Conference will discuss autism rates

Sara Bennett

The rising rate of autism diagnoses serves as the backdrop for the sixth annual Topics in Child Development Conference to be held Thursday and Friday at the Student Center.

The conference, titled “Assessment-Driven Intervention for Individuals with Autism,” features speakers from various institutions who specialize in autism spectrum disorders.

Lisa Audet, assistant professor of speech pathology and audiology and a speaker at the conference, emphasized the need for evidence-based intervention.

Evidence-based intervention is a way for researchers to evaluate individuals with autism and study what interventions, or methods of treatment, work best.

“It is not the diagnosis of autism that should direct treatment,” she said. “It is the assessment of the manifestation of autism that should direct treatment.”

The problem is that every case is different and “we don’t know which treatment options to use,” she said. “The goal is to teach adaptive behavior (because) society is not ready for the numbers of adults arriving with autism.

“We are on the brink of a tsunami,” she said, describing the rising prevalence of autism.

According to the Autism Resources Web site, researchers are not sure what causes autism spectrum disorders. They seek and evaluate commonalties in everything from genetics and environmental surroundings to sex type and vaccination records, but no conclusive cause has been named.

Also speaking at the conference are Brenda Smith-Myles from the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incident Disorders and Nancy Minshew from the University of Pittsburgh.

The conference is sponsored by the College of Education, Health and Human Services.

Contact minority affairs, health and nursing and religion reporter Sara Bennett at [email protected].