Home > Science > Media Highlights From IMFAR

Media Highlights From IMFAR

The 10th Annual The International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) will host nearly 2000 researchers, delegates, autism specialists, and students in the world’s largest gathering of researchers and clinicians devoted to a better understanding of autism.

At the official press conference, scientists discussed key studies to be presented during IMFAR. David Amaral, Ph.D., the President of the International Society for Autism Research, led with opening remarks. Speakers included Eric Courchesne, Ph.D., Antonio Hardan, M.D., David Mandell, Sc.D. and Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Ph.D. Dana Marnane, Vice President of Awareness and Events at Autism Speaks, moderated the conference.

This video was shot by Alex Plank and the Wrong Planet crew.

• Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D. became Autism Speaks’ first chief science officer in January of 2008. In this role, Dr. Dawson serves as the scientific leader of Autism Speaks, working with the scientific community, stakeholders, and science staff, to shape, expand, and communicate the foundation’s scientific vision and strategy. Dr. Dawson presented the Autism Speaks strategic plan on the second day of IMFAR. She also took the time to be interviewed by Wrong Planet’s Alex Plank.

• Autism Speaks Science Board member John Elder Robison, author of Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s and Be Different: Adventured of a Free-Range Aspergian, is reporting from IMFAR. You read can his blogs herehere, and here.

• 2011 saw a new approach for Autism Speaks’ Innovative Technology for Autism (ITA) initiative with the running of a student design competition called Autism Connects. The design brief was pretty straight forward: to create technology design ideas for individuals with autism to better connect with the world around them, and to allow individuals who do not have autism to better understand and connect with those who do. You can find out more about this program here.

•  David Mandell, Sc.D. conducted a study, ‘The Effect of Childhood Autism on Parental Employment,’ which was covered by ABC Los Angeles, in the clip below.

•  New research is coming out of the International Meeting for Autism Research, includes ‘Adults with autism face health problems with age.’ For the full article, visit here. The clip below is from ABC Los Angeles.

FOX 5 San Diego also covered IMFAR, where Shannon Des Roches, who blogs at Squidalicious, is featured.

• The Fly: into Autism crew was in attendance and performed some of their hit songs.  FLY reflects and honors the diversity of its inspiring voices with an eclectic blend of rap, punk rock, ballads, soul, even Broadway. It boldly opens ears, eyes and hearts to the miracles of autism.


Video Credit: John Robison 

• Alex Plank caught up with Clara Lajonchere, Ph.D, the Vice President of Clinical Programs for Autism Speaks.

  1. Maurine Meleck
    May 14, 2011 at 10:00 pm | #1

    Ms Dawson’s interview is a sad replay of the last few years with Autism Speaks. Why haven’t they funded the vax vs unvaxed study of children? Why are they still leaving the vaccine safety issue off the table. Autism is an epidemic of monsterous proportions and Ms. Dawson is living in an old decade. AS wastes money on a study of how autism families have to pay expenses for their children out of pocket. That is really a duh. Meanwhile more children will contiue to be diagnosed with autism and more will be sick and suffer while autism speaks con tinues to push genetics, a path that has taken nobody anyplace.
    Maurine Meleck, SC

  2. micah
    May 15, 2011 at 3:57 pm | #2

    hi iam a mom of 3 childern one who is 7 yrs old an has Autism an amazing, he is a wonderful hugable kisseable little boy ….we just got his tss started this week they are such a big help…his tss teacher took us to the school carnival this weekend my son had a blast….i thank god every day ….for all kids!

  3. Sarah
    May 15, 2011 at 11:04 pm | #3

    Maurine, Yes, it’s a “duh” that Autism has a negative impact financially on families, but think critically for a second. Why do you think they are underwriting this research? Likely answer: to use these “proven” numbers to advocate for more state and federal services, as well as insurance coverage. They can’t just go to the states and the feds saying something is so, they need real numbers and corroborated research. Autism Speaks clearly has multiple goals: insurance/government, behavioral research, awareness, parent support and biomedical research (causation and treatment). They are trying to do everything, not one thing. So, yes, this means evening doing research where we all know the answer. Just because we all know the answer, doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be quantified and documented.

  4. Katie Wright
    May 17, 2011 at 7:28 pm | #4

    I agree this research will help our families but I think Mandell did a very poor job designing the study. He did not even separate out aspergers from autism, one is a disorder the other can be a hugely expensive disease. As a result Mandell found that parents of kids in the ASD spectrum have moderately more stress and financial problems than parents w/ children w/ asthma.
    Please! Who among us would not take asthma over autism in a heartbeat?
    We need better researchers able to make finer more useful distinctions.

  5. May 24, 2011 at 11:51 am | #5

    I would take the dyslexia, NOT AUTISM, as he was diagnosed, that my son has over over asthma. Most new diagnosis are what we used to call in the old days, learning disabilities.

    Asthma is a chronic health disease. Autism is hard-wiring. Hmm…would my son rather have a chronic health disease that could edanger his life, or a wiring difference that makes school a pain in the ass…I dunno. But for him, I would choose the wiring.

    • Kimberley
      June 28, 2011 at 10:14 am | #6

      Rose, you seem to have some misconceptions about autism spectrum disorders (as do many). A diagnosis of autism can mean a lot of things, from a “quirky” person with strong skills in one or two academic areas to a profoundly disabling, *chronic* condition that affects the entire family.

      Autism is a condition that has a strong impact on an education system that’s struggling to find and keep employees who are willing and able to work with students before burning out, and residential programs that range from group homes to institutions that house people who are unable to use the bathroom by themselves and suffer from severe violent behaviors. Many parents struggle to keep their kids safe, maintain their marriages, and keep hold of their own mental and physical well-being, as well as their jobs. They worry about what will happen to their children when they’re no longer able to care for them or have passed away. Even people with milder forms of autism (like Asperger syndrome) can have difficulties forming and keeping healthy social relationships. In contrast, asthma is a treatable, common affliction that carries little to no stigma and causes none of the potentially incapacitating conditions that often come with moderate to severe autism.

      I teach autistic preschoolers in one of the best school systems in the nation and have some adult friends/acquaintances who have diagnoses of autism/Asperger syndrome, including one who most likely doesn’t even know he has autistic-like traits despite that fact that he’s gotten in serious trouble for harassment and stalking behaviors. From my perspective and experience as an early childhood educator for the past 20 years, asthma is a minor problem.

      As for the MMR vaccines, Kelly Bray is right. The “study” that supposedly “proved” a link between them and autism has been found to be fraudulent. It involved only 12 children and was discovered to be the result of a lawyer’s pay-rolled scam deliberately aimed at creating a class-action lawsuit against an English pharmaceutical company. I’m no fan of the greedy pharmaceutical giants, but the MMR vaccine has nearly eradicated three potentially deadly diseases in developed countries. In the wake of this panic, attention to more relevant issues related to the autism spectrum has been diverted.

      Bottome line: autism and autisim-like conditions are far more complicated than some people realize, and that’s exactly why groups like Autism Speaks and IMFAR are working so hard to do whatever they/we can to help.

      • Kimberley
        June 28, 2011 at 10:35 am | #7

        Correction: make that “bottom line” and “autism-like”

  6. June 12, 2011 at 6:33 pm | #8

    Maurine, studies have been done for vaccinated vs un-vaccinated. No link has been shown. That does not seem to stop people like you from continuing to push it even though you have been shown to be wrong time and again. Genetics is major factor in Autism, just because the work is not fruitful enough for you, you continue to pound on your highchair and want it NOW. Vaccines are far safer than the diseases they protect against by orders of magnitude, but they do have side effects. But these are less than not having the vaccine and risking the disease. Have you had Polio lately?

  1. May 15, 2011 at 4:03 pm | #1
  2. May 18, 2011 at 11:58 am | #2

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