. Autism Spectrum Disorder, and explanations of developmental disorders, are products of the interplay between biological, psychological, and cultural phenomena.
  2. Local factors, such as access to services, stigma, and cultural beliefs about child development and parenting, affect identification and treatment, administrative prevalence estimates, and advocacy.
  3. New research suggests strategies for gaining knowledge about multicultural and/or multilingual communities and community resources, and for supporting early identification and early intervention in marginalized populations.
Abstract

In discussing science as a cultural formation that promotes and constrains scientific and popular definitions of ASD, this presentation highlights the role of culture in identification and treatment, and more generally at the intersection of scientific and local knowledge.  The presentation will discuss the processes used to engage diverse communities in ASD research in the context of an epidemiological investigation of 7-12 year olds in South Korea, and the Early Autism Project, an ASD detection program for 18-36 month old Zulu-speaking children in South Africa. In South Korea and South Africa, local knowledge helped researchers to address ethnographic as well as practical problems.

 

Developmental Social Neuroscience Meets Public Health Challenge: A New System of Healthcare Delivery for Infants and Toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Speaker

Ami Klin, Ph.D

Objectives
  1. Recognize the early symptoms of autism, the recommended assessment protocols, and the typical priorities for treatment and intervention.
  2. Learn about new models of what is autism resulting from advances in genetics and neurobiology, and will recognize the significant of these new insights to clinical practice.
  3. Learn about highly conserved and early emerging mechanisms of socialization, how these are quantified experimentally, and their implications for the instantiation of genetic liabilities in the first 2 years of life.
  4. Appreciate new opportunities this body of research opens for early intervention and for new research combining molecular genetics and social neuroscience.
Abstract

This presentation highlights the critical role of early diagnosis and intervention in attenuating the symptoms of autism. Data will be presented on early diagnostic indicators obtained through eye-tracking-based behavioral assays that quantify the social disabilities in autism. The results of these assays were used to generate “growth charts” of normative social engagement, and the deviations from the norm were taken as early indicators of risk.

Expect More: An Autism Adventure

Speaker

Honorable Mike Lake

Objectives
  1. Learn about the presenter’s experience as both a father of a child with autism and as a senior elected official in the Canadian Parliament as a complement to the presentations of the other conference speakers.

  2. Learn about the presenter’s son’s story and how early intervention, supportive education, and inclusion have led to an increased potential for him to maximize contribution of his skills/abilities to the benefit of society.

  3. Be challenged to rethink ‘normal’ with important ramifications at a global level not just for people with autism, but for all of us, if we can become better attuned to the important balance between challenges to be mitigated and unique abilities to be cultivated.

  4. Hear about a vision for a global approach to developing and implementing autism policy, and connect into an important conversation about how we work together as a global autism community, driven by evidence, to positively change the lives of people around the world living with autism.

Abstract

In his ten years as a Member of Parliament, Mr. Lake has had many unique opportunities to raise awareness of autism. He’s spoken to spouses of world leaders at the United Nations in New York City; traveled to London, Paris, Geneva and Washington to speak with fellow elected officials from across the political spectrum; and addressed global leaders at the World Health Organization and in the international research community.

What Can We Learn from Longitudinal Studies about Intervention and Progress?

Speaker

Catherine Lord, Ph.D

Objectives
  1. Identify two aspects of developments in autism that are often stable over time.
  2. Identify factors that predict greater improvements over time.
  3. Understand what factors in families are associated with more positive reports of quality of life.
Abstract

As the number of preschool children identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) increases each year, so too will the number of children with ASD moving into adolescence. The aims of the research are to determine predictors of adolescent and adult outcome measured in adaptive skills, quality of life, positive mood, behavior problems and symptoms of anxiety and depression. The project represents a shift in emphasis from attention primarily on negative outcomes to consideration of coping strategies for individuals and families and their impact on well-being and independence.

Community Engagement and Innovation: Lessons from Global Autism Research

Speaker

Andy Shih, Ph.D

Objectives
  1. Overview of the global autism community, including prevalence, programs and policies, with an emphasis on low and middle-income countries.
  2. Overview of implementation science and community-based participatory research (CBPR) and their importance in developing solutions for the global community.
  3. Basic understanding of the importance of community engagement for successful implementation science and CBPR projects in delivering tangible benefit to families. Two or three examples/case studies will be explored in greater depth.
Abstract

An overview of the global autism community will be presented, with an emphasis on programs, policies and barriers to progress, especially in low and middle-income countries. Emerging scientific approaches like implementation science and community-based participatory research (CBPR) will be explored to underscore the importance of community-engagement for developing and establishing feasible and sustainable programs and services. Several case studies will inform the discussion of these issues in greater depth.

Google, Facebook, FaceTime and the Electric Developing Social Brain

Speaker

Roberto Tuchman, MD

Objectives
  1. Recognize the clinical overlap between brain developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders, epilepsy and other at risk populations for atypical social cognitive development.
  2. Understand the neural networks involved in social cognition and the shared mechanisms accounting for clinical overlap between autism spectrum disorders, epilepsy, and other neurodevelopmental disorders with atypical social cognitive function.
  3. Discuss the implications for treatment, in at risk clinical populations, for atypical social cognitive development.
Abstract

Early recognition of atypical development of social skills, and implementation of behavioral-educational interventions to mitigate the negative impact of atypical development of social cognitive function has important implications for a diverse group of disorders of the brain. Furthermore, emerging knowledge of the molecular and electro-chemical circuitry common to ASD, epilepsy, and ID, informs us of targets of pharmacological interventions with the potential to positively impact the electric developing social brain.