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Extramural Update

Autism Town Hall Meeting Report to Be Available Online

Participants and their families enjoyed themselves at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute annual holiday party.
Participants and their families enjoyed themselves at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute annual holiday party. (Photo courtesy of Brian Jacobson/Center for Children's Environmental Health)

Over one hundred parents, families and caregivers of children, along with adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), took part in a daylong town hall meeting held at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento California on May 3. At the meeting, a diverse range of public opinions were voiced. These comments have been summarized and presented to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), the federal advisory group charged with coordinating research on autism spectrum disorders (ASD), for consideration during final deliberations for the strategic plan. A final version of the meeting report will be made available on the IACC website( Exit NIEHS Website.

The NIEHS organized this meeting on behalf of the IACC. Investigators and staff from the Center for Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention at UC-Davis, a joint program funded by the NIEHS and the US Environmental Protection Agency, galvanized local support from autism researchers and community groups to help ensure a productive meeting. The overall goal of the meeting was to provide an opportunity for additional public input on research priorities for the IACC strategic plan for autism research.

The Town Hall meeting focused on one aspect of the Strategic Plan, treatment research, as this area had dominated public responses to the IACC's previous requests for input. The meeting consisted of two panel discussions, with opportunity for public comment and dialog after each panel. The panels were comprised of treatment researchers, clinicians and service providers and public advocacy representatives.

The morning panel was designed to stimulate discussion about the range of traditional and complementary/alternative approaches that are being used by parents and clinicians to treat children with ASD. Many of these have not been studied in controlled clinical trials and meeting participants were asked for input to help prioritize treatment research to address issues of efficacy and safety. The afternoon session explored interventions for older children and adults with ASD. To date, autism treatment research has been focused primarily on young children, with little attention directed at treatment/interventions for older children, adolescents and adults with ASD. Meeting organizers solicited community views about treatments and intervention across the lifespan to help develop appropriate research questions for this underserved population.

For more information contact Cindy Lawler, Ph.D.

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