Autism symposium for parents, educators to be held May 7

The symposium, whose theme is “Understanding the Puzzle,” will aim to help parents make sense of how new research could affect their children’s lives.

- By Erin Digitale

Antonio Hardan

Parents who are raising a child with autism can struggle to piece together all the information they receive. News of possible therapies, novel brain-science discoveries and individual anecdotes about others’ treatment experiences may leave them wondering: How could this help my child?  

Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and Stanford Children’s Health are here to help parents understand the puzzle. On May 7, the hospital will present its ninth annual Autism Spectrum Disorders Update, an event that gives members of the community a chance to learn about new autism research and therapies.

This year’s conference includes keynote presentations by internationally renowned autism experts Catherine Lord, PhD, and Peter Mundy, PhD, in addition to Stanford researchers, including Vinod Menon, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

Lord, professor of psychology at Weill Cornell Medical College, is a leading autism authority who is helping transform the way this disorder is diagnosed and treated. She will discuss the rationale and impact of the new diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder that came into effect in 2013 with the publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition.

Mundy, a professor of education and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at University of California-Davis, will speak about a core autism deficit: lack of joint attention. Many scientists theorize that this inability to gesture or talk with another person about an interesting object or event may underlie other problems in autism.

“We’re excited about all parts of the program this year,” said Antonio Hardan, MD, chief of the Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at the Stanford University School of Medicine and director of the Stanford Autism Center at Packard Children’s. “It’s great to be able to present our cutting-edge Stanford research, and we are especially glad to be bringing Dr. Lord and Dr. Mundy to Stanford in response to parents’ interests.”

In addition to the keynote presentations, Stanford autism experts will discuss a wide cross-section of topics, including new research findings in many areas of autism science from stem cell research to innovative clinical trials. The day will include breakout sessions with time for Q&A sessions with speakers. The complete program is online.

The symposium is scheduled from 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. May 7 at the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge. (Registration and continental breakfast begin at 8:15 a.m.) Online registration is available.

Parents, teachers, pediatricians, psychologists, caregivers and anyone with an interest in autism spectrum disorder are invited to attend. The $125 registration fee includes the continental breakfast and a buffet lunch. 

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