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Geri Dawson Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

May 21, 2012

The Association for Psychological Science has awarded its James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award for lifetime achievement to Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D. The Cattell Award honors “individuals for their lifetime of significant intellectual achievements in applied psychological research and their impact on a critical problem in society at large.” In announcing the award, the association cites Dawson’s combined contributions to both basic science and applied research in the field of autism.

“Dawson was a pioneer in bringing a biological perspective to the study of autism,” the award committee writes. “Beginning with her research at the University of Washington and continuing in her current role as scientific director at Autism Speaks, Dawson has made groundbreaking advances in our understanding of autism spectrum disorders. Her initial studies utilized brain electrical activity to characterize the cognitive and affective processing abilities of infants and young children with the disorder. She has since completed studies using structural and functional brain imaging methods to understand basic neural processes that may be perturbed in individuals with autism, and her recent work has focused on the genetics of this complex disorder.” 

Describing Dawson’s work on early detection and intervention, the committee noted that “her careful studies of the building blocks of social interaction, including studies of the emergence of joint attention, and her novel approaches to identifying emergent behavioral symptoms of the disorder, such as her studies examining home videos of children’s first birthdays, have led to the current world-wide study of infant siblings of children with autism, in order to examine the unfolding process involved in autism. Dawson has been at the forefront in the development and application of intervention strategies for young children identified with ASD. Her translation of the basic science into effective early intervention for young children with autism has motivated widespread interest in early identification and intervention. Her scientific work has been truly transformative within the academic, policy and public areas.” 

The association will honor Dawson at its annual convention on May 25 in Chicago. There she will speak along with fellow Cattell Award recipients David Barlow, Ph.D., founder of the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University, and developmental psychologist Gail Goodman, Ph.D., of the Center for Poverty Research at the University of California-Davis.