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Science Matters

Autism: An Epidemic or a Matter of Definition?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Slide Presentations:

The last 20 years have seen a dramatic surge in the number of children affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in California and nationwide. Symptoms of these neurodevelopmental disorders, which impact a broad cross-section of the population, include impairments in cognitive, communicative, social, and behavioral functioning. Unfortunately, a cure for these deficits remains elusive.

What’s behind this growing public health crisis? Is the increase in ASD cases real or just due to over diagnosis? And what are the ethical, social, and policy implications of how this disorder is defined, diagnosed, and treated in different communities?

In this program scientists presented what current research tell us about ASD and their complex causes, as well indicated promising avenues of future research. Panel members discussed commonly used treatments and their effectiveness, the existing disparities among various communities in accessing health resources provided by the state to avail themselves of these treatments, and how this inequality can be addressed at the social and policy levels.

Featured panelists included: (click name for bio)

Conan Nolan — moderator

Reporter, NBC4

Paul H. Patterson, Ph.D.

Anne P. and Benjamin Biaggini Professor of Biological Sciences, California Institute of Technology

B. J. Freeman, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist, Autism Spectrum Disorders

Professor Emerita, UCLA School of Medicine

Areva Martin, Esq.

Chairperson & President, Special Needs Network, Inc.

Louis A. Vismara, MD

Policy Consultant to Senator Darrell Steinberg, Office of the President Pro Tempore, State of California


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