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Autism Speaks to Play Key Roles at the 2012 International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR)

Brings Together More Than 1800 Participants From Around the World to Discuss the Latest Findings on the Causes, Treatments and Diagnoses of Autism

NEW YORK, N.Y. (May 15, 2012) – Autism Speaks, the world's leading autism science and advocacy organization, is a major sponsor and scientific participant in the 2012 International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR). Organized by the International Society of Autism Research, IMFAR brings together more than 1800 scientists, clinicians, students, parents and individuals with autism from 40 countries to discuss and share the latest research into autism's causes, treatments and diagnoses. The conference is being held May 20-22 at the Sheraton Centre Toronto, 123 Queen Street West, Ontario, Canada.

"Autism is a global challenge," commented Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., "and this conference offers an opportunity to bring together researchers from around the world to share their findings and collaborate, which helps accelerate research on diagnosis, causes and treatments needed by families in every country."

Autism Speaks' Autism Treatment Network, a collaboration of medical centers dedicated to providing families with state of the art, multidisciplinary care, will be participating in numerous presentations throughout IMFAR. These include the technology demonstration Development of a Training Video to Teach Best Practices for Delivering An ASD Diagnosis to Families; an oral presentation titled Spotting Children with Autism in Early Childcare Settings (SPAECS): Workshops to increase knowledge and confidence in Autism for Early Childcare Providers; and several posters including The Relations among Language, Behavior, and Social Skills in Children with High Functioning ASD: Exploration to Inform Pivotal Interventions; Cognitive Assessment of Children with ASD; Autism Symptom Severity as Moderator of IQ and Language Development among Children with Delayed Phrase Speech and Autism Spectrum Disorder; Differential Perceptions of Clinical Anxiety among Clinicians and Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder; and Initial Psychometric Properties of the Autism Impact Measure (AIM): A New Tool for Treatment Outcome Measurement.

During the three-day meeting, Autism Speaks encourages the media to attend the below events. Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., will be available for interviews along with other scientists.

Wednesday, May 16

8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. – Toddler Treatment Network Meeting. Autism Speaks is hosting an academic meeting on early interventions in ASD, including both toddlers and infants, and dissemination of these treatment approaches to parents and professionals. This day-long meeting will bring together over 60 researchers from across the world to share their ideas and research plans on early interventions. 

11:00 a.m. – IMFAR Press Conference. Scientists will discuss key studies to be presented during IMFAR including studies on the outcomes of siblings of children with autism, the impact of early social skill intervention on longer term outcomes, the role of oxytocin on social brain function in persons with autism, and the challenges of meeting the health care needs of children with autism in the primary care setting.  In addition, Helen Tager-Flusberg, Ph.D., president of INSAR, will provide commentary on the conference as a whole. Dr. Dawson is available to provide comments on the importance and impact of these research efforts to the autism community represented by Autism Speaks.

Thursday, May 17

8:30 a.m. – Dr. Dawson will present on Autism Speaks science program as part of the conference-opening Keynote Address.

12:30 p.m. NDAR, AGRE and the Autism Informatics Grid. This session will focus on educating the broader scientific community on the opportunities now provided by the National Database for Autism Research and collaborators.  This initiative is an attempt to bring together in one data base all of the data from autism research being funded in the US. Presentations and a hands-on training session will educate those attending on how to use the increasingly vast informatics grid being developed by and for the autism research community.

2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. Invited Educational Symposium: Communicating Autism Science. This symposium will feature a panel discussion by Autism Speaks VP of Awareness and Events Dana Marnane and Autism Speaks public relations representative Jane E. Rubinstein, SVP, Rubenstein Communications.

4:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.EEARN Network Meeting. Autism Speaks and NIEHS are convening the third Environmental Epidemiology of Autism Research Network, which brings together leaders and representatives from over 20 studies worldwide that focus on studying environmental factors in ASD.

Friday, May 18

7:00 a.m. - 8:30 a.m. Special Interest Group: Postmortem Brain Tissue Research in Autism. Will be focused on exploring innovative approaches to address the crucial need for postmortem brain tissue to help accelerate our understanding of the biological basis of autism. Specifically, a proposed network-based model for improving the collection, processing, storage and distribution of tissue will be presented for public discussion. Autism Speaks VP of Translational Research Rob Ring, who oversees Autism Speaks' Autism Tissue Program, will co-chair the meeting.

8:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. – Autism Speaks' Innovative Technology for Autism (ITA) initiative will host a Technology Demonstration to showcase new technologies that can to improve the lives of individuals with ASD, including innovative communication devices and techniques for promoting social interaction. Local area families have been invited to participate in this session to test the technology.

12:15 p.m.Autism Community Stakeholders Luncheon for families and individuals with autism is sponsored by Autism Speaks. This gathering is intended to make IMFAR more inviting and relevant for everyone, including families affected by autism. Autism Speaks EVP of Programs and Services Peter Bell will serve as moderator. There will be presentations of high interest to stakeholders including technology, sleep, friendships among adolescents and a DSM-5 update.

6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. – Global Autism Public Health (GAPH) Initiative Meeting. The purpose of this meeting will be to present on Autism Speaks-funded projects in Albania, Ethiopia, South Asia, Taiwan, and the United States that aim to develop model programs of autism health service delivery that reach low-resource and/or under-served populations. As much autism research to date has been conducted in high-income countries and among populations with generally greater access to autism services, very little data exist to inform best practices in autism service delivery in the developing world as well as among underserved populations in high-income countries.

Saturday, May 19

3:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.Panel: Data Management for Autism Research. The panelists will discuss commonly available platforms and best practices that ensure integration challenges are

met in ways that are HIPAA/HITECH compliant and that focus on data persistence, sharing and re-usability.


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 leading autism science and advocacy organization. It 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. Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Mr. Wright is the former vice chairman of General Electric and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed over $180 million to research and developing innovative resources for families. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 95 cities across North America. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit