Leading autism experts to discuss clinical, research developments

Published: February 21 2006


GAINESVILLE, Fla. – People with autistic family members are often full of questions.

They can find some answers Friday at the seventh annual Autism Conference at the University of Florida’s McKnight Brain Institute.

Leading clinicians and scientists will gather to discuss autism and related disorders, whose cause and cure remain unknown. The disorders affect about 500,000 people in the United States age 21 and younger and cause difficulties in communication, social interactions and leisure or play activities in both children and adults.

“This will be a valuable discussion for people to learn about diagnosis, new treatments and community services,” said Dr. Tanya Murphy, an associate professor of psychiatry at the UF College of Medicine. “We are fortunate to have a diverse panel of experts.”

The panel will include clinicians and scientists, including Dr. Joseph Piven, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics and director of the Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Center at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Public discussion will begin at 3:30 p.m. in the DeWeese Auditorium of the McKnight Brain Institute. Prior to that, beginning at 2 p.m., Piven will deliver a scientific lecture on the visible signs of autism.

More common than once thought, autism affects two to five out of every 10,000 children, with signs beginning before age 3. Symptoms usually occur in combination and with varying degrees of severity, so one treatment does not fit all, doctors say.

The Autism Program at UF channels the wide-ranging efforts of researchers and clinicians from throughout the university into a new, multidisciplinary approach to autism, according to Murphy, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry. Patients are seen at Shands at UF medical center. Other autism initiatives, local school systems and clinicians are encouraged to become involved as well.

Currently, the UF autism team includes child psychiatrists, behavioral analysts, speech and language pathologists, nurses, health psychologists and pediatricians.

Beyond the clinics and laboratories, UF reaches out through the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, with offices in Gainesville and Jacksonville. CARD works with families, caregivers and professionals to optimize the potential of people with autism and related disabilities.
It augments advocacy and education efforts.

Call (352) 392-3611 for more information.


John Pastor, jpastor@vpha.health.ufl.edu, (352) 273-5815