Conference Speakers

Joshua Weinstein, Ph.D., M.B.A.

Joshua Weinstein, Ph.D., M.B.A. Bio: Joshua Weinstein has been an educator and administrator for more than four decades both in the public and private school systems. He holds a Ph.D., two Masters Degrees in Educational Administration and Supervision and an MBA in executive administration. He has been the CEO in healthcare, social services, business corporations and this background has enabled him to gain the experience necessary to foster an appreciation for serving the needy.

Dedicated to helping children with special needs, he started Benjamin House in 1995, a nonprofit dedicated to providing programs and services for children with developmental disabilities and their families. During this time, he encountered families who lamented that there was a severe lack of adequate programs for their children with autism. Mr. Weinstein began researching educational approaches to the treatment of autism, which led him to a unique approach called CABAS© (Comprehensive Application of Behavior Analysis to Schooling, originated by Dr. Douglas Greer at Columbia University). This approach uses the key elements of social, communication and behavior modification in a therapeutic setting on a 1:1 teacher to student ratio, using Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

Mr. Weinstein rallied a core board of community leaders and professionals who met numerous times over the course of six months to make the dream of Hear Our Voices – Shema Kolainu a reality. In September 1998 Hear Our Voices – Shema Kolainu opened its doors with just 3 children to accept its first class of children, ages 5 to 7. Through the tireless efforts of Mr. Weinstein and a dedicated staff, Hear Our Voices – Shema Kolainu now has New York State Department of Education and NYC DOE approval for its pre-school and school-age programs, DOH approval for early Intervention home-based programs, evaluation and related services, various programs approved by Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, (OMRDD) and teacher and parent training programs in ABA.

Besides its center headquarters in Brooklyn, Hear Our Voices – Shema Kolainu has offices in the Bronx, and now reaches over 850 children in both school – and community-based settings throughout the five boroughs of the City of New York and over 60 at the center in Jerusalem Israel called “Tishma”. He along with his staff went to Israel and established “Tishma” because of a great need in Israel for specialized centers for children with autism. There are currently many children waiting to get in.

In 2004 Mr. Weinstein founded a new international research organization iCARE4autism. The mission is to drive research through powerful collaborations among similar centers of investigation worldwide in order to discover the causes of autism and build consensus surrounding the issues and best practices in autism research and diagnosis in the search for a biological identifier.

What started for Mr. Weinstein as a project became his life’s mission. Today, iCARE4utism, Hear Our Voices – Shema Kolainu and Tishma are dedicated to providing hope and help to children with autism and their families.

Eric Hollander, M.D.

Eric Hollander, M.D.Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Autism and Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Program
Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Chairman of the Advisory Committee for ICare4Autism
Presenting: Neuropsychopharmacology of Oxytocin and Inflammation in Autism

Bio: Dr. Hollander is Director of the Autism and Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Disorders Program, and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Montefiore Medical Center. Formerly, he has served as the Esther and Joseph Klingenstein Professor and Chairman of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and the Director of the Seaver Autism Research Center. Before then, he was Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Dr. Hollander has served as PI for the NIH STAART Autism Center of Excellence, as well as NIH grants on autism, pediatric body dysmorphic disorder, OCD, and pathological gambling. He served as Chair of the DSM-V Research Planning Agenda for Obsessive Compulsive Behavior Spectrum Disorders, and the Clinical Trials Network for Autism Speaks. He has published more than 500 scientific reports in the psychiatric field. He has edited 19 books, including the American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Autism Spectrum Disorders (2011), the American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Anxiety Disorders (2002 and 2009), and The Clinical Manual of Impulse Control Disorders (2006). He is listed in NY Magazine’s “Best Doctors”, and “Best Doctors in America ”. He has made frequent media appearances on the Today Show and Dateline NBC and has had interviews in People Magazine and the New York Times.

Abstract of Presentation: Neuropsychopharmacology of Oxytocin and Inflammation in Autism
Autism is characterized by impairment of social cognition and repetitive behaviors, as well as language impairment. Evidence from animal and human studies suggests that enhancing the brain peptide oxytocin may facilitate interest in social interaction, reduce the sensitivity to social threat, and reduce stereotypic behaviors. This has implications for the development of novel experimental treatments for core symptoms of autism and related conditions. Studies with intravenous and intranasal administration of oxytocin show promise in enhancing social cognition and improving repetitive behaviors, and novel approaches are ongoing to understand the effects of oxytocin on relevant brain circuits and gene expression. In response to a hygeine hypothesis and evidence of neuroinflamation in some patients with autism, studies with helminths, a gut parasite with immunomodulatory properties, are being conducted in autism and other autoimmune disorders. Finally, studies to activate the locus cerouleus norepinephrine system, and to assess the effects of fever and temperature regulation, are underway.

John Foxe, Ph.D.

John Foxe, Ph.D.Research Director of the Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center (CERC) and Professor of Pediatrics and of Neuroscience at Einstein
Presenting: Electrophysiology and Endophenotyping of Autism

Bio: Dr. John Foxe is the Research Director of the Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center (CERC) and Professor of Pediatrics and of Neuroscience at Einstein, and director of the Cognitive Neurophysiology Laboratory at the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research in Orangeburg, NY. Together, Drs. Foxe and Molholm were awarded a grant from the NIH to study whether multi-sensory integration (the brain’s processing of information from different senses) is impaired in people with autism. This research being conducted at CERC could have important implications for improving the quality of life of children with autism.

Dr. Foxe earned his PhD degree in neuroscience from Einstein. Formerly, he had directed the Ph.D. program in cognitive neuroscience and co-directed its Children’s Research Unit.

Abstract of Presentation: Visualizing a speaker’s articulations substantially improves the intelligibility of spoken speech and this is especially so when listening conditions are very noisy. This multisensory integration of speech inputs is crucial to effective communication, and appropriate development of this capacity will have major impact on a child’s ability to successfully navigate educational and social settings. It has long been speculated that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have particular deficits in multisensory integration abilities, and yet there is a surprising scarcity of hard empirical evidence to this effect. We assessed the abilities of a cohort of high-functioning ASD children to integrate seen and heard speech as environmental noise levels were systematically manipulated, comparing them to an age-matched typically developing (TD) cohort and also to a group of adult observers. We uncovered a severe deficit in the ability of the ASD children to benefit from visual inputs relative to TD children, a deficit that became more and more severe as background noise levels were increased.

In our view, these results have important implications for educators and clinicians working with ASD children. In the first place, the severity of this deficit makes it clear that special efforts should be made to ensure that the acoustic environment in classrooms and other rehabilitative settings, not to mention the home, be specifically controlled so that information can be effectively communicated to these children. Specific intervention strategies to promote the development of multisensory speech integration mechanisms are also clearly called for. I will discuss additional parallel findings from high-density electrophysiological investigations of multisensory processing for more basic stimulus configurations in Autism.

Dominick P. Purpura, M.D.

Dominick P. Purpura, M.D.Dean Emeritus, Professor of Neuroscience, Einstein
Presenting: The Locus Coeruleus/Noradrenergic Hypothesis of Autism

Bio: Dominick P. Purpura, M.D. is Distinguished Professor of Neuroscience Emeritus and Dean Emeritus, Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and its Institute of Medicine. He served as Editor-in-Chief of Brain Research for over 25 years, and was elected President of the Society for Neuroscience and President of the International Brain Research Organization. His research has focused on mechanisms of excitability in epileptogenesis, dendritic spine dysgenesis in mental retardation, cellular basis of thalamocortical synchronization and the role of meganeurite development in the gangliosidoses. His interest in autism research stems from early neuropathological studies and most recently on the possible role of bioamines in autism and other behavioral state changes.

Abstract of Presentation: Some children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) exhibit improved behaviors and enhanced communication during febrile episodes. It is proposed that febrigenesis and the behavioral state changes associated with fever in autism depend upon selective normalization of key components of a functionally impaired locus coeruleus-noradrenergic (LC-NA) system. Accordingly, autistic behaviors result from developmental dysregulation of LC-NA system. Fever transiently restores the modulatory functions of the LC-NA system and ameliorates autistic behaviors. Instrumental in LC-NA dysregulation are alterations in gene-environmental interactions and associated epigenetic mechanisms susceptible to maternal and related stress. The question of whether the “fever effect” in autism is rooted in deep time is explored with reference to behavioral state and phase changes in invertebrate species that utilize octopamine in place of noradrenaline to effect such behavioral alterations. The possible role of “trace amines” operating in concert with LC-NA dysregulation is viewed as contributing to the neutral network dysfunctions that underlie autism and other neurobehavioral disorders.

Shlomo Shinnar, M.D., Ph.D.

Shlomo Shinnar, M.D., Ph.D.Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics, Hyman Climenko Professor of Neuroscience Research, and Director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Management Center at Montefiore Medical Center and Einstein
Presenting: Epilepsy and Autism

Bio: Shlomo Shinnar, M.D., Ph.D. is Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics, Hyman Climenko Professor of Neuroscience Research, and Director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Management Center at Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York.
Dr. Shinnar is board-certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (in neurology, with special competence in child neurology and added qualification in clinical neurophysiology) and the American Board of Pediatrics. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a member of the American Neurological Association and the Society for Pediatric Research. He has been active in the American Epilepsy Society and the Epilepsy Foundation of America. He has also been active in local epilepsy societies, including the Epilepsy Foundation of Southern New York and the Epilepsy Institute.

Dr. Shinnar is well known for his research on a variety of topics relating to childhood seizures, including when to initiate and discontinue antiepileptic drug therapy, prognosis following a first seizure, prognosis following discontinuation of medications in children with seizures, status epilepticus, and febrile seizures. He has been the principal investigator and co-investigator on a variety of NIH-funded research studies. He has also been involved in industry-sponsored trials of new medications.

Dr. Shinnar is a recipient of the Research Recognition Award of the American Epilepsy Society. He has authored over 100 peer reviewed papers and over 60 review articles and chapters. He is the senior editor of the book Childhood Seizures and co-editor of the recently published Febrile Seizures. Dr. Shinnar has served as a reviewer and editorial board member for a variety of journals and is currently on the editorial boards of The Neurologist and Pediatric Neurology. He has lectured frequently at both national and international conferences.

Abstract of Presentation: There is an increased incidence of seizures and epileptiform EEG abnormalities in children with autism. Language regression occurs in the Landau–Kleffner syndrome (LKS), electrical status epilepticus in slow wave sleep (ESES) and as part of a more global autistic regression. Many of these children have epileptiform EEGs. Whether these children are part of an extended LKS spectrum is very controversial. In younger children language regression usually occurs in the context of a more global autistic regression and seizures are uncommon. In contrast, when language regression occurs in children older than three, it is frequently isolated and both clinical seizures and epileptiform EEG abnormalities are more common. There are also a variety of reports that antiepileptic drugs may be effective in treating some of the core symptoms of autism. A better understanding of the relationship between epileptiform EEGs and the underlying pathophysiology is essential for progress in this area.

Robert W. Marion, M.D.

Robert W. Marion, M.D. Director of the Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center (CERC) and Professor of Genetics at Einstein
Presenting: Genetics of Autism

Bio: Robert Marion, Professor of Pediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynecology and Women’s Health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Ruth L. Gottesman Professor of Developmental Pediatrics at Einstein, is the Director of the Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center and the University Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at the Rose F. Kennedy Center. He is Chief of the Divisions of Genetics and of Development Medicine at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore and Director of the Center for Congenital Disorders. In addition, he is Director of Genetics at Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, New York and an adjunct member of the faculty of the Joan Marks Program in Human Genetics at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY.

A 1979 graduate of Einstein, Dr. Marion did his internship in Pediatrics at the Boston Floating Hospital, Tufts-New England Medical Center, and then returned to Einstein affiliated hospitals for his residency in pediatrics and fellowship in Medical Genetics. He has been a faculty member at Einstein since 1984. From 2002 until 2007, he served as Co-Director of Medical Student Education for Einstein’s Department of Pediatrics. In June 2008, he became Chair of Einstein’s Committee on Admissions.

Dr. Marion’s clinical and research interests include the natural history and genetic basis of multiple malformation syndromes. At Blythedale, he has served as Medical Director of the Einstein/ Montefiore Spina Bifida Clinic for 20 years, and is the founder and Medical Director of Montefiore’s Williams Syndrome Center, and helped organize the Montefiore/Einstein Centers for Cardiogenetics, Neurofibromatosis and Autism. He has published extensively in the medical literature in these areas, and, in addition, is the author of seven books including The Intern Blues, The Boy Who Felt No Pain (winner of a Christopher Award), Learning to Play God and Genetics Round: A Doctor’s Life in the Field that Revolutionized Medicine, which was published by Kaplan in October 2009 (paperback to be published in late 2010).

Dr. Marion’s efforts as a teacher have received recognition numerous times. He is the recipient of AECOM’s Samuel Rosen Award for Excellence in Medical Student Teaching (selected by the medical students) and the Alumni Association’s Lifetime Service Award. He is also the winner of the Lewis Fraad Award for Residency Education and the Obrinsky Award for excellence in medical student teaching in the department of pediatrics. In December 2009, he received the Zella Bronfman Butler Change Agent Award by UJA-Federation of New York for his work with individuals with developmental and other disabilities.

A resident of Westchester County, he lives with his wife, Beth Schoenbrun, a teacher at Scarsdale High School, and is the father of three children.

Abstract of Presentation: More than any other condition, autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of diseases that affects families. They have profound affects on the individual with the disorder, and significantly alter the lives of parents, siblings, the family, and the community. The extended nature of ASDs has special significance to the medical geneticist. To the geneticist, ASDs are a symptom complex which is a “final common pathway”, the end result of multiple etiologies on the brain. Some of these etiologies are part of a more complex genetic disorder, such as Rett or fragile X syndromes; some are isolated, associated with no addition abnormalities. The goal of performing a genetic evaluation in an individual with ASD is threefold:

  • To identify one of these underlying causes so that the family can learn more about the individual’s likely future functioning and potential medical problems.
  • To provide genetic counseling, which will inform the family about the likely recurrence risk of an ASD in future progeny, and
  • To provide an explanation of “why this happened.”

For these reasons, evaluation by a geneticist should be offered as part of the work-up of all individuals diagnosed with ASD. During this talk, the genetics of ASDs will be discussed in detail.

Brett S. Abrahams, Ph.D.

Brett S. Abrahams, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Departments of Genetics & Neuroscience at Einstein
Presenting: Autism Genetics – from Molecules to Pathways

Bio: Dr. Abrahams is interested in the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) and related disorders of cognition. Work in his lab employs a blend of molecular genetics and developmental neurobiology to identify genes that may influence risk and in turn understand how they operate functionally. Ongoing studies in cells and mouse seek to better understand how individual molecular variants work alongside one another to modulate risk for disease. Dr. Abrahams received his Neuroscience within the Center for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He later carried out postdoctoral training within the Neurogenetics program at the University of California, Los Angeles. He joined the Department of Genetics at Einstein this past summer and holds a cross appointment in Neuroscience. He has published in a variety of journals including Nature, NEJM, PLoS Genetics, PNAS, and Science Translational Medicine. He currently serves on the Gene Advisory Board for the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative.

Abstract of Presentation: Defined entirely in terms of behavior, the ASDs represent a unique class of clinical conditions involving deficits in language use, impaired social behavior, and a circumscribed range of interests. Convergent lines of evidence support involvement of Contactin Associated Protein-Like 2 (CNTNAP2), a Neurexin family member, in the ASDs and related disorders of cognition. To explore the biological mechanisms by which mutations in CNTNAP2 may cause disease we have characterized animals in which the murine homolog is deleted. Cntnap2 KO mice were found to have behavioral abnormalities reminiscent of core deficits observed in patients. Mutant mice were also seen to be hyperactive and show spontaneous epileptic seizures. Supporting an important role for Cntnap2 in brain development, neuropathological analyses revealed neuronal migration abnormalities and a reduced number of interneurons in mutant mice. Treatment with the FDA approved drug risperidone was seen to ameliorate a subset of behaviors in mutant mice. These data provide strong evidence for the importance of Cntnap2 in the development of GABAergic interneurons and characterize a new tool for mechanistic and therapeutic research.

Arthur L. Beaudet, M.D.

Arthur L. Beaudet, M.D.Henry and Emma Meyer Professor and Chair Department of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX
Presenting: A Novel and Common Inborn Error of Metabolism Discovered in Autism Patients

Bio: Dr. Beaudet received his M.D. degree from Yale, did pediatric residency training at Johns Hopkins, and was a research associate at the National Institutes of Health before joining Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in 1971 where he has remained to the present. Dr. Beaudet has made diverse contributions in the field of mammalian genetics including discovery of uniparental disomy in humans and publishing over 250 original research articles. He has argued for the importance of epigenetics in human disease since 2002 (PMID: 12394355) and proposed a mixed epigenetic and genetic and mixed de novo and inherited model for oligogenic inheritance in autism (PMID: 15389703). In 2004, Beaudet and a BCM team of investigators were the first in the US to introduce array comparative genomic hybridization (array CGH) into the clinical lab, and they have gone on to play a leadership role in the transformative impact of this technology on clinical genetics. His current work is focused on the role of genomic copy number abnormalities and epigenetic changes in neurobehavioral disabilities, and especially on the importance of the CHRNA7 gene in intellectual disability, autism, and schizophrenia.

Dr. Beaudet is well-known as one of the editors of the Metabolic and Molecular Bases of Inherited Disease textbook for the 6th through 8th editions and now the electronic edition, and he has served on many editorial boards and national review panels. He was President of the American Society of Human Genetics in 1998 and is an elected member of the Association of American Physicians and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Beaudet is currently the Henry and Emma Meyer Distinguished Service Professor and Chair in the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Hugh Morgan, MMedSc OBE FRSA

Hugh Morgan, MMedSc OBE FRSACEO Autism Wales & Expert Advisor for ASD to the Welsh Assembly Government, Cardiff, Wales
Presenting: The Welsh Government’s National ASD Strategy (2008): What Can We Learn from the World’s First Government Strategy for Autism?

Bio: Hugh Morgan OBE is Chief Executive of Autism Cymru, Wales’ national charity for autism, and the Expert Advisor to the Welsh Assembly Government on ASD. From 2008-2011 he was seconded from Autism Cymru to the Welsh Assembly Government to drive forward the Implementation of the ASD Strategic Action Plan for Wales. He has also recently provided evidence to the governments in Scotland and Northern Ireland who are developing their own national ASD strategies. On the research front Hugh established the partnership which led to the development in 2009/10 of the Wales Autism Research Centre and Professorial Chair in Autism both in Cardiff University (the first named Chair in Autism Research in the United Kingdom). He is the author and co-author of several books on autism including Adults with Autism : A Guide to Theory and Practice (Cambridge University Press); co-founder of the Good Autism Practice Journal (BILD Publications) and a former associate editor of the Autism Journal. Hugh has a long professional background in ASD and Learning Disabilities gained within the charity and statutory sectors and is also a founder member of the Celtic Nations Autism Partnership – a collaboration between the national autism charities for Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland.

Abstract of Presentation: An evaluation of the impact made by the Welsh Government’s national strategy for autism will be presented. Implemented since 2008, the Welsh Government’s all-age national strategy for autism has now firmly bedded in. The foundation phase of this 10 year strategy has been undertaken, and Dr. Morgan will identify the impact made arising from the establishment of a national autism infrastructure for Wales; of a coordinated approach to awareness-raising and service developments covering education, social care and employment; but also in the creation of a national research capability for autism.

Mark Lever

Mark LeverChief Executive, The National Autistic Society (NAS), UK
Presenting: Leading a Campaign for a Better World for People with Autism

Bio: Mark Lever joined the National Autistic Society (NAS) as CEO in March 2008. The NAS is the UK’s leading organisation for people affected by autism. It champions the rights and interests of all people with autism and aims to provide individuals with autism and their families with help, support and services that they can access, trust and rely upon and which can make a positive difference to their lives.

He led the coalition of charities that managed to secure the Autism Act 2009 – the first ever piece of disability – specific legislation passed through the UK Parliament.

He chaired the UK Government’s External Reference Group for the development of the national strategy for Adults with Autism and sits on the Department of Health’s Autism Programme Board and Social Care Reference Group.

Prior to the NAS he worked for 12 years at the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS), holding a range of roles, including, Director of Strategic Development and Operations and then CEO. He was previously a partner at accountancy firm Kidsons (now Baker Tilly) with a background in HR, marketing, and accountancy. He is a chartered accountant with a Cranfield Business School MBA and is married with four boys.

When he is not negotiating peace settlements and behaviour related pay awards with his four boys he relaxes drinking wine with his wife, cooking, long distance cycling, running a mobile disco for charity and regularly losing at tennis and golf.

Abstract of Presentation: Developments in the UK and the National Autistic Society’s role in helping shape them; and how we are responding to them will be presented and discussed.

NAS in the UK champions the rights and interests of all people with autism and aims to provide individuals with autism and their families with help, support and services that they can access, trust and rely upon and which can make a positive difference to their lives.

Rebecca J. Landa, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Rebecca J. Landa, Ph.D., CCC-SLPFounding Director of Kennedy Krieger’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Presenting: Intervention Targeting Development of Socially Synchronous Engagement in Toddlers with ASD: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Bio: Dr. Landa received her BA in Speech Pathology and Audiology summa cum laude from Towson State University, and went on to obtain a summa MS in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Penn State, followed by a PhD at the University of Washington in 1985. She pursued postgraduate work at the University of Maryland, Washington State College of Veterinary Medicine, and Johns Hopkins, and worked extensively as a speech-language pathologist before joining the Hopkins faculty in 1989.

Dr. Landa is a member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and reviews the Autism Society of America Foundation’s grants. She serves on both the Maryland State Department of Education Autism Task Force, the First Signs Clinical Advisory Board, and the Working Committee on Brain Growth Factors in Autism at NINDS. Dr. Landa is a recipient of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Shannon Award for excellent and innovative research design and content, the Rita Rudel Prize for Research in Developmental Neuropsychology, and the Maryland Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s prize for Outstanding Contribution to the Field.

Abstract of Presentation: Current statistics predict one out of every 110 children is destined to develop Autism. Autism is an incapacitating, lifelong developmental disability that typically appears within the first three years of life. It is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain. Individuals with autism frequently exhibit developmental delays in physical, social and language skills, have abnormal responses to sensations, communicate unusually, and have abnormal ways of relating to people, objects and events in the environment. The condition is four times more likely in boys than girls, and sometimes occurs in association with other disorders. Though the cause of Autism is unknown and the condition cannot be “cured,” structured educational programs geared to the child’s level can help children with Autism lead happy, productive lives.

Dr. Landa directs the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) at Kennedy Krieger Institute, which offers a uniquely interdisciplinary approach to serving children with autism spectrum disorders and their families. The Center combines educational, clinical, diagnostic, out-patient and outreach programs to create treatment that is tailored to the particular needs of individual children and their families.

In her research, Dr. Landa works with professionals from other disciplines and uses a variety of approaches to explore the causes, indicators, and treatment of autism. One of her studies is the first to follow infants at risk for autism through their first year of life and beyond. In collaboration with neurologists, developmental pediatricians, epidemiologists, developmental psychologists, and speech-language pathologists, Dr. Landa will examine neurobiological and developmental patterns in these children. These findings will improve the early detection and instructional techniques used to help very young children.

Stefano Pallanti M.D. Ph.D

Stefano Pallanti M.D. Ph.DAssociate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Florence in Italy and at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York
Presenting: Executive functions in Autism: an ecological assessment with the Behaviour Rating Inventory Executive Function (BRIEF) – adult version : differences between subjects with autism and intellectual disabilities

Bio: Stefano Pallanti is Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Florence in Italy and at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, where he was the former Founder and Director of the Center of Excellence for OCD, Impulsive and Behavioural Addiction. Since 2009, Dr Pallanti has been Head and Director of the Clinical Psychology and Consultation Psychiatry Unit at the School of Medicine in the University of Florence.

He serves on the ECNP Educational Committee, the Advisory Council of the International Center for Autism Research and Education (ICare4Autism, New York), the Scientific Board of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP), the International Advisory Board of the American Psychiatric Association for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) and the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Spectrum Workgroup for the DSM-V. He is a member of the board of directors of the International College for Obsessive-Compulsive Syndromes (ICOCS) and an Associate Director of the International Master Degree course in Affective Neuroscience, based in Maastricht – Bristol – Tel Aviv – Paris – Florence. He is the Chairman of the Targeted Expert Meeting for Anxiety Disorders and Anxiolytic drugs to be hosted by the ECNP in September 2011.

His current collaborative research projects are in the areas of treatment-resistant OCD, PANDAS, Anxiety in Psychosis, Anxiety Disorder in pregnancy, the puerperium and postpartum, and the ADHD – OCD spectrum. He has contributed to numerous psychiatric manuals and textbooks, and has published 120 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals. He is a member of the Editorial Board of the American Journal of Psychiatry and is Editor-in-Chief of its Italian edition; and is a member of the Editorial Board and columnist for CNS Spectrums and International Editor of American Psychiatric Publishing Inc.

Abstract of Presentation: The term “executive functions” includes the set of cognitive processes such as working memory, attention, inhibition, cognitive elasticity, monitoring, planning and generativity, that direct and regulate the problems solving, the creation and maintenance of behaviors associated with the target.

These complex level of functioning has been scarcely explored in autism for a variety of problems: difficulty in distinguishing autistic deficits in social cognition and motivation from the social performance; comorbilities with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and OCD, Intellectual Disabilities of varying severity that are in autism.

Furthermore degree of disfunction has been reported as variable in a large range in the autistic spectrum disorders.

Traditional psychometric assessment has been reported potentially biased, due to the difficulties of adoption of an experimental rating setting, to measure the performance of this population.

For this reason, an instruments with “ecological validity” (Chaytor and Schmitter-Edgecombe, 2003), that assigned a degree to performances as they are performed performed in the real world, including Behaviour Rating Inventory Executive Function (BRIEF) has been purposed.

Our research group has translated and adopted it in the assessment of the executive functions both as a dimension of the Autism and as an outcame measures of therapeutic and rehabilitatives interventions .

The present work in progress concerning the comparison with the administration of the BRIEF of autistic adults (with intellectual disabilities from mild to severe), with subjects mild to severe intellectual disability (without autism) is presented.

T-Test comparing the two groups (Table 1) revealed that ASD and MR had significantly difference mean T score in Inibit (p= .034), Initiate (p=.015) and OrgMat (p=.004). Moreover, ASD group presented higher scores than Other groups on these scales.

Limits and perspectives of these results are discussed.