Autism Conference Speakers

Plenary session speakers:

Joshua Weinstein Ph.D., M.B.A., Founder & CEO of ICare4Autism

Joshua Weinstein was an educator and administrator in the public and private school systems for over forty years. He also served as a CEO in healthcare, social services and the corporate world, which experience fostered in him a passion for social service.

Dr. Weinstein founded the non-profit Benjamin House (1995) to provide programs and services for children with developmental disabilities and for their families. When he learned from the families that there was a severe lack of adequate programs for their ASD children, Dr. Weinstein researched educational treatment of autism and settled on a unique approach called Comprehensive Application of Behavior Analysis to Schooling, developed by Dr. Douglas Greer at Columbia University.

Dr. Weinstein, together with a board of community leaders and professionals, established Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices, a school which opened in 1998 with its first class of three children, ages five to seven. Today Shema Kolainu reaches over 1,000 children in both school- and community-based settings throughout New York City, and over 60 children at Tishma, the center in Jerusalem.

In 2004 Dr. Weinstein founded ICare4Autism, an international organization whose mission is to drive research – through collaborations among centers of investigation worldwide – to uncover the causes of autism and build consensus on the issues and best practices in autism research and diagnosis. In 2015, ICare4Autism plans to open the Global Autism Center in Jerusalem, as the world’s first global center dedicated to autism research and education.

Abstract: ICare4Autism Autism Workforce Initiative

ICare4Autism is a global non-profit organization headquartered in New York City with branches throughout the world.  The organization’s mission is to drive the worldwide research necessary to discover the etiology of autism and its biologic and environmental causes.  The organization is currently focusing on the development of the Global Autism Center, which will be located in Jerusalem at Mount Scopus.  The Center will be comprised of the ICare4Autism Research Institute (a global research center), ICare4Autism Academy (the world’s first advanced professional school of autism studies), ICare4Autism Model School (a school that will apply the latest research to meet the educational needs of students across the spectrum), and ICare4Autism Foundation (an organization engaging a global community of scientists, educators, and advocates).

A major part of the Center’s activities will be the world’s first global comprehensive autism workforce development initiative.  The initiative will encompass four components: (1) workforce entry services for high school students (including post-transition supportive services and independent life skills reinforcement), and college entrance exam training (2) vocational and employment services for semi-skilled individuals (e.g., jobs performing tasks such as light assembly and garden work), (3) vocational and employment services for high functioning individuals (e.g., jobs in the area of computer programming or maintenance and operation of machines), and (4) high level employment services for persons with Asperger’s Syndrome to obtain jobs in the technology sector (including a customized job plan and skills training). The initiative will occur in Israel but is expected to create an urgently needed replicable model that can have a global impact.


Nir Barkat, Mayor of Jerusalem

Mayor of Jerusalem since 2008, Nir Barakat enjoys a wide coalition of support in the city council, which has enabled him to realize his vision to turn Israel’s poorest city into a vibrant center of culture, youth, education, economic development and tourism. With his firm belief in educational reform, he aims to reverse the negative migration of Jerusalem’s young people and to attract young families to the city. He has already begun to develop plans for large scale public‐private educational partnerships, in addition to culture and tourism, and has set a goal of ten million tourists annually by 2020. He founded Snuneet, a non‐profit organization and the largest Hebrew-language educational website, and Start Up Jerusalem, which encourages the creation of jobs in the city. He was a founding member of New Spirit, an organization that connects students to the city both emotionally and physically, by involving groups of students in the neediest areas of Jerusalem. Mayor Barkat combined his philanthropic leadership with his business background when he helped found the Israel Venture Network, a venture capital network that invests in social initiatives throughout Jerusalem.


Eric Hollander, M.D. (USA)
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Director of the Autism and Obsessive Compulsive Spectrum Program at Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center and Chairman of the ICare4Autism Advisory Council

TopicNovel Experimental Therapeutics for Autism: Oxytocin, Inflammation, Copy Number Variation and Personalized Medicine

BioDr. 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. Previously he has served as the Esther and Joseph Klingenstein Professor and Chairman of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Director of the Seaver Autism Research Center and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Dr. Hollander has served as a leader in the development of novel experimental therapeutics for autism spectrum disorders for the past 18 years, bridging the translation of basic neuroscience discovery into new treatments for ASD.  He has served as principal investigator for the NIH STAART Autism Centers, as well grants from NIMH, NINDS, NIDA, FDA, Simons Foundation and NARSAD 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 received the 2012 International Research Award from ICare4Autism.  He has been listed consistently for the past 10 years 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.

AbstractAutism 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, and studies to assess the effects of fever and temperature regulation on ASD are underway.  Studies to match homogeneous populations of ASD based on copy number variation (CNV) to novel therapeutics targeting the defined molecular pathway will be described.


Mrs. Marta Linares de Martinelli (Republic of Panama)
First Lady of the Republic of Panama, Welcoming Remarks

BioMarta Linares de Martinelli was born in Panama City on December 1, 1956.  Comes from a value-oriented family, which has enforced her with high moral standards, based in respect and love.  She is a very humble human being.  She completed her elementary and high school education at Colegio Internacional de Maria Immaculada and continued her studies at Saint Mary of the Woods College in the United States.  In 1978 she married Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal with whom she has 3 children: Ricardo Alberto, Luis Enrique and Carolina Isabel.  In 1980 she obtained her Insurance Broker’s license, profession she practiced until 2009.  Mrs. Linares de Martinelli is a founding member of the Cambio Democratico Party and was the Women’s Front first President.  Since 2004 she chairs the Ricardo Martinelli Foundation which aims to support Panamanian education, granting scholarships to economically disadvantaged students with good grades.  On July 2, 2009 her husband was sworn in as President of the Republic of Panama, and as First Lady of the Republic, she works from her office as health and education promoter and facilitator for all Panamanians.  To date she has launched multiple projects including her office’s flagship program, “Early Childhood Development,” which under her direction and supervision coordinates the work carried out by the State with private institutions and NGOs to assist children ranging from 0 to 6 years of age.  She currently chairs the National Commission for the Commemoration of the Five Hundredth Anniversary of the Discovery of the Pacific Ocean.  She is President of the Committee for the Eradication of Child Labor and Protection of Adolescent Workers (CETIPPAT), the National Commission for the Prevention and Control of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (CONAVIH), the Association for the Charitable Work of the Office of the First Lady (APROB) and Honorary President of the National Red Cross.  Her most recent achievement is the inauguration of the Ann Sullivan Center Panama (CASPAN) providing free assistance to children and youth with autism and doing comprehensive work with their families whilst seeking to incorporate these young people into the labor market.


Shekhar Saxena, M.D. (Switzerland)
Director, Dept of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, World Health Organization (WHO)

Opening Remarks at the Plenary Session

BioShekhar Saxena is currently the Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at World Health Organization, Geneva. He had his medical and psychiatry training in Delhi and London. He was then on the faculty of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, before joining WHO in 1998. At WHO, he was one of the writers of the World Health Report-2001 on mental health and an editor and author in the Lancet Series on Global Mental Health-2007 and the Lancet Series on Global Mental Health-2011. He led WHO’s Mental Health Atlas and WHO Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems (WHO-AIMS) being used in more than 80 countries. He is responsible for implementation of WHO’s mental health Gap Action Programme on scaling up care for mental, neurological and substance use disorders in low and middle income countries. He is also supervising the ongoing revision of ICD-10 mental as well as neurological disorders chapters. He has authored more than 200 scientific papers and edited several books. His present responsibilities include providing advice and technical assistance to ministries of health on mental, developmental, neurological and substance use disorders issues.


Dame Stephanie Shirley (UK)
The British Government’s Founding Ambassador for Philanthropy, 2009-2010 and Chairman of the Shirley Foundation
Delivering the Keynote Address at the Plenary Session: Autism: A Global Perspective

BioDame Stephanie Shirley (78) is a successful entrepreneur turned ardent philanthropist.  In 2009 she was appointed as the first ever national Ambassador for Philanthropy.

Having arrived in Britain as an unaccompanied child refugee in 1939, she started a software house that pioneered new work practices and changed the position of professional women (especially in hi-tech) along the way.

Since retiring in 1993, her focus has been increasingly on philanthropy based on her strong belief in business people giving back to society.  Her charitable Shirley Foundation is a major grant-giving foundation.  It has initiated and funded a number of projects that are pioneering by nature, strategic in impact and significant in money terms.   She concentrates on IT, autism and the Arts.


By track and in alphabetical order

Bio-Medical Research and Practice

Brett Abrahams, Ph.D. (USA)
Assistant Professor, Departments of Genetics and Neuroscience at Einstein, NY

Topic: The Autism Spectrum Disorders: From genes to function

Bio: Dr. Brett Abrahams is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Genetics and Neurosciences at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. His work focuses on the molecular biology of the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) and related disorders of cognition. He is best known for his role in the identification and subsequent functional characterization of CNTNAP2 as autism-related in Dan Geschwind’s group at UCLA.  Although a junior investigator work he has participated in or led, now cited more than 2000 times, has been named to the Autism Speaks “Top Ten Research Advances” list in each of 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. His laboratory’s overall approach is to identify molecules that shape risk and presentation in human, use these targets as entry points for functional studies, and apply these mechanistic insights towards genotype driven clinical trials. He has substantial expertise in the analysis of genome-wide datasets and most importantly, the interpretation of such information within biological contexts. He serves as the Einstein Site-Director on an NIMH funded Autism Center of Excellence Network grant, a seven-site collaboration (AGRE, Einstein, Emory, Johns Hopkins, UCLA, Washington University, and Yale). He also serves on the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) Gene Advisory Board.

Abstract: Rare genomic gains at 15q11-q13 are observed in 1-2% of individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Because many genes are included here and breakpoints vary between cases, the potential contribution of specific genes is unclear. Cytoplasmic FMR1 interacting protein 1 (CYFIP1) is interesting in this regard given the association of smaller overlapping deletions with each of schizophrenia and intellectual disability. Towards an understanding of how increased CYFIP1 dosage might predispose to neurodevelopmental disease we investigated the consequence of overexpression in multiple systems. We show that CYFIP1 mRNA is increased in lymphoblastoid cells and human brain as a function of 15q11-13 dosage. Towards mechanisms, we determined that overexpression of CYFIP1 results in cellular abnormalities in SY5Y cells and mouse neuronal progenitors. Identical abnormalities, as well as anomalies in synaptic morphology, were seen after comparing two BAC transgenic strains to controls. Gene expression profiling at embryonic day 15 identified genes differentially expressed between transgenic and control mice and highlighted dysregulation of mTOR signaling. Finally, treatment of mouse neuronal progenitors with an mTOR inhibitor (Rapamycin) rescued morphologic abnormalities resulting from CYFIP1 overexpression. Together, these data are consistent with the notion that normalization of mTOR signaling, emerging as an important point of convergence in the ASDs, may be of clinical utility in genetically selected populations with a variety of neurodevelopmental disorders.


Lorene Amet, D.Phil. M.Ed. (Autism) (UK/France)
Principal Scientist Autism Treatment Trust, Scotland

Topic: Do Infections cause Autism? From pathology to interventions

Bio: Dr. Lorene Amet is trained as a neuroscientist (brain development, brain ischemia and epilepsy) and has worked in Edinburgh, Oxford and Princeton Universities before working as the Principal Scientist at the Autism Treatment Trust in Edinburgh. Dr. Amet has been involved in several research and clinical projects and has also more recently completed a Masters in Special Education – Autism at the University of Birmingham, where her work has already been published. She is trained in administering the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) and Autism Diagnostic Interview- Revised (ADI-R) used for the diagnosis of autism. Dr. Amet works in collaboration with scientists, educators, physiotherapists and medical doctors to assist the life of people affected by autism.

Abstract: Autism is currently defined solely from behavioural features, yet the condition encompasses different syndromes and involves different causalities. This presentation will focus on the evidence in support of the working hypothesis that a proportion of individuals with Autism suffer from chronic infections causing immune dysfunction and oxidative stress. A process of pathology involving brain dysfunction and developmental impairment will be presented with direct implications for treatment.


Agatino Battaglia, M.D., DPed, DNeurology (Italy)
Professor of Child Neuropsychiatry at the Post-Graduate Medical School in Child Neuropsychiatry, at the University of Pisa, Member of the ICare4Autism Advisory Council.

Topic: Etiological heterogeneity of autism spectrum disorders

Bio: Dr. Agatino Battaglia is an adjunct professor of Pediatrics at both the University of Utah, Dept. of Pediatrics, Division of Medical Genetics, Primary Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Salt Lake City, UT, USA; and at the University of South Dakota, Dept. of Pediatrics, Sanford School of Medicine, Sanford Children’s Hospital, Sioux Falls, SD, USA.  is an invited speaker for 90 presentations to national and international congresses, and to Universities abroad (Stanford, Loma Linda, Salt Lake City, S. Antonio, Philadelphia, Boston, Sioux Falls).  He has a strong research interest in clinical dysmorphology, neuropsychiatric genetics (autism and intellectual disability fields, and rare diseases), and clinical neurophysiology.  He’s part of the Autism Genome Project (AGP), an international scientific consortium made of the world leading scientists involved in the molecular genetic study of autism. Amongst the research projects lead by Dr. Battaglia, the following deserve particular attention:

1) “Neurobiological bases of autism, new methods for diagnostic evaluation and insights into pharmacological treatment” (P.I.; 2-year Strategic Research Project, funded by the Italian Ministry of Health).

2) on-site P.I. for the European Specific Targeted Research Project “Using European and International Populations to Identify Autism Susceptibility Loci” (3-year Research Project funded by the European Union, 2005-2008).

Abstract: Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are an etiologically and clinically heterogeneous group of disorders, diagnosed on the basis of deficits in social communication, absence or delay in language, and stereotypy. There is increasing evidence that ASDs can arise from rare highly penetrant mutations and genomic imbalances. New technology, mainly chromosomal microarray, has increased the identification of putative autism genes and raised to 10%-25% the percentage of individuals for whom an autism-related genetic imbalance can be identified. Here, we provide data on a number of disease genes and genomic loci detected in children/adolescents with ASDs. Most genes and loci have also been implicated in intellectual disability, suggesting that both neurodevelopmental disorders are two sides of the same coin. A genetic overlap between ASDs and epilepsy has also been observed in many instances. All these findings suggest that autism is a behavioural manifestation of hundreds of genetic and genomic conditions. Increased awareness of the etiological heterogeneity of ASDs will certainly expand the number of target genes for neurobiological investigations and, consequently, provide additional avenues for the development of pathway-based pharmacotherapy. The presented data provide strong support for chromosomal microarray, exome and whole-genome sequencing as critical approaches for identifying the genetic etiology of ASDs.


Helena Brentani, M.D., Ph.D. (Brazil)
Associated Professor, Psychiatric Department at the University of Sao Paulo

Topic: Detecting dissonance in clinical and research workflow for translational psychiatric registries

BioHelena Paula Brentani is currently an associated professor of IQP-FMUSP in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  She received her M.D. in medicine from the University of Sao Paulo Medical School in 1990, and then went on to receive her Master’s degree from the Federal University of Sao Paulo Medical School, and her Ph.D. from the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of Sao Paulo in 2001.  She has worked with UNIFESP as a voluntary assistant of Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders, as well as in the Cancer Genetics Laboratory.  Currently, in addition to being an associated professor, she is the research assistant of PROTEA (Programa de Taranstornos do Espectro Autista), focusing on Autism Spectrum Disorder research.

Abstract: Data capture process is an important step in health care research, but often receive little attention on research design and therefore can present a number of flaws. No previous studies have developed standards that would allow for the comparison of workflow models between clinical and research activities and improve data collection process. A taxonomy that allow clinical and research workflow comparison is important as a toll that can be used to improve clinical research. Therefore, in the present study we developed workflow models for a translational research study in an outpatient autism clinic. After the comparison between the models and the identification of dissonances between both, qualitative standards and a corresponding taxonomy were derived and workflow re-engineering was proposed and implemented. Dissonances classification included: Actor availability dissonance; communication dissonance; Information availability dissonance; Artifact dissonance; Time dissonance and Space dissonance. Workflow intervention sought to eliminate these dissonances. The number of patients approached and enrolled in research protocols was used as a measure to indicate improvement on research efficiency. After the workflow implementation it was observed an marked increase in patients approached and enrolled in research protocol, indicating an improvement on research efficiency. Also categorization of patients using standard instruments was implemented.

Click here to download full autism presentation PDF (197)


W. Ted Brown, M.D., Ph.D.  (USA)
Director, New York State Institute for Basic Research in DD

Topic: The Fragile X Syndrome, Rett Syndrome and Autism

Bio: Dr. W. Ted Brown is the Director of the New York State Institute for Basic Research (IBR) in Developmental Disabilities, Chair of the IBR Department of Human Genetics and Director of the IBR Jervis Clinic.  He is a fellow of the American College of Medical Genetics and Professor at the State University of New York- Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn.

Dr. Brown received a B.A. degree in 1967, an M.A. degree in 1969, and a PhD in 1973 in Biophysics from the Johns Hopkins University.  He received an M.D. from Harvard Medical School (Cum Laude) in 1974.  He trained in Internal Medicine in New York City, undertook a fellowship in Clinical Genetics and was appointed as an assistant Professor of Medicine at The New York Hospital-Cornell University Medical Center in 1978.  He began research into Premature Aging Syndromes and Down syndrome while on the Cornell Medical School Faculty and was an Attending Physician at New York Hospital, and a faculty member of Rockefeller University.  In 1981, he moved to become Chairman of the Department of Human Genetics. In 1991, he was appointed the Director of IBR’s Jervis Clinic and in 2005 became IBR’s Director. He is the author of more than 350 publications.  At IBR, he began research focused on the Fragile X syndrome, which was then newly recognized and is now considered to be the most common inherited cause of intellectual deficiency or mental retardation. At IBR, he established a DNA diagnostic and molecular laboratory. He developed a screening and prenatal testing program for Fragile X. He was the first to describe a relationship between autism and the Fragile X syndrome. His work on Fragile X has ranged from clinical studies relating to phenotype, to family inheritance studies, to mouse model development, and to basic molecular research. His current research is focused on autism genetics and the Fragile X syndrome. Dr. Brown has remained a recognized world authority on Progeria, a rare and tragic disease that afflicts young children with premature aging and was instrumental in the discovery of the genetic mutation that causes this disease. Dr. Brown serves on the editorial board of the American Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability. He serves on the scientific advisory boards for the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange, the Progeria Research Foundation, and the National Fragile X Foundation.

Abstract: The Fragile X Syndrome is the most common inherited cause of intellectual disability. Fragile X has a population incidence of approximately 1 in 4,000 affected (full-mutation) males, 1 in 6,000 affected females, 1 in 700 premutation carrier males and 1 in 260 carrier females. This disorder typically causes moderate to severe intellectual deficiency in affected males, and milder deficiency in affected females.  It is associated with autism or PDD-NOS in about 50% of affected males, and most affected individuals evidence some autistic-like behaviors. Fragile X syndrome is considered to be the most common known single gene cause of autism. It is estimated that Fragile X accounts for 2-4% of intellectual deficiency overall, and is second to Down syndrome, which is not inherited, as a genetic cause of intellectual deficiency. The fragile X mutation results in the lack of expression of the Fragile X Protein (FMRP), an mRNA finding protein, which results in overexpression of the glutamate (stimulatory) and underexpression of the GABA (inhibitory) pathways in the brain. Current experimental treatment trails are being carried out in Fragile X and in autism with glutamate receptor blockers and GABA stimulatory drugs.  The underlying defects in neurochemical pathways in both conditions appear to have much in common, involving the ERK, mTOR and PI3K signaling pathways.


Ofer Golan, Ph.D. and Sharon Ostfeld Etzion (Israel)
Senior Lecturer and Chair of the Child Clinical Program, Department of Psychology, Bar-Ilan University will present with Sharon Ostfeld Etzion 

Topic: Mother –Child Dyadic Interaction with Preschoolers with ASD:  Emotion Regulation During positive and negative emotion eliciting states

Bio: Dr. Ofer Golan is a senior lecturer and the chair of the child clinical program at the department of psychology, Bar-Ilan University. He completed his doctoral studies and his clinical training at the University of Cambridge, UK, where he specialized in Autism Spectrum Disorders. His research interests span across various cognitive, developmental and clinical aspects of ASD, including emotion recognition, expression and regulation and their improvement through psychological and technological interventions.

Bio: Sharon Ostfeld Etzion is a clinical psychologist and a Ph.D. student at the department of psychology, Bar-Ilan University. Her field of interest focuses on emotion regulation of positive and negative states. Emotion regulation is studied individually and in context of parent-child interactions. Her Research involves children with ASD and typically developing children.

Abstract: Clinical experience and research findings indicate that emotional difficulties are more common among children with ASD compared to typically developing (TD) children. A deficient ability to regulate emotional states is related to a variety of emotional difficulties for TD children and might explain such difficulties for children with ASD. Developmental research findings suggest that children use a variety of emotion regulation (ER) strategies (such as diversion, self soothing etc.) to help regulate emotional states of fear, anger and joy, with varying success. A great part of ER strategies is learned and practiced in context of parent-child interaction. This study compared ER strategies and efficacy in children with ASD, compared to TD children, in different emotion eliciting states during mother-child interaction.


Benjamin Gesundheit M.D. PhD. (Israel)

Topic: Mesenchymal Stromal Stem Cells for Autism Spectrum Disorder – The therapeutic Rationale and its future Potential

Abstract: Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are heterogeneous neurodevelopmental conditions presenting in early childhood with a prevalence of 1%. Social interaction and communication skills are affected and children present with unusual repetitive behavior. The condition persists for life with major implications for the individual, the family and the entire health system. To date, no curative treatments are available. Autoimmune mechanisms with chronic neuroinflammation have been suggested as contributing etiological factors resulting in defect neurodevelopment. Due to the potent anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and regenerative capacities of mesenchymal stromal stem cells (MSC) and the cumulative clinical experience confirming the safety and efficacy of MSC treatment for various clinical conditions, MSC might open new therapeutic horizons for autistic children. Therefore, it’s reasonable to introduce MSC for ASD into controlled multicenter clinical studies. Based on our experience and published data, we present in this paper the scientific rational of MSC treatment for ASD along with clinical considerations for our suggested treatment protocol in order to investigate the therapeutic potential of MSC for ASD in properly controlled multicenter studies.

Bio: Benjamin Gesundheit M.D. PhD. is a pediatric hematologist oncologist with experience in bone marrow transplantation and experimental cell therapy. He has been affiliated with Hospital for Sick Children at University of Toronto, Hadassah Medical Center, and Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  He has lectured and published internationally on topics related to pediatric hematology-oncology, autism, and medical ethics.  Currently, he focuses on the potential use of MSC for ASD.


Randi J. Hagerman, M.D., F.A.A.P.  (USA) – Invited speaker
Medical Director, M.I.N.D. Institute, Endowed Chair in Fragile X Research, UC Davis Health Systems, Professor, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, CA (USA)

Topic: Targeted Treatments for Fragile X Syndrome are Leading the Way for Autism

Bio: Professor Randi Hagerman is a Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician and the Medical Director of the MIND Institute at UC Davis.  She is internationally recognized as both a clinician and researcher in the fragile X field and she is the director of the Fragile X Research and Treatment Center at the MIND Institute.  Professor Hagerman received her M.D. from Stanford University where she also carried out her Pediatric residency.  She completed a Fellowship in Learning Disabilities and Ambulatory Pediatrics at UC San Diego and, subsequently, spent the next 20 years from 1980 to 2000 at the University of Colorado where she headed Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.  She co-founded the National Fragile X Foundation in 1984 in Colorado and developed a world-renowned fragile X research and treatment center.  In 2000, Professor Hagerman moved to UC Davis to be the Medical Director of the MIND Institute.  Dr. Randi Hagerman and Dr. Paul Hagerman and their team discovered the Fragile X-associated Tremor/Ataxia Syndrome (FXTAS) which is a neurological disorder that affects older carriers of fragile X.

Dr. Hagerman’s research involves genotype-phenotype correlations in fragile X and the association of fragile X and autism. Her greatest interest is in targeted treatments for fragile X syndrome, autism and premutation medical problems including FXTAS.  Professor Randi Hagerman has written over 200 peer-reviewed articles and numerous book chapters on neurodevelopmental disorders.  She has written several books on fragile X including a 3rd Edition of Fragile X Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Research which was published in 2002 by Johns Hopkins University Press.

Abstract: The phenotype of Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is caused by the absence or deficiency of FMRP, an RNA binding protein that controls the translation of many messages important for synaptic plasticity throughout the lifespan. The absence of FMRP leads to up-regulation of numerous proteins including MMP9 and also over-activation of the mGluR5 pathway. Numerous targeted treatments have been tried in animal models of FXS and have reversed aspects of FXS. Currently several trials are underway in children and adults with FXS. These include minocycline which lowers MMP9 levels and down-regulates translation. Efficacy of minocycline has been demonstrated in open trials and the results of a controlled trial which was just completed will be presented. In addition a controlled trial of Arbaclofen, a GABA B agonist which lowers glutamate at the synapse, has been completed in children and adults with FXS with demonstrated efficacy for those with FXS and autism or social anxiety. Currently larger controlled trials are in progress in both FXS and in those with ASD. Two mGluR5 antagonists are currently being studied in FXS in controlled trials and there is evidence in the autism mouse model that these treatments will be helpful in autism without FXS. Lastly ganaxolone, a GABA A agonist is in a controlled crossover trial in FXS with evidence that this may also be helpful in autism. Although targeted treatments will change the long term prognosis of those with FXS and autism it is essential that optimal educational interventions take place in addition to medication trials to normalize synaptic connections and optimize cognitive and behavioral gains.


Hakon Hakonarson, M.D., Ph.D.   (USA) – Invited speaker
Center for Autism Research, The Joseph Stokes Jr. Research Institute, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, PA; Member of the ICare4Autism Advisory Council

Topic: Gene networks underlying autism targeted for therapeutic intervention

Bio: Dr. Hakon Hakonarson is an associate professor of Pediatrics at The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.  He is a physician-scientist and director of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Applied Genomics (CAG), a high-throughput highly automated genotyping facility founded to identify the genetic causes of complex medical disorders in children, such as autism and cancer, with the objective of developing new therapies. The Center represents a $40 million commitment from CHOP to genotype approximately 100,000 children a research undertaking that has gained nationwide attention, including news features in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Time Magazine, Nature and Science. Dr. Hakonarson has an extensive track record in human genetics and has developed an international reputation amongst his peers. He has served previously in several senior posts in the biopharmaceutical industry, including as the director of Inflammatory and Pharmacogenomics Research and the vice president of Clinical Sciences and Development and CSO. Dr. Hakonarson has also been the principal and co-principal investigator on several NIH-sponsored grants, and he has published numerous high-impact papers on genomic discoveries and their translations in some of the most prestigious scientific medical journals, including Nature, Nature Genetics and The New England Journal of Medicine. Time Magazine listed Dr. Hakonarson’s autism gene discovery reported in Nature, 2009, among the top 10 medical breakthroughs of that year. With over ten years of experience in pioneering genomics research and genome-wide mapping and association studies, Dr. Hakonarson has intimate knowledge of the complexities of large-scale genomics projects and has put together the necessary infrastructure and workflow processes to unravel these complexities.

Abstract: Autism is a complex heterogenous disorder that is strongly heritable.  While several variants have been associated with autism, they only explain a small fraction of the disease.  We compared genome-wide copy number variation in over 6,000 patients diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ADSs) to over 12,000 neurologically normal controls. The results demonstrate enriched CNV burden that most significantly impacts specific gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors and receptors within the metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluR) pathway impacting ~6% of patients with ASDs. Data will be presented in support of the role for both GABA and mGluR receptor activity in ASDs, with both pathways serving as attractive targets for therapeutic rescue in patients with ASDs that harbor these specific mutations. Therapeutic development plan will be presented targeting these important gene networks in the pathogenesis of autism.


Eli Hatchwell, M.D., Ph.D.  (UK, IS)
Chief Scientific Officer, Population Diagnostics UK, Inc.; Member of the ICare4Autism Advisory Council – Chair of the Genetics Sessions

Topic: Towards Explaining the Heritability of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Bio: Dr. Eli Hatchwell co-founded Population Diagnostics in 2006 and has engaged in genetic research for 20 years including as an Investigator at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and, most recently, an Associate Professor and Director of the Genomics Core Facility at SUNY at Stony Brook. He is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology at SUNY at Stony Brook. Dr. Hatchwell’s clinical and technical expertise in investigating human genetic disorders led him to recognize early on that human genetic diversity was grossly underestimated, there was a critical need to comprehensively understand the vast spectrum of normal genetic variation in the population and that rare variants are largely responsible for causing common disease – the underlying principles of the genetic biomarker discovery technology of Population Diagnostics. He is recognized as a key collaborator in the development of one of the first genome-wide BAC-based comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) microarray platforms and remains at the forefront of cytogenetic and genome analysis through the early adoption of leading edge technologies. Dr. Hatchwell collaborates with human genetics researchers worldwide, is a coauthor on numerous peer-reviewed articles, encompassing both clinical genetics and genome technologies, and was senior editor of a book series aimed at educating medical specialists on genetic principles and practices. He is also a certified Medical Geneticist (UK) with many years of experience in clinical practice. Dr. Hatchwell received his medical degree from the University of Cambridge, his DPhil in Molecular Genetics from the University of Oxford, and was a Wellcome Advanced Clinical Training Fellow. He also holds a degree in Mathematics from the Open University (UK).

Abstract: Despite the relatively high heritability of Autism Spectrum Disorders, only a small percentage of the heritability is currently explained on the basis of known genes. It is predicted that the number of relevant ASD genes will be very high (many hundreds). Population Diagnostics has implemented a general and powerful approach to the problem of ASD genetics and has uncovered a substantial number of novel and (likely) causal genes. The presentation will focus on the application of this methodology to the analysis of a large ASD cohort.


Mady Hornig, M.D.  (USA)
Director of Translational Research, Center for Infection and Immunity, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, USA

TopicInflammation, autoimmunity and autism

Bio: Mady Hornig, MA, MD is a physician-scientist in the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health where she serves as Director of Translational Research and is an associate professor of epidemiology. Her research focuses on the role of microbial, immune, and toxic stimuli in the development of neuropsychiatric conditions, including autism, PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infection), mood disorders and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. She is widely known both for establishing animal models that identify how genes and maturational factors interact with environmental agents to lead to brain disorders and for her work clarifying the role of viruses, intestinal microflora and xenobiotics in autism and other neuropsychiatric illnesses that may be mediated by immune mechanisms. Under her direction, proteomic analyses of umbilical cord samples are already identifying potential birth biomarkers for autism in a prospective study in Norway, the Autism Birth Cohort (ABC). She established that there was no association between intestinal measles virus transcripts and autism, and, with Brent Williams and W. Ian Lipkin at CII, has found altered expression of genes relating to carbohydrate metabolism and inflammatory pathways and differences in the bacteria harbored in the intestines of children with autism. She also leads projects examining the influence of immune molecules on brain development and function and their role in the genesis of schizophrenia, major depression, and cardiovascular disease comorbidity in adults, and directs the Chronic Fatigue initiative Pathogen Discovery and Pathogenesis Project at CII. Her work on the MIND (Microbiology and Immunology of Neuropsychiatric Disorders) Project, one of the largest studies of immune factors in mood disorders and schizophrenia, examines the role of viruses and immune responses in the pathogenesis of these disorders.

Abstract: Growing evidence suggests that the environment plays a role in the pathogenesis of autism. A diverse set of factors is implicated, ranging from toxicants and dysnutrition to microbes. For some environmental agents, exposure is a relatively rare phenomenon, but many environmental challenges proposed in the development of autism occur quite commonly. Explaining who gets sick, and when and why, is especially challenging when exposures are ubiquitous in a given population. To account for these variations in neurodevelopmental outcomes after exposure, we have proposed the “three strikes” hypothesis, wherein disease risk depends on the specific developmental age at which an environmental exposure occurs and on the intersection of this timed environmental exposure with genetic vulnerability factors. Inflammatory and autoimmune parameters may be persistently altered in a subset of individuals with autism as a result of exposure to infectious or immunotoxic agents from the environment, before or after birth, and the susceptibility of the individual to these environmental challenges due to unfortunate genetics, bad timing, or prior harmful exposures. A persistent elevation in the levels of certain immune molecules can, in turn, compromise the integrity of the normally protective blood-brain barrier, allowing both exogenous (infectious, xenobiotic) and endogenous (autoantibodies, cytokines) substances to invade the central nervous system from the blood. Immune molecules can also alter the microflora and healthy functioning of the gastrointestinal tract and other peripheral organs; immune-triggered dysfunction of the intestines and of certain endocrine organs can also have a negative impact on the maturation and function of the brain. We hypothesize that this susceptibility to abnormal immune responses is a consequence of the unfortunate convergence of genes, environment and timing – the “three strikes” – and that the subsequent dysregulation of brain-immune signaling is a critical component of the complex mechanisms leading to the development of autism and to the exacerbation of its clinical features. The evidence for immune dysregulation in autism and its potential role in the development and maintenance of the disorder will be presented.


Dov Inbar, M.D. (USA, IS)
Visiting Assistant Professor of Pediatrics. CERC. Albert Einstein School of Medicine. Yeshiva University, NY,  Senior Lecturer of Pediatrics. Sackler Faculty of Medicine. Tel Aviv University. Head, The Child Development Department. Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel

Topic: Time Trends in Reported Autistic Spectrum Disorders in Israel, 1972–2004

Bio: Dr. Dov Inbar is an internationally recognized expert in developmental disabilities including: mental retardation, autism, learning disabilities and intellectual problems, cerebral palsy, children at risk of neuro-developmental disabilities, spina bifida and more congenital CNS anomalies, genetic disorders like Fragile X, Williams, VCFS, Neurofibromatosis, Rett, Tuberous Sclerosis. Working 30 years as a Developmental Pediatrician as a  Pediatric Neurologist. Dr. Inbar is a graduate of two USA fellowship programs: 1985-86 in Child Development at Einstein, CERC, R.F. Kennedy Center, New York. 1996-97 in Chronic Illness Rehabilitation at CMH, Chicago, Illinois. Head of the Child Development and Rehabilitation Center of the Schneider Children’s Hospital, Israel, affiliated to Sackler Faculty of Medicine Tel Aviv University. Dr. Inbar is training medical and allied professionals in the care of children with special needs. During 2010-2012 he is on a partial sabbatical at Einstein, CERC, working on a genetic research project and a clinical work. Graduate 1976 Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University.

Abstract: Background: Studies from many countries have reported an increasing prevalence of autistic spectrum disorder in childhood. No comprehensive epidemiological studies of ASD have been performed in Israel.

Objectives: To describe time trends in the reported number of patients with ASD in Israel and to characterize the demographic features of the reported patients.

Methods: We reviewed the charts of the National Insurance Institute of Israel from 1972 to 2004 for all children with a diagnosis of ASD receiving disability benefits.

Results: A total of 3509 children met the study criteria. Eighty percent were boys and 98% were Jewish. The incidence data showed an increase in the number of cases from zero in 1982–84 and 2 (1.2 per million capita under 18 years) in 1985 to a high of 428 cases in 2004 (190 per million).

Conclusions: This is the first comprehensive study of the incidence of ASD in Israel. According to data derived from official health records, the rate of occurrence of ASD has substantially increased in the last 20 years. Further studies are needed to determine if this is a true increase or if the findings were confounded by external factors, such as recent improvements in diagnostic measures and social stigmas.

 


Yoav Kohn, M.D. (Israel)
Director, the Donald Cohen Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Department Jerusalem Mental Health Center Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine

Topic: Genetics: Detection and characterization of variations in Jewish Israeli autistic patients

Bio: Dr. Yoav Kohn is a board certified adult and child and adolescent psychiatrist. He is Senior Clinical Lecturer, Hadassah-Hebrew University School of Medicine and Director of the Donald Cohen Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Department at the Jerusalem Mental Health Center, Eitanim Psychiatric Hospital. This is an inpatient unit serving the whole of Israel for the admission of children and the district of Jerusalem for adolescents. The 30 bed ward has a staff of over a 100 individuals from the fields of psychiatry and allied professions.  It treats severely affected children and adolescents including ASD patients. In addition to his clinical duties, Dr. Kohn has been involved for the last 20 years in genetic studies of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism. He got his research training both at Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center (where he worked for 16 years prior to his current position) and during a 2 year fellowship at Prof. Rick Lifton’s lab, Genetics Department, Yale University School of Medicine.

Abstract: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a heterogeneous neurodevelopmental disorder with an estimated prevalence of 1:100. Evidence from twin studies strongly supports autism as being a genetic disorder. With concordance rates for monozygotic twins of 70–90%, and 10% for dizygotic twins, ASD is the most heritable of all neuropsychiatric disorders. Recent advances in array-based technology have increased the resolution of detecting submicroscopic deletions and duplications, referred to as copy-number variations (CNVs). CNVs are more common in individuals with ASD, and unique ASD associated CNVs have been repeatedly reported. In this study our objective was to identify unique ASD associated CNVs in the genetically homogenous Jewish-Israeli population. We performed a whole-genome copy number variation (CNV) study on 120 cases with autism from the Jewish-Israeli population and 7,767 controls using one million Single Nucleotides Polymorphisms (SNPs). Cases and controls were all genotyped on the Illumina Infinium 1M duo platform, and CNVs were called with PennCNV. A CNV segmentation algorithm was applied independently to deletions and duplications in order to define shared “core” CNV regions (CNVRs) to test for significance.


Henry Markram, Ph.D. (Switzerland)
Director, Blue Brain Project; Coordinator, Human Brain Project; Professor at Swiss Federal Institute for Technology (EPFL)

Topic: Prospects of using detailed brain simulations to explore possible causes and treatments of Autism

Bio: Henry Markram is a professor of neuroscience at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology (EPFL). He is the founder of the Brain Mind Institute, founder and director of the Blue Brain Project, founder and co-ordinator of the Human Brain Project and co-founder and president of Frontiers. His work began in medicine and continued in neuroscience where he focused on mechanisms of learning and on the microstructure of the brain. He discovered three of the most fundamental laws governing plasticity of synaptic connections, has characterized the blue prints of the microcircuitry of the neocortex, co-developed a new theory of how the brain computes as a constantly changing liquid, and co-developed the Intense World Theory of Autism. In the Blue Brain Project, Henry has begun the voyage to map out and simulate the human brain, cell for cell, synapse for synapse, molecule for molecule. He has published more than 100 papers and is one of the highest cited neuroscientists in the world in his age group. Henry is also considered one of the 300 most important drivers of change in Switzerland according to Bilan.


Kamila Markram, Ph.D.  (Switzerland) 
Neuroscientist of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland
Autism Project Director, Brain Mind Institute

Topic: Intense World Theory of Autism

Bio: Kamila Markram is the autism project director at the Laboratory of Neural Microcircuits, BMI, EPFL, Switzerland. Together with Henry Markram, she co-developed the “Intense World Theory of Autism” which proposes that many symptoms of autism may be secondary to exaggerated fear memories and an overly intense world.

Kamila graduated in psychology from the Technical University Berlin in 2003. She did her diploma thesis work at the Max-Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt under the supervision of Sergio Neuenschwander and Wolf Singer focusing on fast coherent responses to visual inputs as a function of prior synchronization states in the visual cortex. She obtained her PhD degree in Neuroscience at the Brain Mind Institute at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) in 2006 under the supervision of Carmen Sandi, where her work in the Laboratory of Behavioral Genetics was focused on molecular alterations involved in emotional learning and characterization of a rat model of autism. She then joined the Laboratory of Neural Ensemble Physiology at the BMI, EPFL as a post-doc with Miguel Nicolelis where she continued working on autism using parallel multi-electrode, multi-site recordings in a rat model to unravel the brain circuit alterations underlying autism.

Since 2008 she is the autism project director in the Laboratory of Neural Microcircuits, BMI, EPFL. This team studies autism in several rodent models using a spectrum of non-invasive and invasive approaches at the genetic, molecular, cellular, synaptic, local circuit, circuit, systems and behavioral level.

Abstract: Autism covers a wide spectrum of disorders for which there are many views, hypotheses and theories. The Intense World Theory aims to be a unifying neurobiological theory of autism. The proposed neuropathology is hyper-functioning of local neural microcircuits, best characterized by hyper-reactivity and hyper-plasticity. This implies that the autistic brain processes and stores too much information. The Intense World Theory proposes that the core cognitive consequences in any child on the autistic spectrum are hyper-perception, hyper-attention, hyper-memory, and hyper-emotionality. Hyper-capabilities are one positive aspect of such a brain, sensory overload, avoidance of stimulus-loaded situations and rapid lock-down into behavioral routines are the downside of it. The theory is centered on the neocortex and the amygdala, but could potentially be applied to all brain regions. This talk introduces the core concepts of the Intense World Theory and discusses supporting evidence from animal and human studies.


Gal Meiri, M.D. (Israel)
Head of Preschool Psychiatric Unit, Soroka University Medical Center, IS

Topic: “Which treatment should I choose for my child?” – Parent counseling and evidence based treatments for ASD

BioDr. Gal Meiri, MD is a psychiatrist specializing in children and adolescents. He is head of the Early Childhood Psychiatric Unit at the Soroka University Hospital in Beersheva, conducts research, and serves on the academic faculty of Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

Abstract: Immediately after receiving the diagnosis of child with ASD, parents are motivated and encouraged to start early and intensive treatment. Once meeting with professionals and trying to find information on the WEB, parents are puzzled and confused from a flooding of information and variety of treatment methods. Despite the existence of many treatments methods for ASD, research about evidenced based treatment for ASD is limited and lacks comparative studies. The current knowledge will be discussed with a special emphasis about the role of the professionals regarding parents counseling.

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Jose Humberto Nicolini-Sanchez, M.D., Ph.D. (Mexico)
Professor, Universidad de la Ciudad de Mexico & Director, Carraci Medical Group, Mexico, Member of the ICare4Autism Advisory Council

Topic: Genetic basis of compulsive behaviors in ASD

Bio: Dr. H. Nicolini’s main contribution during his postdoctoral training in UCLA was to describe a possible genetic basis for obsessive compulsive disorder.  In 1991 he returned to Mexico and started the first psychiatric molecular genetics research lab in Latin America where a group of researchers have been trained. During the next decades, his main lines of research were on the genetics of several conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, obesity, autism and pharmacogenetics. More recently, he moved to the Genomic Sciences Research Center of the Autonomous University of Mexico City (UACM) and started to collaborate with the PET Unit at the National University of Mexico (UNAM) using functional neuroimaging and genetics as research tools. In addition, he is responsible for mentoring research on resident physicians at the Fray Bernardino Álvarez Psychiatric Hospital (one of the largest Mental Health Hospitals in Latin America). His contributions in the field of genetics of mental health disorders led him to build a strong collaborative initiative with the National Institute of Genomic Medicine (INMEGEN). Dr. H. Nicolini has ongoing research collaborations with the South Texas Psychiatric Research Center (USA) and the Clarke Center for Addictions and Mental Health in Toronto (Canada). He has received research awards from the OCD Foundation (USA), Tourette Foundation (USA), The National Institute of Mental Health (USA), UNESCO (Spain), Miguel Alemán Foundation (Mexico), Mexico City’s Science and Technology Institute (ICYT-DF, Mexico), and the National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT, Mexico). He is a member of several scientific societies (NHSN-NIDA, former president of the Mexican Association of Medicine’s Molecular Biology, and current medical president of the Mexican Association for OCD). He also serves as part of the editorial boards in several journals.

Abstract: This lecture reviews the current state of research into the genetics of compulsive behaviors in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Heredity has a major role in ASD etiology. This evidence comes from several methodological approaches such as family, twin, and segregation analysis studies. A major single gene effect as well as a polygenic hypothesis has been suggested based on segregation studies. In addition, candidate gene association and linkage analyses have shown not only one gene, but a few interesting genes and areas of the genome that may be relevant in ASD. In this search for genes, new definitions of the ASD phenotype have emerged, and some of them may be considered intermediate phenotypes between the gene effect and ASD diagnosis. The phenotypic and genetic heterogeneity of ASD magnifies the challenge of locating susceptibility genes; at the same time, the identification of vulnerability genes will elucidate the identification of subtypes or dimensions of the spectrum disorders. Therefore research strategies that take advantage of clinical subtyping and that redefine the ASD phenotype in the context of genetic studies may potentially contribute to the nosology of ASD and ultimately pathophysiology. There is a lack of understanding about how genes and environment interact in ASD. However, there are some reports that will be discussed, which have attempted to evaluate how the environment contributes to ASD.

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Stefano Pallanti, M.D., Ph.D.  (Italy, USA)
Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Florence and at Mt Sinai School of Medicine, NY, Director of the Residency Program, Chair of the Consultation Psychiatry Unit at University of Florence, Italy, Member of the ICare4Autism Advisory Council

TopicrTMS in Autism Spectrum Disorders: Effects on Executive Functions and Affects Recognitions

BioDr. 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.

AbstractSeveral studies reported that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show abnormalities in the attention-orienting frontal event-related potentials (ERP) and the sustained-attention centroparietal ERPs in a visual oddball experiments. These results suggest that individuals with autism over-process information needed for the successful differentiation of target and novel stimuli. A recent study examine the effects of low-frequency, repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) on novelty processing in individuals with ASD. The study hypothesis was that low-frequency rTMS application to dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLFPC) would result in an alteration of the cortical excitatory/ inhibitory balance through the activation of inhibitory GABAergic double bouquet interneurons. The results of this study validate the use of low-frequency rTMS as a modulatory tool that altered the disrupted ratio of cortical excitation to inhibition in autism. In our center at the University of Florence we are testing the clinical and behavioral effects of rTMS on the right DLPFC in individuals with ASD. In particular we are testing the effects of this brain stimulation on executive functions and affect recognition.


Alexis L. Reyes, M.D. (Philippines)
Associate Professor, Developmental and Behavioral Studies Unit, Department of Pediatrics, Philippine General Hospital

Topic: Patterns and Outcomes in Autism- A 20 year Review of Filipino Children within the Spectrum

Bio: Dr. Alexis Socorro de Leon Reyes is an Associate Professor III in Pediatrics at the University of the Philippines, and the Section Head of Developmental Pediatrics at the Phillipine General Hospital. She also heads the Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo Developmental and Behavioral Studies Unit.  She is the Immediate Past President of the Philippine Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, and has completed numerous researches and international presentations on child health and autism.  She is currently working on two studies regarding autism, one based around the nutritional status of children with ASD, and the other on the prevalence of ASD in the Philippines.  She is the recipient of various awards and accreditation in the field of pediatrics, as well as in autism advocacy groups.

Abstract: Substantial variability has been reported in the outcome of autism spectrum disorders in developed countries with scarce to very minimal data generated from low income and poor resource countries like the Philippines where developmental disabilities like autism still remain to be a public health problem that is largely undetected and neglected (Reyes 2009). This primer describes an initial cohort of 81 Filipino individuals with autism identified in a private clinic over a 20 year period from diagnosis to current placement. It reviews patterns of early development, language trajectories and intervention strategies.  Mean age at the time of diagnosis was 3 years 7 months with age ranging from 13 to 30 years during their most recent follow-up. This was a predominantly male population 69 ( 85%) with only 12 (15%)  females. Early parental concerns centered on language delay during the second year of life.  Help offered after initial diagnosis were mostly speech and occupational therapy provisions with a minority given parental training for practical management skills. There was a range of educational provisions from special education programs to integration in regular schools with progressive educational programs. Current status included placement in vocational/ technical courses in college to a home based practical living skills program. Overall, outcomes were generally regarded as lacking and access dependent on available resources in the community.   It is clear that there is a growing need for greater awareness in transition planning and building necessary resources for individuals within the autistic spectrum as they approach adulthood if better quality of life is to be achieved.


Harry D. Schneider, Ph.D., M.D., P.C. (USA)
Visiting Associate Research Scientist Fellow, Program for Cognitive Sciences (P.I.C.S.) Columbia University Medical Center, NY, and at the Center for Medical & Brain Sciences, The Autism Family  International Foundation, USA

Topic: Minimally-verbal Children with Autism: The use of functional  MRI (FMRI) to demonstrate  dysfunctional language networks and Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (TDCS) to restore functional language in these children.

Bio: Dr. Harry D. Schneider is a medical physician-neuroscientist. He is an Associate Research Scientist at Columbia University’s Neuroimaging Program in New York.  Dr. Schneider also maintains his own practice of medicine and clinical neuroscience, with facilities at the Centers for Medical and Brain Sciences in Plainview, NY, Sellersburg IN, and soon Charlotte NC, where he sees patients with language impairment associated with brain-related diagnosis from all over the world. He has been invited to Switzerland and Brazil to establish autism research and treatment centers for those families with children diagnosed with autism that cannot make all the necessary trips to New York. He is considered by some to be at the forefront of achieving language restoration in minimally verbal children with autism, using novel language learning methods together with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS).  His research on dysfunctional brain areas and long-range connectivity using functional MRI and tractography were published in the journal Radiology in 2011 and recently in the journal Brain, where a new finding of how music can activate dysfunctional brain areas in the autistic brain may yield exceptional music therapies to restore language.  His research using tDCS to restore language in autism was recently published in the journal Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics and is the first, perhaps only peer-reviewed publication demonstrating the effect of brain stimulation on restoring grammar to ASD kids. He is also published in distinguished autism journals, autism books, has lectured worldwide, and has been on television, where his cutting-edge ‘out-of-the-box’ investigations into brain dysfunction and treatments were presented as new scientific discoveries and translational medicine:  turning research into office practice.  He is a graduate of the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, where he later received a Fellowship in Neuroscience and Neuroimaging. In addition to medicine and neuroscience of the brain, his academic background is strong in languages, linguistics, speech-language pathology and music theory.  He is preparing a book about ‘implicit learning’, his way of trying to ensure that this methodology is included in teaching language to children on the spectrum.

Abstract: The human brain may be the most extraordinary and complex creation in the universe -  We all seem to know we don’t know enough about it. In the new millennium  we can marvel at  incredible, textbook-like images of the brain using MRI. More recently, we can now peek into the workings of the human brain: what areas function  – or don’t function -  and how these areas are connected to each other. In this presentation, we will show you intriguing glimpses into the functioning autistic brain.  In one area of the brain, these images  appear very different from a  neurotypical child’s brain: the Perisylvian area which contains the neural circuitry for language. Having  reviewed these so many of these images with parents who wanted kearn more about they their kids couldn’t speak,  we felt compelled  to try to improve  the language dysfunction in their children; after many years of research, we finally can. Enter the world of cutting-edge technology of brain stimulation – transcranial magnetic or transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS). We chose to use TDCS for our children in natural clinical settings, using our FMRI data to guide our neuromodulation/stimulation of their language areas  with TDCS,  all in an effort to create neural plasticity, and 87% cul,inating in success.

This paper is about a new paradigm of diagnosis and treatment of minimally verbal children with autism. The diagnosis began with the functional neuroimaging of  brains of minimally verbal children.  You will be some of the first to see first  that language comprehension areas such as Wernicke’s Area  are functioning sub-optimally;  inadequate motor planning areas for speech that  give way to what speech pathologists call apraxia, and  a Broca’s speech area does not work at all for speech. Yet we have recently demonstrated that this very same dysfunctional speech area can activate for music; I have called this finding ‘nature’s gift to autism’, especially if we find a way to use this gift to get language.

Finally you will begin to appreciate with us the novel use of stimulating the brain with TDCS – while using  a novel, but fundamental  language input and a new music therapeutic interventions –  all of which together have proven necessary to restore a child’s language ability (and social interaction) that can be observed and clinically measured. This is a first in autism and may very well be part of the standard of care in any child who has a dysfunctional language machine.


Sagiv Shifman, Ph.D., (Israel)
Department of Genetics, The Life Sciences Institute, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Topic: Shared neuronal pathways affected by common and rare variants in autism spectrum disorders

Bio: Dr. Sagiv Shifman is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Genetics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.  He received his Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, training in the laboratory of Ariel Darvasi, where he was studying the genetics basis of schizophrenia. He then did his post-doctoral studies at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford, with Jonathan Flint studying the genetic basis of anxiety and depression. His current research focus is the genetics of autism.

Abstract: Recent studies into the genetics of Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have implicated both common and rare variants, including de-novo mutations, as risk factors for ASD. However, how much of the genetic risk can be attributed to rare versus common alleles is unknown. Furthermore, the genes already known to be disrupted by rare variants still account for only a small proportion of the cases due to their rarity in the affected population. This genetic heterogeneity constitutes a considerable obstacle to establishing a thorough understanding of the etiology of ASD. To shed new light into the respective involvement of common and rare variation in autism, we constructed a gene co-expression network based on a widespread survey of gene expression in the human brain. The constructed network included modules associated with specific cell types and processes. These include two neuronal modules that were found to be enriched for both rare and common variations that are potentially associated with ASD risk. The enrichment for common variations in these modules was validated in two independent cohorts. The modules showing the highest enrichment for rare and common variants in ASD included highly connected genes that are involved in synaptic and neuronal plasticity and that are expressed in areas associated with learning and memory and sensory perception. Additionally, we found that the level of expression of the most connected genes in this module increases in the brain during fetal development, with a peak during the first year of life. Taken together, these results suggest a common role for rare and common variations in autism, and illustrate how rare and de novo mutations, in conjunction with common variations, can act together to perturb key pathways involved in neuronal processes, and specifically neuronal plasticity. Furthermore, the modules found in this study may serve as starting points for designing potential therapeutic interventions for ASD.


Mike Snape, M.D. (UK)
Chief Scientific Officer Autism Therapeutics Ltd, Member of the ICare4Autism Advisory Council

Topic: NNZ-2566: Rationale for use in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Bio: Dr. Mike Snape received his BA with Honors at Oxford University, England and his PhD from London University after study at the Maudsley and Bethlem Hospital.  Mike presently holds an adjunct Professorship at CASE Western university.  He has 22 years of experience in pharmaceutical research and development and has managed relevant projects from pre-clinical through clinical stages of development. He is named as an inventor on 5 pharmaceutical patents including 3 new chemical entities and has published numerous abstracts in international scientific and medical journals. He previously worked in CNS R&D at AstraZeneca and also has extensive experience of research and development projects in the field of CNS disorders in a small life science company environment having been Principal Scientist at Cerebrus Ltd and Associate Director at Vernalis, and was a founder of Neuropharm.  Mike was part of the team that took Neuropharm through an IPO less than a year after first seed funding.  Mike is a founder of Autism Therapeutics Ltd.  Mike initiated one of the first industry sponsored clinical projects in autism in 1997, lead the first industry sponsored multi-center studies of a core symptom of autism, and some of the first industry sponsored studies in Fragile X Syndrome, and is presently advising on the first sponsor lead program in Rett Syndrome.  Mike also authored the first successful application for Fast Track Status for an autism program to be granted by the FDA.  Mike is parent to son with autism.

Abstract: Autism is a complex heterogeneous neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social interaction, communication and repetitive behaviors.  Biologically, autism appears in many cases to be a disorder of neuronal or synaptic connectivity, and potentially involves neuroinflammatory processes.  Syndromic disorders that cause the appearance of signs and symptoms of autism include Rett Syndrome and Fragile X Syndrome.  These disorders also involve problems with synaptic connectivity and neuronal plasticity.  Similarly, the pathogenesis of Rett Syndrome and Fragile X Syndrome may involve microglia and inflammatory cytokines.  Both neuronal connectivity and neuroinflammatory processes may involve the intracellular signaling pathway that encompasses the control elements PI3K-Akt-mToR.  NNZ-2566 is an analogue of the terminal tri-peptide of IGF-1.  IGF-1 is a naturally occurring growth factor that is involved with processes throughout the body including the CNS acting via the IGF-1 receptor.  IGF-1 is cleaved by endogenous peptidases, the product being the terminal tripeptide IGF-1[1-3], also known as GPE or Glypromate.  Glypromate and NNZ-2566 have a number of actions within the Central Nervous System that are relevant to autism spectrum disorders.  Both molecules act to reduce neuroinflammation.  These effects may be mediated by modulation of the PI3K-Akt-mToR pathway.  NNZ-2566 is an analogue of Glypromate that has enhanced oral availability and a pharmaceutical profile suitable for investigation in autism spectrum disorders.  Clinical studies are presently envisaged.


Helen Tager-Flusberg, Ph.D.  (USA) – Invited speaker
Professor, Department of Psychology, Departments of Anatomy & Neurobiology and Pediatrics at Boston Univ School of Medicine, President, International Society for Autism Research (INSAR)

Topic: The Developmental Origins of Language and Communication in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Bio: Dr. Helen Tager-Flusberg received her Bachelors in Science in Psychology from University College London, and her doctorate from Harvard University. From 1978 through 2001 she was a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts –Boston.  From 1996 – 2001 she also held the position of Senior Scientist at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center/UMass Medical Center.  Since 2001 Dr. Tager-Flusberg has been at Boston University in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology and Pediatrics at the School of Medicine and now as Professor of Psychology at Boston University, where she is the Director of the Developmental Science Program.  Dr. Tager-Flusberg has conducted research on autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders (including Williams syndrome, Down syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, 16p, and Specific Language Impairment) for over 35 years, investigating developmental changes in language and social cognition in these populations using behavioral and brain imaging methodologies.  Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and private foundations, including Autism Speaks, The Simons Foundation, the Autism Consortium, the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation and March of Dimes. She has edited four books and written over 150 journal articles and book chapters.  Dr. Tager-Flusberg is currently the President of the International Society for Autism Research, and serves on the editorial board of several professional journals and is Associate Editor of the Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders.  She has presented her research at many professional conferences, parent advocacy groups, and training institutes. 

Abstract: Language and communicative impairments are among the core deficits that define ASD, yet there is significant heterogeneity in the range of language phenotypes.  Several studies have been conducted with toddlers diagnosed with ASD to identify factors that predict later language outcomes:  the most significant predictors include gestural communication, nonverbal cognition, and social intentional behavior (e.g., imitation or joint attention).  Few studies have focused on the origins of language prior to the emergence of autism symptoms.  In this talk I will present findings from an ongoing study of infants at high risk for ASD, identified on the basis on an older sibling with the disorder.  Data from early measures of precursors and emerging language, mother-child interactions, eye-tracking and neurophysiological measures will be presented.  Difference between high risk infants and low risk controls are seen across different measures, but these are not all predictive of later ASD or language impairment outcomes.  Discussion will focus on the use of neurocognitive language measures as endophenotypes for ASD and as risk markers for this population.

Click here to download full autism presentation PDF (207)


Nava Zisapel, Ph.D. (Israel)
Professor, Department of Neurobiology, Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, and Founder of Neurim Pharmaceuticals

Topic: Melatonin in the management of sleep in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD)

Bio: Dr. Nava Zisapel is a full professor at Tel Aviv University with main expertise in brain research. Her main research interest is biological clocks and melatonin and how they affect information transmission and processing in the brain. She is the principal author of over 190 peer-reviewed  papers  published in international scientific  journals and principal inventor of more than 60 patents granted and several more pending all over the world.  Nava Zisapel is the incumbent of The Michael Gluck Chair of Neuropharmacology and ALS research and was previously the head of the Adams Super Center for Brain studies and the Edersheim – Levie – Gitter Institute for Functional Human Brain mapping at Tel Aviv University.  She currently serves as a member of Tel Aviv University Executive Committee (since 2009).   In addition, professor Zisapel founded Neurim Pharmaceuticals Ltd in December 1991 and serves as its Chief Science Officer. Neurim Pharmaceuticals Ltd is a drug discovery and development company focusing mainly on creating innovative, safe and effective therapeutics, intended for unmet medical needs, in the central nervous system (CNS). The first outcome of Neurim Pharmaceuticals’ research is the development of Circadin®, the first and only melatonin based innovative drug. Circadin is currently approved in over 40 countries for the treatment of insomnia in patients aged 55 and older.

Abstract: Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) is a neurohormone produced by the pineal gland during the dark hours of the day-night cycle. Melatonin serves as a signal of darkness to time the circadian clock and has a major role in inhibiting the wake promoting signal of the clock for induction of sleep in humans. Deficiency in melatonin such as that which occurs with aging and prevails in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) deprives the brain of an important sleep regulator thus increasing risk of insomnia. Melatonin replacement therapy may be useful to replenish the deficiency in normal melatonin rhythms and provide better sleep in such cases.

A prolonged release formulation of melatonin (Circadin®) is licensed for short term treatment (up to 13 weeks) of primary insomnia characterized by poor quality sleep in patients aged 55 years or over. This preparation has not been evaluated in children and its use in this age group is off-label.   Although somewhat limited by trial size, heterogeneity and specificity, exploratory studies and clinical observations support the use of melatonin for sleep in ASD. These studies show that it has beneficial effects in measures of sleep onset and duration, with prolonged release formulations showing a greater benefit than immediate release formulations in improving sleep maintenance. Further clinical research is thus warranted.


Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, M.D.  (Canada) – Invited speaker
Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation, Endowed Chair in Autism Research; Developmental Pediatrician and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta, Canada, Member of the ICare4Autism Advisory Council

Topic: Advances in Early Detection and Diagnosis of Autism

Bio: Dr. Lonnie Zwaigenbaum completed his pediatric training at Queen’s University, and his clinical fellowship in developmental pediatrics at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. He completed a research fellowship and Masters degree in Health Research Methodology at McMaster University. Dr. Zwaigenbaum’s research focuses on early behavioral and biological markers, and early developmental trajectories in children with autism and related disorders. He currently holds an Alberta Heritage Foundation for Health Research (AHFMR) Health Scholar and the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation Chair in Autism Research. Dr. Zwaigenbaum is currently Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the U of A, and the co-director of the Autism Research Centre based at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital. He is also the Vice-President of the International Society for Autism Research.

Abstract: Prospective studies of high-risk infants have provided a new window into early development in autism spectrum disorders (ASD), yielding new insights into early behavioural markers, developmental trajectories (including regression), and the interface between ASD and the broader autism phenotype. This presentation will review progress in ‘baby siblings’ research in ASD worldwide, with special reference to the Canadian Infant Sibling Study, which currently includes over 400 high-risk and 150 low-risk participants. Findings that will be highlighted include 1) behavioral markers indexing risk of ASD between 6 and 18 months; 2) variation in early trajectories of ASD symptoms and cognitive/language function and relationships with clinical outcomes at age 3 years; and 3) variables influencing timing of diagnosis and stability of diagnostic classification. Implications for the development of clinical service models aimed at early detection and diagnosis of children across the autism spectrum will be discussed.


Education-Behavioral Research and Practice

S. Mariam Aljunied, Ph.D.  (Singapore, UK) – Invited speaker
Principal Specialist, Education Psychology, Ministry of Education, Singapore

Topic: Right-sitting children with autism: A global search for the ‘right’ solution

Bio: Dr. Mariam Aljunied received her training as an Educational Psychologist in London, UK in 1994. She is the Principal Specialist for Educational Psychology in Ministry of Education in Singapore, and is a Chartered Educational Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. Dr. Aljunied has made significant contributions to raising the quality of education on a national level for students with special needs in Singapore. Her diverse research work encompasses the development of effective strategies for the assessment and support of students with learning differences, including students with autism and dyslexia. With over 15 years of extensive experience working with mainstream schools in Singapore, Dr Mariam Aljunied has been instrumental in providing diagnosis and advice as well as implementing professional development for practitioners and teachers in the area of special needs. She has also contributed to several local and international publications on the subject of learning differences and autism, and has been a long-standing collaborator with and valued partner of Autism Resource Centre (Singapore). Dr Aljunied has recently completed a research attachment at the University of North Carolina (USA) as a Fulbright Scholar.

Abstract: This presentation discusses the resurgence of the debate about the appropriateness of mainstream schools for children with autism, highlighting the views that have been put forward by the proponents of either mainstream or special school placements. The assumptions and claims underpinning the inclusion debate will be reviewed, highlighting the need for a more balanced, evidence-based approach towards the issue. Findings from local and international studies on the factors influencing successful inclusion of children with autism will be shared. Drawing from examples from Singapore, Japan, UK and Australia, the case is made for the need to re-focus the attention on developing opportunities for purposeful and appropriate inclusion of children with autism, rather than a simplistic debate about whether a child should be in mainstream or special school setting.


Sami Basha, Ph.D.  (Palestine Authority) – Invited speaker
President Assistant for Quality and scientific research, Prof. Of Special and inclusive Education Palestine Ahliya University, Bethlehem / Palestine Authority

Topic:  New Prospectives in Utilizing: Basha Behavioral Autism Spectrum Disorder Screening Test (BAT)

Bio: Dr. Sami Basha is the president assistant for quality and scientific research and director of the special education center at Palestine Ahliya University College in Bethlehem., as well as a Professor of Pedagogy and special education and pedagogical consultant on local and international institutions. He has taught at Berzeit, Hebron and Bethlehem Universities and pedagogical consultant on local and international institutions. His main research interests include: intercultural studies and minorities, special and inclusive education. Dr. Basha was born in the town of Jenin, Palestine, and completed his master’s and doctoral degrees in the faculty of Sciences of Education at the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome, Italy. He is a member of the professional Board for Clinical Pedagogy and special education union in Italy since 2006. He has different national and international publications, among which the “Basha Behavioral Autism spectrum Disorder Screening test (BAT)©, which he has developed and published in different languages after 3 years of work.  He was main project director of a grant addressing special needs education with the AMIDEAST, through which he has developed the first academic program in net work of university professors who met to rethink how academia can better address the education of special needs persons. A Focus of his work brought to the development of the very first Ma Academic program in special education where currently, there is no special education degree program in Palestine. He was also given the AMIDEAST teaching excellence awards for 2011.  One of his recent important academic publications is the “Parents Teachers and Professionals Working Together for All Inclusive Policy, EDUCatt, Milano 2011. He was a member in the National Teacher Education Strategy in Palestine 2006-2007. He is a member of the SIPeS, the Italian association for special education.

Abstract: The research I have conducted is a pilot study which introduces a diagnostic instrument available for the first time in the PT (Palestinian territories).  My research aims to build a screening test that can be used as a reference tool in future programs or pedagogical intervention for kids with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).  This research is significant because it has already been assessed and evaluated by 16 university professors who have offered their support for the development of BAT for use in diagnoses of the behavioral syndrome of autism in the PT.  There were 180 student participants in the study, who were selected by a random sample and included residents of the north, center, and south PT.  Furthermore, after having constructed the diagnostic tool and measuring its efficiency, we have concluded that the length of the behavioral diagnosis process helped supervisors and educators learn more about the specifications of each autistic child which then allowed them to build an individualized written therapy and pedagogical intervention for each patient. This is especially important and useful because of the known fact that children suffering from autism do not present the same symptoms, nor do they react identically to stimuli, a reality that has contributed to difficult or inaccurate diagnoses in many cases in the past.

We have also found that the Basha tool is able to diagnose autistic children, and distinguish them from non-autistic children, by giving reference to the severity of the disorder, and the aspects that require attention in the individual’s follow-up plan.


Nirit Bauminger-Zviely, Ph.D., Dana Shoham Kugelmass, Ph.D., Yael Kimhi, Ph.D., and Galit Agam Ben Artzi, Ph.D. (Israel)

Dr. Nirit Bauminger-Zviely, Professor, Head, Graduate Program in Special Education, Specializing inASD School of Education; and Drs Dana Shoham Kugelmass, Yael Kimhi, Galit Agam Ben Artzi, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel

Topics:

Symposium – Social functioning in preschoolers with HFASD: New findings and intervention implication

Dr. Dana Shoham Kugelmass topic: Mother-Stranger comparison of social attention in Jealousy context and attachment in HFASD

Dr. Yael Kimhi topic: Collaborative problem solving, theory of mind and executive function in HFASD

Dr. Nirit Bauminger-Zviely topic: Young friendship in HFASD: Friend non-friend comparisons

Bio: Dr. Nirit Bauminger-Zviely is an Associate Professor at the School of Education, Bar – Ilan University.  She serves as the Head of the Graduate Program in special education specializing in ASD. She received her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at UCLA – Los Angeles, California in 1996. Prof. Bauminger’s research focuses on social-emotional development of children with ASD and on the design of relevant interventions that promote social cognitive processes, social relationships and peer interaction. In the past 14 years she has been at the forefront of basic and applied research on the social-emotional development of higher functioning children affected by autism. In this regard her research on developments of peer interactions, friendships, emotional understanding and expressiveness, as well as affective and cognitive correlates of social relationships and interaction in children with ASD, has been groundbreaking. She has also pioneered new and effective methods of cognitive behavioral treatments, including multimodal individual and group social-cognitive behavioral treatments for school age children ASD.

Bio: Dr. Dana Shoham Kugelmass

Bio: Dr. Yael Kimhi has extensive experience in educational work with children with ASD. She is a special education inspector at the Israeli Ministry of Education. She also serves as a referent inspector for ASD in the Central district of Israel. In the past decade she has worked as a counselor in schools, classes and kindergartens for ASD pupils, leading both segregated and inclusive models.  Prior to her position as inspector, she was the leading national ASD counselor in Israel.  As such, she has sat at various committees in the Ministry of Education concerning ASD needs.  She received her Ph.D. in Special Education at the Bar – Ilan University School of Education with honors. She teaches the cognitive academic practicum at the Graduate program in Special Education, specializing in ASD.  Her main field of interest is the academic and cognitive development in ASD and HFASD.

Symposium – Social functioning in preschoolers with HFASD: New findings and intervention implication

Dr. Dana Shoham Kugelmass: Mother-Stranger comparison of social attention in Jealousy context and attachment in HFASD

Affective bonding, social attention, and intersubjective capabilities are all conditions for jealousy, and are deficient in autism. Thus, examining jealousy and attachment may elucidate the socioemotional deficit in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Jealousy was provoked in 30 high-functioning children with ASD (HFASD) and 30 typical children (ages 3-6 years) through two triadic social (storybook-reading) scenarios – mother-child-rival and stranger-child-rival. A control nonsocial scenario included mother/stranger-book. For both groups, higher jealousy expressions emerged for mother than stranger, and for social than nonsocial scenarios. Attachment security (using Attachment Q-Set) was lower for HFASD than typical groups, but attachment correlated negatively with jealous verbalizations for both groups and with jealous eye gazes for HFASD. Implications for understanding jealousy’s developmental complexity and the socioemotional deficit in ASD are discussed.

Prof. Nirit Bauminger-Zviely: Young friendship in HFASD: Friend non-friend comparisons

Stable friendships that are based on mutual affection and provide emotional support have been well documented for typically developing preschoolers. Also, interactions with friends reveal greater social complexity than interactions with acquaintances. We know very little about peer relations and friendship in young children with ASD. Likewise, friendship development is a neglected aim in early interventions. In this presentation, current knowledge on peer relations in preschoolers with ASD will be reviewed, and innovative data on friendship evolvement and characteristics in this population will be presented, based on semi-structured and spontaneous observations of children’s interactions with a friend versus non-friend partner, as well as based on parents’ and teacher’s reports. Research gaps and new research trends will be discussed.

Dr. Yael Kimhi topic: Collaborative problem solving, theory of mind and executive function in HFASD

Collaborative problem solving (CPS) in TYP is essential for social development; CPS requires children to share goals, attention, and to coordinate actions, which are deficient in HFASD. In TYP, CPS with a friend is considered to be more effective than with a non friend. Studies comparing CPS between friend / non friend dyads in preschool do not yet exist, neither in TYP or HFASD dyads. This study is aimed to examine group differences (TYP/HFASD) in CPS when solving the problem with a friend / non-friend; in ToM and EF, as well as the associations between CPS and CA, VMA, VNMA, ToM, and EF. Study participants included 177 preschoolers: 29 with HFASD and 30 with TYP and their 59 friends and 59 non-friends. CPS task was to place pairs of blocks that would balance a scale. CPS was measured thorough observation and ToM tasks and EF tasks were also implemented. Main results demonstrated that HFASD solved the problem slower; showed more irrelevant behaviors, shared and coordinated their actions through gestures less than TYP. Like TYP, they were more responsive, and had more fun working with friends versus non-friends. Both groups demonstrated spontaneous learning, when solving the problem more efficiently in the second experience. ToM and EF were lower in the HFASD group, and overall were linked to various measures in CPS.

Concluding talk: Integrative summary on social functioning in preschoolers with HFASD will be provided by Prof. Nirit Bauminger-Zviely.


Josefa Ben-Arieh, Ph.D. (USA, Israel)
Autism Specialist at Seaman School District, Topeka, Kansas

Topic: The Educator’s Guide to Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Bio: Dr. Josefa Ben-Arieh is currently an Autism Specialist at Seaman School District in Topeka, Kansas.  She received her M.S.Ed. and Ph.D. form The University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, specializing in Special Education with emphasis in Autism.  She received her teaching certification in 2000 from Haifa University in High School English.  She is the author of numerous chapters, and three books on Autism Spectrum Disorders, and has presented at national and international conferences in the past.

Abstract: This presentation covers the latest up-to-date framework for understanding autism.  It covers the main components of organizing a classroom for a student with autism: the environment, visual strategies and tools, space and time, curriculum resources to use, as well as specific strategies for teaching new skills, for promoting independence and strategies that facilitate integration in the general education curriculum. The presentation will also provide step-by-step instructions along with short video clips featuring based practice and research based strategies.


Robert Didden, Ph.D.  (Netherlands)
Professor at Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Topic: Effectiveness of low intensity behavioral treatment (ABA) in young children with ASD and intellectual disability: Results of a Dutch RCT study and variables predicting treatment success

Topic:  Recent Findings on Sleep Problems in Children with ASD

Bio: Dr. Robert Didden is professor of ‘Intellectual Disabilities, Learning and Behaviour’ at the Behavioural Science Institute of the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen. He also is a psychologist affiliated with Trajectum, a center for the treatment of behavioural and psychiatric disorders in individuals with mild to borderline intellectual disability. His research and clinical interests include assessment and treatment of psychopathology in individuals with severe or mild intellectual disabilities and training of adaptive skills in individuals with autism spectrum disorders. He is an associate editor of the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills, and serves on the editorial board of Research in Developmental Disabilities, Developmental Neurorehabilitation, Journal of Mental Health Research in Intellectual Disability and Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities. He has published over 200 chapters and articles and more than 15 books (in Dutch and English language).

Abstract: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has contributed significantly to the literature on improving functioning and well-being of children with autism spectrum disorder and/or intellectual disability. Especially early intervention using ABA procedures has been studied intensively during the last 10 years. Excitement and controversy have surrounded the effectiveness of Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) for young children with autism. We have conducted a meta-analysis on the effectiveness of early intervention in young children with ASD and which shows that ABA is effective in improving functioning in key developmental areas of children with ASD. EIBI may be distinguished from low intensity behavioral intervention (LIBI). In the Netherlands, we have conducted a RCT study on the effectiveness of LIBI in 20 children with ASD/ID who received 4-10 hours of LIBI per week and who were compared to a control group receiving treatment as usual. After 2 years of treatment, the treatment group outperformed the control group on important developmental variables. Several variables predicted favorable treatment outcome. Most parents were positive about the treatment but many report barriers in implementing and funding the program. A cost-benefit analysis shows that early intensive treatment may result in long-term savings in the care for individuals with ASD.

Abstract: Sleep problems are common in children with ASD. Research has shown that there are a number of risk factors for developing sleep problems. A summary will be given on outcomes of research on prevalence of and risk factors for sleep problems in children with ASD and developmental disabilities. Next to this, results of a review will be presented on the effectiveness of behavioral interventions and melatonin in the treatment of sleep problems in children with ASD. Special attention will be given to the use of melatonin in clinical practice.

Click here to download full autism presentation PDF (202)


Beth Diviney, Ph.D., BCBA (USA)
Behavior Consultant at learning centers and medical clinics, member of the ICare4Autism Advisory Council

Topic: Integrating Behavioral and Medical Care: A collaborative healthcare approach for people with ASD and their families

Bio: Dr. Beth Diviney is a behavior analyst who consults in health care clinics, early intervention centers, schools, homes and other community based programs throughout the New York tri-state area in the USA.

Dr. Diviney’s research and practice focus is on the health and well-being of families, learning, autism, and the integration of behavior analysis with parenting, education, and medical and dental healthcare.  Dr. Diviney received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from SUNY at Stony Brook where, under the supervision of Dr. Ted Carr and his graduate students, she discovered the field of Applied Behavior Analysis.  She earned her M.A. in Experimental Psychology at L.I.U., and Ph.D. in Applied Psychology at New York University. Dr. Diviney is a Nationally Board Certified Behavior Analyst and an elected Past President of the NYS Association for Behavior Analysis. She is a cofounder of the Premier HealthCare Training Institute, serves on the ICare4Autism Advisory Council, and presents at nationally and internationally held professional conferences.

Abstract: In theory an integrated approach to health care while serving people with autism, and other related disorders, ought to enable a trans- disciplinary team of providers to offer coherent care, in practice this is not always an easy task to accomplish.  An example of a collaborative integrated approach to treatment – A program that has been designed to foster dialogue between diverse disciplines and promote the development of an integrated health care model for creating and implementing interventions, based on evidence-based practices, to effectively serve people with ASD and their families will be described.  Case studies will be shown to highlight the teamwork involved, as well as how to facilitate successful outcomes while at home and in healthcare settings.


Eitan Eldar, Ph.D., BCBA-D  (Israel) – Invited speaker
Chairman of the Israeli Association of Applied Behavior Analysis, Head, the Applied Behavior Analysis Program, Kibbutzim College, Member of the ICare4Autism Advisory Council

Topic: “little secrets and the fallacies” of ABA in treating Autism

Topic: Using Physical Activity and Game to Enhance Learning, Social Skills and Self-Control with Autistic and Typical Populations

Bio: Dr. Eitan Eldar is currently the Head of the Applied Behavior Analysis program at the Kibbutzim College – Israel, and serves as the chairman of the Israeli Applied Behavior Analysis Association.  Dr. Eldar published books and papers in the area of Teacher Education and Applied Behavior Analysis. Developed the model – “Educating through the Physical”, integrating physical activity and games as a context for value education and behavioral rehabilitation. A workshop presenting this model designed specifically for Autistic children has been presented in ABAI world conferences. Dr. Eldar supervises programs in the area of inclusion of Autistic children into the education system, communication improvement, and value education at home and at school and dealing with challenging behaviors at these settings. Dr. Eldar studied the individual inclusion of Autistic children in the regular education system and formulated the inclusion model (recent references enclosed). He also developed a comprehensive clinical program for Wucailu – an organization for supporting children with ASD – based in Beijing, China. During the last 7 years, 3 centers have been established in Beijing – all provide services to families arriving from all over China.

Abstract for little secrets and the fallacies” of ABA in treating Autism:

Direct instruction is considered to be an effective strategy for supporting the development of appropriate behavior, speech / communication and other forms of discrimination and knowledge acquisition among individual students and groups. Some applications such as Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT) and classroom management strategies require a stringent adherence to technical guidelines. While keeping procedural integrity is essential it may result in missing critical clinicians’ subtleties to “hidden students’ precursors” throughout the learning process. DTT/Direct Instruction and ABA are mistakenly perceived as synonymous by some professionals and parents. Nevertheless, it is suggested that clinicians will base their programs on behavioral philosophy and use their ABA knowledge to implement direct instruction effectively. Discriminations and instructional skills that are beyond the technical protocols will be demonstrated in this presentation. Such skills may be taught as part of ABA preparation courses and supported by advisors and supervisors during in-service. Examples of experiences contributing to the development of fine stimulus control in teaching academic skills will be provided. Data indicating effectiveness differences between trained/effective and untrained/ineffective teachers will be shared. 

Abstract for Using Physical Activity and Game to Enhance Learning, Social Skills and Self-Control with Autistic and Typical Populations:

The presented model emphasizes the uniqueness of movement and game as an ideal context enabling teachers and clinicians to design a challenging learning atmosphere for their students.

The model is based on a series of scripts offering a simulation of real life situations. It can support a specific clinical goal such as developing self-control; support a school curriculum; serve as an extended behavioral program for individuals / groups. The model has recently been implemented with Autistic children, supporting communication and social skills on an individual level and as a preparation for inclusion.

The rationale behind developing the model will be discussed and specific behavioral procedures and principles supporting the model will be cited. In addition, the structure of the model will be described, followed by different examples of its optional implementation. Components of the model, modified during the past 18 years, will then be portrayed. The presentation will conclude with recommendations and examples for utilizing the model in a variety of educational and clinical settings applicable to various populations. Attention will be devoted to the potential of using these procedures as a part of an individual program for ASD populations and for supporting their inclusion in the regular education system.


Elaine Hall and Diane Isaacs (USA)

Topic: Seven Keys to Unlock Autism

Bio: Elaine Hall “CoachE”, a former Hollywood Acting Coach, created The Miracle Project, a theater and film social skills program and subject of the Emmy Award documentary Autism:The Musical.  Elaine also created a Bar/Bat Mitzvah and religious education Program for children/teens with autism.  She has appeared on CNN, CBS News, Oprah Radio and in The LA Times, New York Times and Wall Street Journal.  Honored by Autism Society of Los Angeles, Etta Israel, Autism Speaks, Holly Robinson Peete, and Special Needs Network, Hall also serves on the Senate Select Task Force on Autism.  Elaine is a keynote speaker and workshop trainer and has spoken at the United Nations. She is the author of Now I See the Moon: a mother, a son, a miracle and co-author with Diane Isaacs of Seven Keys to Unlock Autism: Creating Miracles in the Classroom.

Bio: Dianne Isaacs is a Film & Television Producer with over 20 years of industry experience. As President of Green Moon Productions, a film company she co-founded with Antonio Banderas, Diane produced the Emmy-nominated HBO historical drama “And Starring Pancho Villa As Himself,” “Imagining Argentina,” with Academy-Award winner Emma Thompson, and Antonio Banderas directorial debut in “Crazy In Alabama,” among many others.

Diane was first introduced to Elaine when her son Wyatt became a part of The Miracle Project’s 2nd production. Her experience in content development, writing, production, music, film, marketing and overall producing was a perfect fit to fulfill The Miracle Project’s diverse platforms. Diane is proud to have produced the benefit album FLY: INTO AUTISM bringing together the celebrity talents of Chaka Kahn, Jack Black, Stephen Stills, and Holly Robinson Peete, to name a few along with the magical talents of children with autism.

She also produced, directed and edited the 7 DVD series UNLOCKING THE WORLD OF AUTISM 7 KEYS TO BECOMING MIRACLE MINDED, a practical program directed at the medical and dental professional. She is the co-author of “7 KEYS TO UNLOCK AUTISM” for classroom teachers and parents and will produce and direct the DVD series of the same name.

Abstract: Seven Keys to Unlock Autism offers educators, parents, and other caregivers specific and actionable techniques to reach “seemingly unreachable” children on the autism spectrum and effectively build productive and joyful relationships with students.  The Seven Keys protocol focuses on personal development first, before approaching the child, offering a personal tool kit to better understand and access this unique and diverse population.  Seven Keys is based on the core principals of The Miracle Project, which is a transformational socialization program that enables those with autism to express themselves through various arts.  The conference presentation will guide participants through a serious of exercises to exhibit the autism experience from a unique perspective. Co-Authors Elaine Hall and Diane Isaacs have encapsulated the core protocols of The Miracle Project in their SEVEN KEYS TO UNLOCK AUTISM training to unlock and empower educators, the medical community, therapists, caregivers, the child’s most influential teachers- parents, and ultimately, the child, teen and young adult living with autism.


Inbar Konforti, BCABA  (Israel)
Founder and Director, Refael Center

Topic: ABA The Human Challenge, About Parents, Therapists, and What lies in-between

Bio: Inbar Konforti is the founder and director of the Refael Center (www.merkaz-refael.co.il) -the National Guidance Center to train behavioral therapists in ABA.  She is a certified behavior analyst (BCABA) with 12 years’ experience working with children with autism and delayed development. A graduate of the University of Tel Aviv for certification studies in Applied Behavioral Analysis. BA (Honors) in Special Education from Bar Ilan University. Lecturer on ABA at various locations in Israel, instructor of the Home-Based Program, and programs designed to integrate children with autism and delayed development into schools and kindergartens.

Abstract: One of the most challenging, sensitive and complex treatment modes when working with children on the autistic spectrum is the home intervention program. This is a behavioral approach which takes place in the home of the child with special needs (the program is also known as: “ABA Home-Based Program Approach”.

The daily encounters and friction between the staff of therapists and the families of children with special needs (and sometimes also with the extended family) are often obscured within the obligations of rather complicated professional and mental challenges. The family of the special needs child -on whom a tremendous financial burden has been added to the emotional burden that they tend to bear -loss of privacy; they find themselves exposed, against their will, to the team of therapists. Often there are sensitive situations which cannot be hidden, and sometimes the family encounters open or latent criticism. The therapists also find themselves privy to the difficult emotional situation of the family members; crises in the relationships between the child’s parents; and complicated ethical problems -all of which occurs while they are supposed to be providing professional and appropriate treatment for the child with whom they are working.

How should the parents and family members be supported and involved in the treatment process?  What are the difficulties experienced by the parents of children with special needs during such complex treatment? What are the difficulties experienced by the therapists?  How it is possible to optimize the effectiveness in applying such a home based program?


Anne M. Mungai, Ph.D. (USA)
Associate Professor and Chair of Curriculum and Instruction Department, Director of Special Education graduate Program, Adelphi University

Topic: A Cultural Comparison of how families in Africa and United States consider their children with Autism

Bio: Dr. Anne M. Mungai is an Associate Professor and the Chair of the Curriculum and Instruction Department at Adelphi University Ruth S. Ammon, School of Education. She is also the director of the Special Education program.  Dr. Mungai has served as a consultant to several schools that have started inclusion and has provided service to schools as a professional developer and field researcher in the areas of cognition, and classroom instruction with racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse populations. Her research agenda over the last several years has revolved around the concept of multicultural issues, inclusion issues, staff development, gender issues and learning.  She has published articles on Multicultural Education and issues of Inclusion. She is the author of the book “Growing up in Kenya Rural Schooling and Girls” by Peter Lang publishers She is the co-editor of the books “Ubuntu: Stories of Teaching and Learning” by Sense Publishers and “Pathway to Inclusion: Voices from the Field” by University Press of America.

Abstract: Muthoni was the last born in this family of seven children but she was different from all her siblings. Growing up she had no speech and would do strange things that her parents, siblings and neighbors could not understand. She stared into space or looked at her hand for a long time. She would rock on a chair and would not hug her mother. Why does she arch her back and scream when I try to hold her?  Her parents would wonder. They were at a loss and no one had an answer.

Until about two decades ago, autism spectrum disorder was thought to be exclusively an illness peculiar to Western civilization as there was no research being done in Africa on the issue. Recently some aspects of autism spectrum disorders in Africa over the period of 2000 to 2009 were recently documented in a review by Bakare and Munir, (2011).  In this session I will compare similarities and differences in how families in Africa and United States consider their children with autism. How do they support their education?  What are their thoughts, hopes, fears, etc, for the future?  How do different cultures consider the Autism Spectrum?

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James W. Partington, PhD, BCBA-D  (USA) – Invited speaker
Director of Behavior Analysts, Inc., and author of the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills-Revised (ABLLS®-R)

Topic: Pre-Conference Workshop: Developing Language and Functional Skills for Children with Autism at Home, in School, and in the Community

Abstract: Specific techniques used to develop effective programs in both the home and school settings will be presented for individuals at both the early learner and more advanced student levels.

In order to facilitate the rapid acquisition of critical language and learning skills, it is important that both the selection of specific learning objectives and the teaching activities be prioritized. Intervention strategies should focus on the skills that make it possible for the learner to acquire a broad range of skills from a variety of skill repertoires and be able to use functional skills during their everyday activities.

At the conclusion of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Identify strategies for helping parents and educators prioritize the learning outcomes for both language and functional living skills based upon a student’s current set of skills.
  • Identify methods to incorporate the development of important functional life skills into everyday household, community and classroom activities.
  • Analyze programs for a nonverbal individual and select learning objectives that will help identify the skills necessary to develop instructional control and establish an initial verbal repertoire.
  • Analyze instructional programs for an individual who has acquired a set of basic verbal (mand, tact, and intraverbal) skills and select learning objectives that will teach more advanced skills in these repertoires and incorporate the use of these skills into a variety of everyday social interactions.

Topic: Teach your children well: Practical advice for parents and professionals regarding designing and implementing effective interventions for the acquisition of language and social interaction skills.

Abstract: Children with an autism spectrum disorder have significant delays in their communication and social interaction skills.  When attempting to teach them new language and social skills it is important to make the learning activities enjoyable such that while the child learns important language, he is motivated to interact with others, especially those who work with him. This presentation is designed to provide parents with an overview of the ‘verbal behavior’ analysis of language.  Methods for motivating the child to participate in learning activities that help develop a child’s ability to ask for items and events, name common items, and talk about his activities will be provided. Videotape examples will be shown to review effective teaching methods typically used to teach those skills at both the beginning stages and at more advanced levels of language abilities. Participants will learn about issues related to assessing a child’s language abilities, and how to then implement appropriate and practical language intervention strategies.  A major emphasis will be placed on identifying methods to enhance and utilize motivational variable to teach language in both structured teaching sessions and in daily activities.

Bio: Dr. James W. Partington is the director of Behavior Analysts, Inc., and provides services to children and their families. He is a licensed psychologist and has 40 years experience working with children with developmental disabilities. He is internationally recognized as a leader in the field of behavior analysis with expertise in language-based interventions. He is known for his work in teaching parents and professionals about practical, evidence-based procedures necessary for effective educational interventions. He has been a faculty member of several universities including West Virginia University, University of San Francisco and St. Mary’s College.  Dr. Partington is a former President of the Northern California Association for Behavior Analysis and has served as a member of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. He has co-authored the book, Teaching Language to Children with Autism or Other Developmental Disabilities. He is the author of The Assessment of Language and Learning Skills-Revised (The ABLLS®-R) and Capturing the Motivation of Children with Autism. He has also produced several instructional videos related to effective treatment for children with autism.


Stephen Shore, Ed.D. (USA)
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Special Education, Adelphi University, NY

Topics: Life on and Slightly to the Right of the Autism Spectrum: An Inside View Towards Success, Including Children with Autism in the Music Curriculum: Playing Instruments and Beyond, and Employment Opportunities for People with Autism: Observations on Promoting Success.

Bio: Diagnosed with “Atypical Development and strong autistic tendencies” and “too sick” for outpatient treatment Dr. Shore was recommended for institutionalization. Nonverbal until four, and with much support from his parents, teachers, wife, and others, Stephen is now a professor at Adelphi University where his research focuses on matching best practice to the needs of people with autism. In addition to working with children and talking about life on the autism spectrum, Stephen presents and consults internationally on adult issues pertinent to education, relationships, employment, advocacy, and disclosure as discussed in his books Beyond the Wall: Personal Experiences with Autism and Asperger Syndrome, Ask and Tell: Self-advocacy and Disclosure for People on the Autism Spectrum, the critically acclaimed Understanding Autism for Dummies, and the newly released DVD Living along the Autism Spectrum: What it means to have Autism or Asperger Syndrome.

President emeritus of the Asperger’s Association of New England and former board member of the Autism Society, Dr. Shore serves in the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Association, and other autism related organizations.

Abstracts by Topic:

Topic: Including Children with Autism in the Music Curriculum: Playing Instruments and Beyond

Focusing on including children with autism in the music curriculum and teaching them how to play a musical instrument this presentation explores techniques that are applicable to learners of all abilities. For people on the autism spectrum, music can be used as THE means of communication or to help organize the verbal communication skills and for working with challenges in the motoric, social, representation, and other areas as well.

Topic: Employment Opportunities for People with Autism: Observations on Promoting Success

Even those individuals with ASD who achieved post secondary education or have highly developed skill areas often have difficulty selling themselves in job interviews and maintaining working relationships on the job. Drawing on his personal and professional experiences as an adult living with Autism, Stephen will share the strategies he has used successfully to find and secure employment and meet the expectations of employers for people throughout the autism spectrum.

Topic: Life on and Slightly to the Right of the Autism Spectrum: An Inside View Towards Success

Join Stephen in his autobiographical journey from the nonverbal days as he relates his life to the many challenges facing people on the autism spectrum.  Some of the areas discussed include classroom accommodation, teaching of musical instruments, as well as issues faced by adults such as relationships, self-advocacy, higher education, and employment.  The session ends with a short audience activity demonstrating what it feels like have autism and to struggle through some of the challenges surrounding communication and socialization.

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Click here to download full autism presentation PDF (193)

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Alisa Vig, Ph.D. (Israel)
Founder and director of Simaney Kesher Center, Co-director of DIR Israel, Profectum Faculty, DIR consultant at the Association for Children at Risk and Sulam

Topic: The DIR/Floortime Model – Treating the core deficits of children with ASD

Bio: Dr. Alisa Vig is a Clinical Psychologist, the Founder and Director of Simanei Kesher Center, Co-director of DIR Israel, Profectum Faculty, and DIR consultant at the Association for Children at Risk and Sulam.  She received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Palo Alto University in California, prior to which she attended The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel.  Simanei Kesher is a multidisciplinary clinic for children with a wide range of developmental and emotional difficulties including Autism Spectrum Disorders, CP, Anxiety disorders, ADHD, and social difficulties.

Abstract: The lecture focuses on the DIR Model that was developed by Greenspan, MD & Wieder, PhD as a framework to intensive intervention programs for children with ASD. The model emphasizes Developmental aspects, Individual Difference in the child’s neurological physiological functioning, as well as Relationship and emotional aspects. Intensive DIR programs include Floortime (unique play technique of the DIR model), collaboration with educational systems and families and different treatments. These programs enable development of the emotional, functional and intellectual foundation of the child, and help reaching the child’s full potential for relating, empathizing, communicating and thinking. The lecture will be accompanied by video clips that will demonstrate the learning material and research that supports the model.


Abbie Weisberg and Heather Tratt, Directors at Keshet (USA)
Abbie Weisberg, CEO/Executive Director, and Heather Tratt, COO/Director of Programs and Operations, Keshet (USA)

Topic: Keshet: Practical Approaches for life span programming for individuals on the Autism Spectrum, and Employment Opportunities for People with Autism

Bio:  Abbie Weisberg is the CEO/Executive Director of Keshet, a non-profit organization serving individuals with developmental disabilities; speaker/consultant/author on best-practice integration and teaching methods for children and young adults with autism and related spectrum disorders;  Recently named One of Ten Women to Watch by Jewish Women International-2011, Secretary – Illinois Institute for Public Policy, Government Affairs Committee – Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago , Board Member – Moishe House.  Northbrook, IL  Weisberg was named One of Ten Women to Watch in 2011, by Jewish Women International and was given an award in Washington, DC.  Weisberg helped implement the “best practice” educational philosophy designed for individuals with autism and related spectrum disorders know as TEACCH, or “structured teaching,” which has since become the foundation of every Keshet program.  Weisberg can be credited with putting Keshet on the map as an internationally recognized leader in special needs integration methods, and premier provider of professional TEACCH (structured teaching) training and consultation to other organizations around the globe.

Bio: Heather Tratt is the COO/Director of Programs & Operations at Keshet.  She has a BA in Elementary Education, M.Ed in Early Childhood Special Education, and a CAS Certificate of Advanced Studies Leadership in Education (Type 75 in General Administration). Heather recently completed training to become a CPI Certified Instructor through the Crisis Prevention Institute. Heather is also adjunct faculty at Oakton Community College.  She has been at Keshet for 6 years, where she oversees all of Keshet’s Programming from Preschool to Day School to Summer Extended School Year, coordinates all of Keshet’s summer staffing (200 staff), and works with all of our host sites to help insure successful programming for children and young adults with special needs.

Topic: Keshet: Practical Approaches for life span programming for individuals on the Autism Spectrum

Abstract: Keshet was founded as a support group in 1982 by a small group of parents who joined together to create a place where their children could receive a quality education, socialize with their peers, and be accepted by the Jewish community.  At the time, no other Jewish or mainstream program existed for children with special needs. Today, celebrating our 30th Anniversary of Service, Keshet serves children as early as age 3, and is committed to be by their side, supporting their inclusion and fostering their independence on into their adult lives.

Keshet’s programs include integrated Day School for children with intellectual disabilities beginning in pre-school through high-school; a Transition Program focusing on vocational and life skills; adult programming, recreational, and spiritual programs.  All programs promote integration and inclusion to each individual’s highest potential.

In the late 1990’s, renown Autism Specialist, Dr. Bennett Leventhal partnered with Keshet, Division TEACCH of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Chicago in The Autism Project (TAP).  Keshet’s unique Peer Mentor Program allows all participants, to have a peer buddy by their side.  Keshet continued their inclusion model when they opened up their day program for young adults; following their philosophy, the program is based in a community building which houses over 100 businesses.  Keshet participants have an opportunity to experience age appropriate modeling by their typical peers.  In turn, the typical students learn a lot about their own strengths and weaknesses.  The result is that Keshet children are included, not by the system, but by their peers.  Friendships and bonds are established, and all participants grow up disability blind.”

Topic: Employment Opportunities for People with Autism

Keshet’s approach starts with building a deep-knowledge profile of the individual with autism, goes on to define the interests and ideal conditions of employment for that specific person, and then engages potential employers in interest-based negotiations that reveal the benefits that hiring a specific person will have for both parties.


Tamar Weiss, OT, Ph.D., Eynat Gal, OT, Ph.D., Nirit Bauminger-Zviely, Ph.D., Sigal Eden, Ph.D., and Massimo Zancanaro, Ph.D. (Israel, Italy)
Drs, Patrice L. (Tamar) Weiss and Eynat Gal, Dept. of Occupational Therapy, University of Haifa; Drs. Nirit Bauminger-Zviely and Sigal Eden, Bar-Ilan University, Israel; and Dr. Massimo Zancanaro, Italy

Topic: Symposium – Applying Participatory Design to Develop Technology for Autism

Bio: Prof. Patrice L. (Tamar) Weiss is an occupational therapist with an M.Sc degree in kinesiology and a Ph.D degree in physiology and biomedical engineering (McGill University).   In 2001, she founded the Laboratory for Innovations in Rehabilitation Technology (LIRT) at the University of Haifa where she and her team develop and evaluate novel virtual environments, haptic interfaces, co-located and online technologies to explore the effect of individual and collaborative rehabilitation. Rehabilitation and special education populations of interest include stroke, spinal cord injury, stroke, cerebral palsy, developmental coordination disorder, autism and head trauma.  Major research funding has been received from numerous national and international agencies. For the past three years she has joined forces with researchers from Israel, Italy and the UK in a European Union FP7 ICT program to explore ways in which technology can enhance social interaction among children with high-functioning autism.  She is also funded by the Israeli Science Foundation to carry out social action research on societal conflicts and has authored more than 120 peer-reviewed journal articles.

Bio: Dr. Sigal Eden is a lecturer and a researcher at the School of Education in Bar Ilan University. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in the Special Education Track, and specialized in educational technology. Her scientific research and publications lie in the area of the relationship between learning and technology, espacially encouragement effective use of advanced technology. Most of her research focuses on cognitive and lingual enhancment of children with special needs, including children with ASD, via technology.

Bio: Dr. Nirit Bauminger-Zviely is an Associate Professor at the School of Education, Bar – Ilan University. She serves as the Head of the Graduate Program in special education specializing in ASD. She received her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at UCLA – Los Angeles, California in 1996. Prof. Bauminger’s research focuses on social-emotional development of children with ASD and on the design of relevant interventions that promote social cognitive processes, social relationships and peer interaction. In the past 14 years she has been at the forefront of basic and applied research on the social-emotional development of higher functioning children affected by autism. In this regard her research on developments of peer interactions, friendships, emotional understanding and expressiveness, as well as affective and cognitive correlates of social relationships and interaction in children with ASD, has been groundbreaking. She has also pioneered new and effective methods of cognitive behavioral treatments, including multimodal individual and group social-cognitive behavioral treatments for school age children ASD.

Bio: Dr. Massimo Zancanaro is the head of the i3—Intelligent Interfaces and Interaction research unit at FBK. His primary interest is in the field of Intelligent Interfaces particularly in the area of co-located collaborative systems. He co-edited two books and co-authored more than an hundred papers in journal, conferences and peer-reviewed symposia and he has been appointed in a number of program and organization committees of conferences in the field. He also teaches Computer-Human Interaction and Graphical User Interfaces Programming at the University of Trento.  From 2009 to 2012, he coordinated COSPATIAL (http://cospatial.fbk.eu) a project funded by the European Commission to design new technologies for teaching social competencies to children on the autism spectrum.

Abstract: The objective of this symposium is to discuss the theory and practice of “Participatory Design” (PD), an interdisciplinary methodology in the field of User-Centered Design that mandates active involvement of users in the design process as a way of developing socially valid and sensitive systems. PD involves end-users directly as design partners.  End-users may be children who benefit from educational software as well as teachers, therapists and parents who use the software to help a child achieve specific educational and social goals. PD makes use of a co-operative inquiry method wherein frequent design review sessions are held between technology developers, researchers and users. These sessions enable rapid idea generation and selection of priorities for the next iteration of technology development. Data collection methods such as usability questionnaires, peer tutoring, and videotaped observations provide valuable insight into the technology’s feasibility, usability and effectiveness.  PD has been used successfully for the development of new technologies for children including computer software, virtual environments and robotic interfaces. Yet it is not without limitations which must be addressed in order to ensure the creation of viable intervention tools.

The presentation will use examples from research funded by a European Union project for the past three years (http://cospatial.fbk.eu/) to develop tools to promote social interaction and social conversation in children with high functioning ASD. We will review the basic definitions and terminology of participatory design as well the methods used to obtain and implement end user input. We will present the results of formative studies which have assessed the usability and feasibility of some representative technologies developed in COSPATIAL and other projects to promote social interaction and social conversation in children with high functioning ASD. We will conclude with a discussion of future directions for PD-based technology design for ASD intervention.


Pamela Wolfberg, Ph.D. (USA) - Invited speaker
Associate Professor and Director, Autism Spectrum Program in Department of Special Education, San Francisco State University, CA, USA

Topic: Integrated Play Groups®: Guiding Children with Autism in Social and Imaginary Worlds with Typical Peers

Bio:  Dr. Pamela Wolfberg is a professor at San Francisco State University where she founded and directs the Autism Spectrum program in partnership with the Autism Institute on Peer Socialization and Play. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research and practice center on peer relations, play and imagination, and childhood culture as related to the social inclusion of children on the autism spectrum. As originator of the Integrated Play Groups® model, she leads research, training and development efforts at the regional, national and international level.  She has published extensively in peer reviewed journals and academic texts. She is the author of Play and Imagination in Children with Autism and Peer Play and the Autism Spectrum: The Art of Guiding Children’s Socialization and Imagination, and co-editor of Learners on the Autism Spectrum: Preparing Highly Qualified Educators. Dr. Wolfberg is associate editor for Autism: International Journal of Research and Practice, on the editorial board of Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities and an invited guest reviewer for numerous other professional journals, including: Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders and the American Journal of Play. She is the recipient of several eminent awards for her scholarship, research, and service to the community.

Abstract: Children on the autism spectrum face significant challenges in social, communication and play development, which places them at high risk for being neglected and rejected by peers. Social isolation in turn deprives children of opportunities to develop their social, communicative and imaginative potential afforded by inclusion in peer cultural experiences. Integrated Play Groups® (IPG) is a research-based model designed to promote social, communication and play development in children with autism while building relationships with typical peers in natural settings. This multi-dimensional model encompasses developmental and ecological features within a socio-cultural framework. IPGs bring together children with autism (novice players) in mutually engaging social play experiences with more capable peer play partners (expert players) while guided by a qualified adult facilitator (play guide). Case illustrations focused on children of diverse ages and abilities across the autism spectrum and empirical findings of past and current research will be presented. Implications will be discussed in terms of global outreach efforts and extensions of the IPG model using art, drama, filmmaking, movement/dance and other creative pursuits.


Massimo Zancanaro, Ph.D. (Italy)

Topic: Constructive misunderstandings: A computer scientist’s report on the design of collaborative technologies for children on the autism spectrum

Bio: Dr. Massimo Zancanaro is the head of the i3—Intelligent Interfaces and Interaction research unit at FBK. His primary interest is in the field of Intelligent Interfaces particularly in the area of co-located collaborative systems. He co-edited two books and co-authored more than an hundred papers in journal, conferences and peer-reviewed symposia and he has been appointed in a number of program and organization committees of conferences in the field. He also teaches Computer-Human Interaction and Graphical User Interfaces Programming at the University of Trento.  From 2009 to 2012, he coordinated COSPATIAL (http://cospatial.fbk.eu) a project funded by the European Commission to design new technologies for teaching social competencies to children on the autism spectrum.

Abstract: Social competence is a multidimensional concept that reflects a child’s capacity to integrate behavioral, cognitive and affective skills in order to adapt flexibly to diverse social contexts and demands. Social competences affect a child’s ability to learn in formal and informal educational settings, and to interact appropriately with other children. In the European project COSPATIAL, we are investigating technologies aimed at learning these social skills by children who are typically developing and those with autism. We adopted the Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy model to describe the complexity of social competence constructs within a multidimensional framework which aims for reciprocity between the ways individuals behave in social situations. Two categories of technologies for collaborative interaction that have demonstrated this approach to be both feasible and effective for training social skills were targeted:  Collaborative Virtual Environments and Shared Active Surfaces. In this talk, I present the process of designing several Active Surfaces prototypes that was carried out by an interdisciplinary team of interaction designers, computer scientists, educators and clinicians with further involvement of practitioners and groups of children with high-functioning autism. The talk will be a personal report on a complex and delicate process that required, first of all, the reaching of a mutual understanding of the project’s goals, individual values and even basic vocabulary.  Despite the problems raised by working with an interdisciplinary team (not to mention geographical distance), COSPATIAL eventually succeeded in producing usable and effective prototypes as well as important lessons learned for the design of these and other technologies.

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Dalia Zwick, PT, Ph.D. (USA)
Senior Rehabilitation Supervisor, Coordinator, Premier HealthCare, NY

Topic: A Physical Therapy perspective and approach

Part 1. Autism – Therapy and Orthotics in persistent Toe Walking and

Part 2. Autism and Posture

Bio: Dr. Dalia Zwick is a physical therapist with forty two years of experience in the rehabilitation field. She studied physical therapy in Israel, and continued for her B.Sc.’s in Physical Therapy at SUNY at Buffalo, she earned her Master’s in Exercises Physiology from Long Island University and a Ph.D. in Patho-kinesiology from New York University.  She works with people with physical disabilities in New York City and serves as a master clinician for physical therapy students. She presented at professional conferences on topics as integrating yoga into physical therapy and Orthotics managements in children and adults with developmental disabilities. Her recent interests are in therapy and orthotic management foot and ankle issues and she is instrumental in organizing workshops in this area. She practices Iyengar Yoga and studies Yoga postures from a biomechanical, as well as a therapeutic, point of view. 

Abstract: Toe-walking is a behavior that is displayed by some children and adult people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). No definite cause for this behavior has been determined, but several possible explanations have been proposed. There may be a relationship between persistent toe walking and the development of ankle muscle tightness also called equinus in some children and therefore early interventions should be considered to reduce this tendency. Physical Therapy where yoga tenets are integrated, and the use of orthotics, are some treatment options that would be explored in this session.


Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Policy and Awareness

Merry Barua (India)
Director, Action For Autism – National Centre for Autism, India

Topic: Perspectives in Including Children with Autism in Mainstream Classrooms, and Empowering Mothers to Increase Reach in Low Resourced Settings

Bio: Merry Barua is the founder and director of Action For Autism, the pioneering national autism organization of India. She is an activist, special educator, and a parent to a son with autism. Merry started the autism movement in India when lack of information and misconceptions about this condition abounded. With little support from society or authorities of the time, she set about changing the scenario in awareness, diagnostics, education and allied services, human resources development, and policy, among others. Merry writes, teaches, lobbies, trains, sensitizes, counsels, and advocates. Her focus on ‘spreading the word’ and enabling individuals with autism and their families to empower themselves, has led to a growth in services and the formation of empowered parent groups, and in particular of parent driven services. Merry’s vision of an inclusive society looks not merely at individuals with social and communication challenges, but at all those who do not fit into society’s judgmental norms. Merry is an Ashoka Fellow, and has received national and international recognition for her work.

Abstracts by Topic:

Topic: Empowering Mothers to Increase Reach in Low Resourced Settings

A surge in autism awareness has seen the number of autism specialist schools in India increase to nearly a hundred. However these remain drops in the ocean given the estimated ten million individuals on the spectrum. Moreover many of them do not have trained educators. While mainstream schools are now including children on the spectrum, those with significant challenges remain excluded. As a result appropriate schooling for the vast majority remains a distant dream. The situation is much the same in most developing nations. The Parent Child Training Program (PCTP) at Action For Autism is a ‘model’ program that addresses this critical need. Training parents to take charge of their children’s training and education is one way of maximizing impact. The PCTP program trains groups of mothers from different parts of the country over a ten-week period. They receive grounding in the principles of behaviour modification for teaching and maintaining skills and in modifying unwanted behaviours. Mothers learn how to facilitate learning in different skill areas. Most importantly, they are empowered as they gain confidence in knowing they are not alone, and learn to accept and enjoy their children. Many learn to voice the needs of individuals with ASD while a few go on to become resource persons in their regions. This talk will describe the PCTP program and discuss the implications and applications for other countries.

Topic: Perspectives in Including Children with Autism in Mainstream Classrooms

Students of varied differences and abilities learning together can serve as a powerful contributor to an inclusive society. Exposure to differences takes away the fear and intolerance that ignorance breeds. However, children with autism face unique challenges in an inclusive classroom. Effective inclusion has to address the real needs of children with autism and not merely be superficial geographical inclusion.  This presentation outlines some of the challenges as well as strategies that make for successful inclusion of children with autism in mainstream classrooms, and argues for a continuum of services for inclusion in society.


Juan Carlos Brandt (United Nations) – Invited speaker
Chief, Advocacy and Special Events, Department of Public Information United Nations

Topic: Generating and promoting awareness resulting in positive outcomes for treatment, research, and improving the day-today lives of those with autism

Bio: Juan-Carlos Brandt, a national of Venezuela, is the Chief of Advocacy and Special Events in the United Nations’ Department of Public Information. He is responsible for the Creative Community Outreach Initiative and the Messengers of Peace and Goodwill Ambassadors Programme.  Before his current responsibilities, Mr. Brandt managed the relationship between 1600 representatives of Civil Society and the Organization’s information department as Chief of the Non Governmental Organizations’ Section (NGOs). Prior to this, Mr. Brandt served as Director of the United Nations Information Centre in Australia and the South Pacific, based in Sydney.  Mr. Brandt joined the United Nations in 1984 in the UN Information Centre in Washington, D.C. In 1988, and for the next 10 years, he served as a spokesman for 3 Secretaries-General of the United Nations. Javier Pérez de Cuellar; Boutros Boutros-Ghali; and Kofi Annan.  Before joining the United Nations, Mr. Brandt was the Director of the New York-based Venezuelan Government Tourist and Information Centre for the United States and Canada, and the Press Counsellor for the Permanent Mission of Venezuela to the United Nations.  Prior to that position he worked in his country’s communications and advertising industry, both in the private and public sectors. Mr. Brandt graduated from the Catholic University in Caracas, where he earned a degree in Communications and Journalism.

Abstract: Autism affects millions of individuals throughout the world.  But the way this neurological condition is perceived, diagnosed, understood and treated, varies dramatically from region to region, from country to country.  On December 2007, the United Nations acted decisively to increase the level of global awareness of this neurological disorder and since then, in partnership with governments, civil society, academia and the media, the UN’s Department of Public Information, has moved to create opportunities designed to provide children and adults with Autism as well as their families, with a message of hope and understanding.  Since April 2008, the first observance of the UN General Assembly’s-mandated resolution creating World Autism Awareness Day, the world has become more familiar with this condition and as a result, a new, more humane approach to accepting and welcoming individuals with this disorder has become the norm rather than the exception. My remarks will address ways in which stakeholders can generate and promote awareness resulting in positive outcomes for treatment, research, and, most importantly, improving the day-to-day lives of those who are marginalized or sidelined due to their condition.


Eileen Hopkins (UK)
Special Advisor, Autism, Policy and Practice Autistica, Autism Consultant to the Shirley Foundation, Member of ICare4Autism Advisory Council

Topic: Autism Awareness and Advocacy, and Parents and Families – Their role in our past and their future.

Bio: Eileen Hopkins has worked in the field of autism for thirty five years, beginning in education and development with a regional society for autism. She moved to the National Autistic Society UK in 1990.There she worked as Director of Development, establishing programmes with local authorities and developing a wide range of services for people with autism and their families. The division was responsible for regional development, non bricks and mortar services, membership and 80 Branches of the NAS, training and conferences.  Latterly she was also responsible for a large school and many adult services.

Eileen has been a member of a WHO expert group on developmental disorders involved in setting an agenda for research, and has contributed to the MhGap initiative. She was also a member of the External Reference Group for the development of the British Governments Adult Autism Strategy and Chaired the Social Inclusion work stream..

She is the Autism Consultant to The Shirley Foundation and a member of the Icare4autism advisory council. Eileen has, and continues to be, consultant to many overseas organisations working mainly on strategic development. In addition Eileen is a non-exec Director of the Zurich (Insurance) Community Trust.

Eileen joined Autistica in July 2006.

Abstracts by Topic:

Topic: Autism Awareness and Advocacy

The presentation will discuss the role of autism awareness both in the provision of services and societies view of people with ASD. Is awareness enough?  There are clearly challenges about what we raise awareness about how we represent autism to the public and how people with autism would want to be represented. Underpinning all of this must be the involvement of people with autism themselves, how can we facilitate it?

There is a mantra adopted by people with autism ….

nothing about us with out us! How can we ensure that raising awareness respects this?

The presentation will also address the issues raised by advocacy: self advocacy and the role of parent and professional advocates. Autism presents particular challenges in getting the views of people with autism about what they want and need. How can we overcome these challenges?   We know the difficulties people often have in communicating and also understanding the views of others. How can advocacy help? What happens when the views of people with autism are different from their parents and careers?

Topic: Parents and Families – Their role in our past and their future.

The session will discuss the part that parents have played in the history autism and in the development of organizations and services.  It will make mention of how individuals with an ASD have been, and are, portrayed, and the continuing and future role of individuals with an ASD and their families in influencing this, the development of services and the direction of research.

Click here to download full autism presentation PDF (190)


Ra’aya Levy-Goodman (Israel)
Director of Special Education, The Ministry of Education

Bio: Coming soon.

Abstract: Coming soon.


Hugh Morgan, MMedSc, OBE, FRSA (Wales)
CEO Autism Wales and Expert Advisor for ASD to the Welsh Assembly Government, Wales, Member of the ICare4Autism Advisory Council

Topic: 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 for ASD to the Welsh Government. From 2008-2011 he was seconded from Autism Cymru to the Welsh Government to drive forward the Implementation of the ASD Strategic Action Plan for Wales. He is currently also a commissioning advisor to the government in Scotland following the recently published Scottish national autism strategy, and has also provided evidence to the Northern Ireland Government who are developing their own national ASD strategy which commences in 2013. 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 co-founder of the Celtic Nations Autism Partnership – a collaboration between the national autism charities for Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland.

Abstract: 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 the public sector in 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. He will also draw upon recently published comparative research of policy developments by Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England, to identify common themes and differences.

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Carlos Marcin Salazar, Ph.D. (Mexico)
Director, The National Autism Clinic of Mexico (CLIMA) (Mexico)

Topic: ASD and Advocacy – The ASD Child´s Families Burden Puzzle

Bio: Dr. Carlos Marcin Salazar is the director of CLIMA, the National Autism Clinic of Mexico.  He received his BA, MA, and PhD in Clinical Psychology at the Universidad Ibero Americana in Mexico City.  He is trained in ADOS (autism diagnostic), and received a clinical certification in Autism Early Intervention from the Early Star Denver Model for ASD and the MIND Institute.  He has written various peer-reviewed publications on autism, and has participated in research studies with organizations such as Autism Speaks.

Dr. Carlos Marcín – ASD and Advocacy – The ASD Child’s Families Burden Puzzle

Abstract: Feelings of competency in the parental role, termed parental efficacy have been associated with well-being and positive parenting outcomes.

Given the unique stress inherent in raising a child with ASD parents may find it challenging to maintain a positive sense of well-being and self-efficacy caregivers. Advocacy ASD groups assume parent and family based interventions designed to support parental well being and focusing on parental cognitions may enhance parenting self-efficacy but does not take in account Family burden

Parenting a child with ASD is a unique challenge and can be extremely burden in comparison to parents of typically children, parents with disabilities reports significantly higher levels of anxiety and depression, in a special way for families with ASD children that daily stress is associated with maladaptive behavior, and society lack of understanding of autism behaviors.

Studies have revealed that parental anxiety and depression are negatively associated with self efficacy or less competence to educate autism children.

ASD child’s Family multi-function depends on parental efficacy assuming an active role in their child development, identifying strategies to minimize disruptive behaviors, and increasing social communication and responsiveness behaviors, achievements seems to depend on family’s knowledge about ASD and ABA training but non studies are done in Mexico to support those results.

In the other hand, little is now about in Mexico what conditions are good to have resilience issues, in a way to prompted families efficacy, having in mind autism onset, age of diagnosis and intervention, autism cognition level, absence or presence of language and communication skills, financial factors, parents education level, public services, society awareness, in order to educate the ASD child

The aim of this study was to explore how the indexes of anxiety, depression, family function and resilience are related between each other in Mexican families with an ASD child, in order to verify the higher level of burden in Mexican Families that diminish the chance to be efficacy at home for parenting positive outcomes. Procedure, 163 parents ASD children institutional Autism spectrum expertise diagnosis, were recruited to take a 20 hours advocacy workshop and completed a set of questionnaires’ pretest and posttest included anxiety scale, Depression, Family Function, Resilience Scale, and socio-demographic information. This study suggest, in a further approach, the possibility hierarchical linear association, between anxiety, depression, family dysfunction and a few resilience support from the community, that’s accounted for a unique Burden profile in Mexican Families associated with ASD presence, and where Autism knowledge and advocacy groups are not enough associate with parental efficacy so we must consider doing and extra intervention in order to empower families against ASD and recovery families from burden.


Wendy Zhang, M.D. (China)
Founder/CEO of SinoCure LLC, China

Topic: New Autism Initiatives in China

Bio: Dr. Wenting (Wendy) Zhang is CEO of SinoCure LLC. She has been dedicated to the medical field in both China and the US for about 24 years. She graduated from Beijing Medical University in 1988, a prestigious medical university in China, and gained working experience as a neurologist at Beijing Tiantan hospital. She founded SinoCure LLC to build up the bridge between US and China in the clinical research field. She is the main PI of the joint collaboration in Autism and Fragile X Syndrome between UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute and Beijing Chaoyang Hospital. She also consults for several US medical device companies with interests to enter the Chinese market.

Prior to SinoCure LLC, She worked at M.I.N.D. Institute, University of California Davis Medical Center on clinical diagnosis and clinical trials for Fragile X Syndrome. She also worked at University of Pennsylvania, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on studied transsynaptic localization of pharyngeal premotor neurons in rat. She worked at Division of Neurosurgery, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Center for Paralysis Research, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana on developed spinal cord injury models to study spinal cord regeneration.  She has a MD degree from Beijing Medical University in 1988 and ECFMG Certification in 1996 (MD in USA).

Abstract: In 2010, the Chinese movie “Ocean Heaven” was the first movie that brought the concept of Autism to the average Chinese family. As a result of the rapidly expanding Chinese economy and the one child policy, Autism research and treatment are going through fundamental shifts that will only speedup in the future. This presentation looks at the Chinese Autism experience in the past and present; we will also present the future opportunities in Autism diagnosis and treatment in China.

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