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Japan Hosts First Ever Global Conference on Autism

Inaugural Academic Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders Featuring Awareness Activities with Individuals with Autism
TOKYO, JAPAN (December 2, 2011)– Autism Speaks, the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, joins The Executive Committee of the Joint Academic Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders in hosting the inaugural “Joint Academic Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders: Exploring Autism Research Collaboration between Japan and the United States.” The three-day symposium has brought together international experts from the scientific community, parents, clinicians, and representatives from the United States and Japan to discuss the current state of autism research and services within Japan as well as opportunities for future collaboration; and will feature performances and appearances by global celebrities.

Presented by Autism Speaks and the Japan Developmental Disabilities Network (JDDNet), the academic conference will address the diagnosis, epidemiology, genetics and treatment of autism, as well as the importance of awareness and compassion.

Experts from the United States attending include Craig J. Newschaffer, Ph.D. of Drexel University School of Public Health; Deborah A. Fein, Ph.D. of the University of Connecticut; Joachim F. Hallmayer, M.D., Dr. Med., of Stanford University; Joseph Piven, M.D. of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine; Annette Mercer Estes, Ph.D. of the University of Washington; and Connie Kasari, Ph.D. of UCLA.

Andy Shih, Ph.D., vice president of scientific affairs at Autism Speaks, highlighted the importance of this meeting, stating “Autism Speaks is so pleased to be working with the Japanese autism community to combat autism, a disorder that is estimated to affect one percent of the global population, approximately 70 million people. Working together, we will raise awareness and bring hope to families affected by autism throughout Japan.”

The conference will conclude with a press event featuring Yoko Ono on December 3.  Ono is the Global Autism Ambassador for Autism Speaks and will speak to an audience that includes individuals with autism who were affected by the cataclysmic 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The event will be hosted by Japanese actress Chizuru Azuma.

Awareness events featuring artwork and performances by individuals with autism will be held throughout the conference, including performances by Salsa Gum Tape, a band comprised of individuals with developmental disabilities, as well as special appearances by Takuya Sasaki, a prominent Japanese artist who has autism, and contributions to a “Graffiti Mural for All” led by Kanayo Sugiyama, author and illustrator of children’s books, amongother activities.

The conference was convened by the Executive Committee of the Joint Academic Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders, Delegate and Chair of Scientific Committee Makiko Kaga, Secretary General Masatsugu Tsujii; Sponsored by: Autism Speaks and The Nippon Foundation; and Supported by: Japan Developmental Disorders Network (JDDNet); Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology in Japan; Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in Japan; National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry; and  Japanese Society of Child Neurology.

About Autism
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated 1 in 110 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum – a 600 percent increase in the past two decades that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.

About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. Since its inception in 2005, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $160 million to research and developing innovative resources for families. The organization is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. In addition to funding research, Autism Speaks has created resources and programs including the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, Autism Speaks’ Autism Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, which Autism Speaks celebrates through its Light it Up Blue initiative. Also, Autism Speaks award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council has received over $300 million in donated media. Autism Speaks’ family resources include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit, a Grandparent’s Guide to Autism, and a community grant program. Autism Speaks has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the government’s response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments in 29 states thus far, with bills pending in an additional 10 states. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 80 cities across North America. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.

About the Co-Founders
Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism.  Bob Wright is Senior Advisor at Lee Equity Partners and Chairman and CEO of the Palm Beach Civic Association. He served as Vice Chairman of General Electric; and as the Chief Executive Officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than twenty years. He also serves on the board of directors of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation, Mission Product, EMI Group Global Ltd., and AMC Networks Inc., and is a Trustee of the New York Presbyterian hospital.  Suzanne Wright is a Trustee Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. Suzanne has received numerous awards, the Women of Distinction Award from Palm Beach Atlantic University, the CHILD Magazine Children’s Champions Award, Luella Bennack Volunteer Award, Spirit of Achievement award by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's National Women’s Division and The Women of Vision Award from the Weizmann Institute of Science. In 2008, the Wrights were named to the Time 100 Heroes and Pioneers category, a list of the most influential people in the world, for their commitment to global autism advocacy.  They have also received the first ever Double Helix Award for Corporate Leadership from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the NYU Child Advocacy Award, the Castle Connolly National Health Leadership Award and the American Ireland Fund Humanitarian Award.  In the past couple of years the Wrights have received honorary doctorate degrees from St. John’s University, St. Joseph’s University and UMass Medical School.