What is the latest in research?

who whatThe 2014 International Meeting for Autism Research recently wrapped up in Atlanta, Georgia. This is the annual meeting for the International Society for Autism Research (so, for those of you who like acronyms, INSAR’s annual meeting is IMFAR). These annual meetings have been held since 2001 to provide an opportunity for researchers to share their findings and interests, in the hopes of developing more research scientists, funders, and opportunities.

INSAR makes many of their conference materials available freely on line following the annual meeting. Their online meeting archives go back to 2004, and include both the program book and abstracts of presentations. Although the research being reported is truly high level scientific research, the titles and abstracts provide an understanding of the complexities of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This year, presentations fell into 21 different topic categories, from brain structure and genetics to the use of technology and specific interventions. All the research helps improve identification of ASD and develop better methods of intervention and improve individuals’ quality of life.

If you find the abstracts or program books too technical to follow (I did for some presentations), the Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute (SFARI) has published some reactions of attendees that describe a few presentations in clearer terms. Of these reactions, the one that most stands out to me is that of Joseph Piven, Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine and Director of the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities. He reports on the opening day’s keynote presentation, which looked at why finding new effective treatments for ASD is so hard. During his presentation, he described the coordinated efforts taking place in Europe and the importance of this coordination and cooperation in developing new treatments.

Although the model he discusses is focused on medical (and pharmaceutical) treatments, the same type of coordinated effort can help develop and improve upon behavioral interventions, skills training, vocational training, and virtually any intervention. This was one of the considerations of the Illinois Legislature in 2003 when they passed a bill to establish 3 regional training centers. These 3 centers have grown into a network of 4 universities and 13 other agencies providing research, training, direct services, and consultation across Illinois. This diverse group, all focused on the same vision, has accomplished much over its short 11 year lifespan, and there remains more to accomplish. The TAP Service Network remains committed to work together with other agencies to increase the availability of quality, effective supports and services for individuals of all ages with ASD and their families. We encourage you to make use of our resources – Family and Community Resource Rooms, materials on our website, local training programs and support groups, and all the different services provided by each of our partners. And we want to hear from you – we want to know what services and resources you need. The Hope Institute is conducting an online survey to provide families with the opportunity to express their needs. The survey is offered in English and Spanish, and will be available May 27th through August 1st, 2014. To take part in this survey, please click here.

Russell J. Bonanno, M.Ed.
TAP Program Manager

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