International Autism Conference – Philippines – Day 5
Today is Thursday, day 2 of the conference and day 5 of our trip here in the Philippines. The session began with a recap of yesterday, given by one of the developmental pediatricians in attendance. By the way, in a country of almost 100 million people, there are less than 40 developmental pediatricians in all of the Philippines. Most are here at the conference.
It has been amazing to see the dedication and kindness in the parents, professionals and teachers in attendance. Everyone wants to learn from each other so that we can all better help families coping with autism. It’s also been fascinating to see a complete lack of divisiveness in the Filipino autism community. They are united in the common goal of helping families, despite organizational affiliations, personal beliefs or social status. A model for the rest of the world with similar goals.
The morning’s presentations focused on the neurobiology of autism, from genetic findings to brain structures and neuroimmunology. Young Shin Kim from Korea talked about the epidemiology of autism around the world – what we know and what we still need to learn. She began by turning the conference room of 1000 attendees into a classroom on basic epidemiology,explaining the difference between prevalence and incidence – terms that even seasoned epidemiologists can easily confuse. Simply put, prevalence measures the total number of individuals in a population with a given disorder at a single point in time. Incidence, on the other hand, describes the number of new cases in a population over a certain period of time. Dr. Kim emphasized that until we can accurately measure the incidence of autism over time, we will not be able to fully understand if we’ve seen a true rise in prevalence from 20 years ago. The talk concluded with an update of the first ever prevalence study being conducted by Dr. Kim in South Korea, supported by Autism Speaks funding. Based on preliminary findings, it is becoming ever clearer that autism truly knows no cultural or geographic boundaries.
Helen Tager-Flusberg, after delayed flights and an unexpected layover, arrived early this morning, just in time to speak this afternoon on language in autism. Tomorrow, Autism Speaks will be hosting an interactive discussion about our Global Autism Public Health Initiative and we can sense the excitement of the conference goers. Come back tomorrow to hear how it went!
By Michael Rosanoff, MPH, Assistant Director, Public Health and Scientific Review and Dana Marnane, National Director Communications and Marketing, Autism Speaks