Home > Science > Fostering the Conversation: You and our Scientists

Fostering the Conversation: You and our Scientists

Posted by Jessica Snyder Sachs, director of science communications for Autism Speaks

This month has been a tremendously exciting time in autism research, as our blog posts make clear. Naively, I’ve been waiting for a pause in the torrent of news to introduce myself. That’s not looking likely, so allow me to shoehorn a quick intro—and a couple questions for you.

Three weeks ago, I stepped into the newly created position of Autism Speaks’ director of science communications. It’s now my privilege to suds and squeegee your window onto the science that donor dollars are funding. I’ll also be enlisting our science staff to answer your questions and generally provide perspective on some of the splashy—and sometimes confusing—headlines in the national news.

By background, I’m a science journalist and medical writer. For the last 20 years, I’ve been a regular contributor to national magazines such as Discover, Popular Science, Parents, Parenting, and Prevention. I’ve also written a few science books for the general reader, the most recent being Good Germs, Bad Germs.

The science staff at Autism Speaks has always been passionate about communicating with families affected by autism and with everyone who cares about enhancing the lives of the remarkable individuals on the spectrum. I’m here to facilitate their conversation with you—in both directions.

Perhaps you’re a volunteer and want resources that can help you explain the nature and importance of the research we fund. Perhaps you have a child affected by autism and would consider participating in research.  Perhaps you are a parent who is looking forward to answers and new treatment approaches that will help your child.  Or perhaps you are a high-functioning teenager, college student, or other adult on the spectrum and want to know more about studies that relate to you (the link goes to just one example).

In whatever way you’re comfortable, we want to involve you in our scientific mission: To improve the lives of all who struggle with autism. To that end, I’d love your input on some of the new avenues of communication we’re considering. Would you please take a moment to answer our two-question survey? Please feel free to provide additional feedback in the comments section. Thanks!

  1. July 19, 2011 at 9:27 am

    This is a very encouraging introduction, Jessica. I know scores of parents, family, friends, volunteers and advocates that will appreciate better communication of where Autism Speaks is applying our dollars.

    I recently had the opportunity to listen to Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Geri Dawson speak about current and future research initiatives and I can say I was moved to tears.

    So many of us NEED Autism Speaks to work – we NEED to continue to hold onto HOPE that one day autism will no longer contribute to so many struggles.

    Thank you.

    As a parent, army wife and advocate for those with autism – this is welcomed news.

    -Rachel
    Advocate for HR 2288 Caring for Military Kids with Autism @ http://cmkaa.wordpress.com

    • thescienceteam
      July 19, 2011 at 10:38 am

      Thank you so much, Rachel. And, yes, we’ve got to get some of Geri’s talks up as webcasts. She really knows how to connect the science to our real life experiences. And thanks for your important work with military kids! JSS

  2. July 19, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Hi Jessica. I was delighted to read your post. Your new role is such an important one in the autism community.

    I would like to see all of the ideas in your survey. Maybe there’s also a role for film, cartoon illustrations, or online games in engaging the lay community in a dialog about autism science.

    • thescienceteam
      July 19, 2011 at 10:45 am

      Thanks so much, Geraldine, and I love your ideas. We, too, would like to see more video, and more of our scientists are working up the courage to step in front of the camera to talk with y’all. Perhaps we can also follow through on your illustration suggestion with some slideshows. Thx again. Jessica

  3. Noreen
    July 19, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    I would like to see at least half the money you raise going to the children and families directly effected. These are also your big supporters. WE would appreciate Money going to Good Autism Schools (in NJ you have Eden, Douglass, PCDI and Cappello) for extra SPEECH services for our kids as well as Social OT Outings. You could HELP our children by spending money and gathering community volunteers for the last 2 weeks in August when our children have no school and no schedule and need Social Opportunities with typical peers. We would be willing to chip in on the cost but we would expect that it would be reasonable and that there would be extra supports. This would be money well spent and then I would be more supportive. The FAMILIES, the ones who actually DO all the leg work and are exhausted, and the Kids who are TRYING desperately to fit in and SPEAK. Thanks for listening!!!

    • thescienceteam
      July 22, 2011 at 1:02 pm

      Thanks again, Noreen. See my comments to your second post, below. And best wishes to you and your family!

  4. Noreen
    July 20, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Can your scientist explain all our children’s allergies and why they are getting sicker with vaccines? I hope they are LISTENING too many parents OBSERVING the same thing. Let’s our heads together on this. At least 20-60% of our kids could be suffering from seizures (which has been proven with FLU shots) and it appears that no one really cares. If your child’s seizures were triggered by a vaccine or drug, I’m sure you’d investigate.

    • thescienceteam
      July 22, 2011 at 1:00 pm

      Thanks so much for your feedback, Noreen. Yes, we are funding studies into the allergies, seizures, and other so-called comorbidities. You can take a look at many of the studies we’re funding by using the “grant search” button on the science page at autismspeaks.org. Thank you again for staying engaged!

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