Conference program is comfirmed

Invited Presentations

Dr. Andy Shih - Autism Speaks, USA


Dr. Andy Shih works closely with members of Autism Speaks’ Board, Scientific Advisory Committee, senior staff and volunteer leadership to develop and implement the organization’s research program. He oversees the public health portfolio, which includes Autism Speaks' Global Autism Public Health Initiative, an international advocacy and development effort currently active in over 50 countries around the world that integrates awareness, research, and service development. Andy and his team serve as technical advisor to ministries and other government agencies by facilitating multi-stakeholder collaboration and sourcing needed content expertise with the goal of delivering community-based feasible, cost-effective and sustainable solutions. Andy’s research background includes published studies in gene identification and characterization, virus-cell interaction, and cell-cycle regulation. He was instrumental in the cloning of a family of small GTPases involved in cell-cycle control and nuclear transport, and holds three patents on nucleic acids-based diagnostics and therapeutics. Prior to focusing on Autism Speaks’ public health/international development efforts, Andy oversaw the organization’s investments in genetics, environmental sciences, epidemiology and assistive technologies.

Presentation Title: Global Autism Public Health Initiative: Participatory Research and the Integration of Science and Advocacy

Abstract: Launched in 2008, Autism Speaks' Global Autism Public Health (GAPH) Initiative is an international development program that integrates awareness, advocacy, research and service delivery. Currently, Autism Speaks is serving as facilitator and technical advisor to over 50 country governments committed to developing feasible and sustainable public health solutions for our families. Development strategies and processes will be discussed as well as specific examples where GAPH's participatory research approach resulted in new programs and policies, as well as contributed to the evidence base to inform their implementation and refinement.

Dr. Bridget A. Taylor - Alpine Learning Group, USA


Dr. Bridget A. Taylor is co-founder and Executive Director of Alpine Learning Group and is Senior Clinical Advisor for Rethink. Dr. Taylor has specialized in the education and treatment of children with autism for the past twenty-five years. She holds a Doctorate of Psychology from Rutgers University, and received her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education from Columbia University. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and a Licensed Psychologist. She is an Associate Editor for the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis and serves on the editorial board of Behavioral Interventions. She is a member of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board and a Board Member of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment. She serves on the Autism Advisory Group for the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies and the Professional Advisory Board for the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts. Dr. Taylor is active in the autism research community and has published numerous articles and book chapters on effective interventions for autism. Her recent research interest is in identifying effective strategies to promote observational learning in children with autism.

Presentation Title: Teaching Observational Learning Repertoires to Children with Autism

Abstract: It is commonly recognized that children with autism present with significant deficits in imitation and observational learning. Most contemporary curricula for children with autism incorporate instruction in a variety of imitative response topographies. Less common in applied research and practice, however, are procedures to ensure that children with autism learn to acquire novel responses through observational learning.  Observational learning encompasses generalized imitation, yet exceeds it, requiring subtle discriminations about observed actions and their outcomes. To shift from learning in a one-on-one context to a group setting, for example, a child must identify contingencies as applied to another, and then incorporate into their own repertoire novel responses related to that contingency without directly contacting it themselves. While complex, observational learning is essential for the child with autism to learn more intricate social and academic repertoires. This presentation will outline instructional programs that move beyond direct imitation to the skills essential for observational learning. Specific procedures to increase observational learning in children with autism across a variety of responses will be reviewed.

Dr. Connie Kasari - California University Los Angeles (UCLA) USA


Connie Kasari, Ph.D. is Professor of Human Development and Psychology at UCLA with a joint appointment in the Department of Psychiatry.  She is the Principal Investigator for several multi-site research programs, including the Autism Intervention Research Network for Behavioral Health funded by HRSA and an NIH Autism Center of Excellence Network grant focused on interventions for school aged minimally verbal children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Her research projects also include early interventions for infants, toddlers and preschoolers with autism funded by NIH and Autism Speaks. She received her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was a NIMH postdoctoral fellow at the Neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA.  Since 1990 she has been on the faculty at UCLA where she teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses, and has been the primary advisor to more than 40 PhD students.  She is a founding member of the Center for Autism Research and Treatment at UCLA.  Her current research focuses on developing targeted interventions for early social communication development in at risk infants, toddlers and preschoolers with autism, and peer relationships for school aged children with autism. She is on the treatment advisory board of the Autism Speaks Foundation, and regularly presents to both academic and practitioner audiences locally, nationally and internationally.

Presentation Title: Promoting peer interactions in school programs for children with ASD

Abstract: Social impairment has been identified as the most enduring issue for children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), affecting their peer relationships, friendships, and general social interactions with others.  Interventions developed to address this issue are of high priority particularly in the child’s real world environments such as school. Despite the increase in research on social skills interventions over the past several years, few of these have been designed for or tested in school settings.  Yet, the goal of social skills research generally is to improve relationships and friendships in the child’s every day life. Our current knowledge is also hampered by the limited outcome measures used in most studies. Outcomes are often based on informants who are the very people delivering the intervention, such as parents or peers who may be unable to be objective in their reporting.  This talk will focus on what we know about the social experiences of children with ASD at school using teacher, parent, peer and self -report in addition to observations of children in school by independent observers.  Several studies will be reviewed describing the experiences of children with ASD at school, as well as several interventions conducted to help improve their social experiences. Knowledge gained from these studies will be synthesized and recommendations made for professionals, teachers and parents interested in social skills interventions at school.

Dr. Helen Tager-Flusberg - Boston University, USA


Helen Tager-Flusberg received her Bachelors in Science in Psychology from University College London, and her doctorate from Harvard University. From 1978 through 2001 she was a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts –Boston and from 1996 – 2001 she also held the position of Senior Scientist at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center/UMass Medical Center.  Since 2001 Dr. Tager-Flusberg has been at Boston University initially with primary appointments in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology and Pediatrics at the School of Medicine and now as Professor of Psychology at Boston University, where she was the Director of the Developmental Science Program from 2009 to 2012. Dr. Tager-Flusberg is now the Director of the Center for Autism Research Excellence at Boston University. Dr. Tager-Flusberg has conducted research on autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders (including Williams syndrome, Down syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, 16p, and Specific Language Impairment) for over 35 years, investigating developmental changes in language and social cognition in these populations using behavioral and brain imaging methodologies.  Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and private foundations, including Autism Speaks, The Simons Foundation, the Autism Consortium, the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation and March of Dimes. Dr. Tager-Flusberg took NIH-funded research leadership roles as the Principal Investigator for the Boston University CPEA (Collaborative Programs of Excellence in Autism; 1997-2009), STAART (Studies to Advance Autism Research and Treatment; 2003-2009) and current ACE (Autism Center of Excellence; 2012-2017).  She has edited several books and written over 180 journal articles and book chapters.  Dr. Tager-Flusberg is the Past President of the International Society for Autism Research, serves on the editorial board of several professional journals and is Associate Editor of the Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders.  She has presented her research at many professional conferences, parent advocacy groups, and training institutes.

Presentation Title: Research on Infants at Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Abstract: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the fastest growing neurodevelopmental disorder, with core impairments in social, cognitive and communicative development.  Recent studies have found that the behavioral symptoms typically emerge during the second year of life, with declines in social engagement, vocalization, communication and affect regulation.  One exciting new direction for research on ASD focuses on potential early markers that may be evident in the first year of life.  Research on this issue focuses on infants who have an older sibling with ASD (high risk infants) who can be followed prospectively from birth until three or older, when a diagnosis of ASD can be confirmed.  In this presentation I will briefly summarize what has been learned from other ongoing studies of high risk infants and then present the findings from my ongoing collaborative project, which focuses on early language and communication, face processing and mother-child interactions using behavioral, electrophysiological and metabolic measures of development. 

Dr. Henry Roane - Upstate Medical University, USA


Dr. Henry Roane received his Ph.D. in Psychology with an emphasis on applied behavior analysis from Louisiana State University. He completed a pre-doctoral internship at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Roane has held previous clinical and faculty positions at the Marcus Institute/Emory University School of Medicine and the Munroe-Meyer Institute/University of Nebraska Medical Center. At present, Dr. Roane is the Gregory S. Liptak MD Professor of Child Development in the Department of Pediatrics at Upstate Medical University. In this capacity, Dr. Roane serves as the chief of the Division of Development, Behavior and Genetics. He also serves as the Managing Director of the Kelberman Behavior and Feeding Program, which provides treatment services for children affected by challenging behavior disorders. Dr. Roane is a former Associate Editor for the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis and Behavior Analysis in Practice, and serves on the Editorial Boards of several journals in the field. Dr. Roane previously served on the Board of Directors for the Behavior Analysis Certification Board and presently served on the Board of Directors for the Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. Dr. Roane has co-authored over 50 papers and multiple texts on the assessment and treatment of behavior disorders and has been the lead investigator on grants funded by National Institute of Health and the New York State Department of Health.

Presentation Title: Novel approaches to preventing and managing challenging behavior in children with ASD

Abstract: Many individuals with Autism display associated symptoms of the disorder, including challenging behavior such as aggression and self-injury.  The typical progression of treatment is as follows:  (a) initial medical/psychological evaluations, (b) assessment of environmental determinants, (c) individualized treatment development, and (d) caregiver training and treatment generalization. This presentation will describe several case examples in which this general pattern of assessment and treatment was applied across a range of problem behaviors. Specifically, case examples will be presented for self-injury/self-restraint, aggression/disruption, food selectivity, and pica. In considering each case, attention will be given to the various decision-making procedures that underlie the successful remediation of these behaviors (e.g., ruling out a physiological underpinning of the behavior). Video of pre- and post-treatment behaviors will augment the oral presentation. In addition, the presentation will review recent findings on the pharmacological and behavioral treatment of challenging behavior within this population.  The overarching goal of this presentation is to enhance the audience member’s knowledge of current approaches to the assessment and treatment of challenging behavior.

Dr. James E. Carr - Behavior Analysis Certification Board, USA


James E. Carr, PhD, BCBA-D is the Chief Executive Officer of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.  His professional interests include behavior analyst credentialing, behavioral assessment and treatment of developmental disabilities, verbal behavior, and practitioner training. Dr. Carr has published over 100 scientific articles on these and other topics. He is currently an associate editor of the journal The Analysis of Verbal Behavior and has served on the editorial boards of 10 other behavior analysis journals, including 3 appointments as associate editor. Dr. Carr is past president of the Mid-American and Alabama Associations for Behavior Analysis. He received his doctorate in 1996 from Florida State University under the mentorship of Dr. Jon Bailey and previously served on the behavior analysis faculties at University of Nevada-Reno (1996-1999), Western Michigan University (1999-2008), and Auburn University (2008-2011).

Presentation Title:Credentialing Practitioners of Behavior Analysis

Abstract: This presentation will describe the origin of behavior analyst credentialing, the benefits of credentialing, the formation of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), and the growth of the BACB’s programs around the world. The application and maintenance requirements of the BACB’s three credentialing programs will be described: Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA), and Registered Behavioral Technician (RBT). In addition, the most current data on the certification programs will be provided, including the overall number of certificants, the number of approved university training options, and recent examination pass rates.

Dr. Joachim Franz Hallmayer - Stanford University, USA


Dr. Hallmayer has been involved in genetic studies of neuropsychiatric disorders for over 20 years and has conducted several genome wide linkage and association studies. His work encompasses the recruitment, the laboratory, and the analytic side. As PI of the largest twin study on autism to date, He has extensive experience recruiting for, coordinating and integrating the assessment of genetic, biological, behavioral and diagnostic information in large numbers of patients with ASD. Currently, he is the Chair of the Committee of Senior Investigators of the largest collaborative research project on autism, the Autism Genome Project, with over 100 researchers from 50 centers in North America, Europe, and Asia. In collaboration with Dr Dolmetsch they were the first to study neurons derived from iPSCs from patients with known mutations associated with autism. As part of this study (R33 MH087898 - Exploring the Neuronal Phenotype of Autism Spectrum Disorders Using Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells – PIs: Hallmayer/Dolmetsch) they comprehensively characterized the transcriptome (including miRNAs) using traditional microarray and RNAseq technology. More recently he was awarded an R01(“Integrative Molecular and Phenotype Analysis of 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome”) to study iPS cells from patients with 22q11deletion syndrome, a syndrome associated with high rates of autism.

Title: Genetics of Autism

Abstract: Recent genetic studies have demonstrated that a significant amount of the liability to develop autism traces to rare mutations at a single locus, some of which are de novo, and CNVs. Genetic variations in hundreds of genes have been implicated.  However, no individual cause accounts for more than 1% of ASD cases. None of the variations are specific to the core ASD phenotype. Many are associated with other disorders, most often epilepsy and intellectual handicap, suggesting significant overlap in the etiology of these disorders. In addition to rare alleles of major effect, association studies suggested involvement of numerous common variants with smaller effects. Together, these studies underscore that ASD risk likely involves many different genes and distinct modes of inheritance among individuals. On a functional level, the genes converge on a limited number of pathways with a greater than expected number of mutations affecting neuronal synaptic function. These variants implicate perturbations of neurogenesis, migration, cortical organization, synaptogenesis, and synaptic plasticity. Developing animal models of autism will be extremely difficult.  Core symptoms of ASD, including deficits in social communication, imagination and curiosity are difficult to model well in other organisms.  Mechanisms underlying ASDs need to be studied in human patients and in cells that share the genetic background of these patients. Studying neurons derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) provides a promising tool to uncover the link between genetic factors and cellular deficits in their development and function, for assessing response to environmental factors, and for screening of novel therapeutics.  Our studies on Timothy syndrome, Phelan McDermid, and 22q11 deletion syndrome provide proof of principle that this approach allows us to relate a known genetic defect to specific cellular and molecular mechanisms, and then apply this mechanistic understanding to screen for novel therapeutics.

Dr. Linda A. LeBlanc - Trumpet Behavioral Health, USA


Linda A. LeBlanc, Ph.D., BCBA-D, MI Licensed Psychologist is the Executive Director of Research and Clinical Services at Trumpet Behavioral Health.  Trumpet Behavioral Health provides behavioral treatment services to consumers in school, home and center-based settings in 11 states. Dr. LeBlanc received her Ph.D. in 1996 from Louisiana State University and previously served as a professor on the psychology faculties at Claremont McKenna College (1997-1999) and Western Michigan University (1999-2008) and Auburn University (2009-2012). Her current research and clinical interests include the behavioral treatment of autism and developmental disabilities across the lifespan, verbal behavior, and technology-based interventions.  Dr. LeBlanc has published over 80 articles and book chapters and is a current associate editor of Education and Treatment of Children, and The Analysis of Verbal Behavior and a former associate editor of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis and Behavior Analysis in Practice.  She also serves as the Conference Chair of the California Association of Behavior Analysis, and as a member of the advisory board for the Virginia Institute of Autism.

Presentation Title: Incorporating Technology into Interventions and Staff Training for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Abstract: Technological advances have been successfully incorporated into behavioral interventions for individuals with autism spectrum disorders for over two decades in the form of video modeling, automated or remote-activated prompting systems, and personal digital assistants (PDAs). New technologies (e.g., Bluetooth, virtual reality platforms) offer great options for teaching community skills that might otherwise be cumbersome or unsafe with traditional lower-tech methods. These interventions can be most powerful when basic behavioral principles are incorporated into their design and implementation rather than simply substituting technology for human efforts. Technology has also been successfully incorporated into staff training procedures to teach behavioral interventions.  This presentation will describe several important unanswered research questions about the efficacy, cost-effectiveness, and optimal parameters for implementing technology-based solutions. This presentation will also suggest a series of four important questions that should be considered when determining whether or not to adopt a new technology in behavioral intervention with individuals with autism spectrum disorders or in staff training efforts.   

Dr. Nahit Motavalli Mukaddes -Istanbul Institute of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Turkey


Dr. Nahit Motavalli Mukaddes is certified in both child and adolescent and adult psychiatry. She worked as a faculty member in Istanbul School of Medicine from1994 to 2013. She   had had many responsibilities in Istanbul School of Medicine in teaching programs, researches and administrative issues. Now she continues her academic and clinical work in Istanbul Institute of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Her main research and clinical area are ADHD and autism spectrum disorders. She published approximately 100 papers in scientific international and national journals. Her management and treatment program is a comprehensive, eclectic program including both psychopharmacology and psychotherapy-psychoeducation, therefore she has a close collaboration with other mental health professionals such as psychologists, educators, and speech therapists.

Presentation Title: Autism Spectrum Disorders

Abstract: Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is a clinical diagnosis category taking place among the childhood neuro-developmental disorders. Its symptoms begin during early childhood and main symptoms are (a) marked disabilities in the social-communicative area, and (b) restrictive and repetitive behaviors and interests (APA, 2013).
The ASD term has been used by the experts in the field for a long time as the category including autism, atypical autism, and Asperger’s syndrome. However, this term has taken place in the formal categorization systems after the publication of DSM-V by the American Psychiatric Association in May 2013. Following this date, the existence of atypical autism and Asperger’s syndrome as distinct sub categories has ended in the formal categorization systems. The prevalence of ASD has been reported to have risen up to 2.6% in the recent epidemiological studies. It is emphasized that genetic and epigenetic causes may have a role in the etiopathogenesis of ASD. Promising results as to response to treatment and even observation of specific groups leaving the spectrum are stated lately regarding this condition which usually lasts lifelong. Among the treatments carried out, one with the most published empirical support is applied behavior analysis which is a type of educational intervention. Various psychiatric and medical disorders frequently accompany ASD. During this presentation, after presenting general information and recent developments regarding ASD, the presenter will address the psychiatric approach in ASD briefly.

Dr. Peter Gerhardt, Ed.D. - JPG Autism Consulting, LLC., USA

Curriculum Vitae

Peter Gerhardt, Ed.D., is the Managing Partner of JPG Autism Consulting, LLC.  Dr. Gerhardt has more than 30 years experience utilizing the principles of
Applied Behavior Analysis in support of adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorders in educational, employment, residential and community-based settings. He has authored and co-authored articles and book chapters on the needs of adolescents and adults with ASD and has presented nationally and internationally on this topic.  Dr. Gerhardt serves as Chairman of the Scientific Council for the Organization for Autism Research, is on the Editorial Board of Behavior Analysis in Practice and on numerous professional advisory boards.  He received his doctorate from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey’s Graduate School of Education.

Presentation Title: Adaptive Behavior and ASD – Life, Safety, Independence, & Competence

Abstract: Adaptive behavior refers to a complex set of life skills that enable an individual to achieve personal independence across a variety of domains.  While much of our current instructional intervention is focused on academic competencies (e.g., reading, math, etc.)  adaptive skills are 1) actually more valuable and 2) necessary for the expression of academic competencies. This talk will present an overview of effective adaptive behavior intervention in ASD and its relationship to community living, safety, independence, and personal competence .

Dr. Svein Eikeseth - Oslo and Akershus University, Norway


Dr. Eikeseth is a professor of psychology in the department of behavioral science at Oslo and Akershus University College, Norway. In addition, he is the clinical and research director at UK Young Autism Project and a director at the Banyan Center, Stockholm, Sweden. He gained his Ph.D. in 1991, in developmental and child psychology, at the University of Kansas, under the supervision of Dr. Donald M. Baer. He also was a pre- and post-doctoral fellow at the UCLA Clinic for the Behavioral Treatment of Children, under the supervision of Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas. On returning to Norway he received clinical training at the University of Oslo and is a certified clinical psychologist. He has published a number of research articles and book chapters on autism, developmental disabilities and applied behavior analysis.

Presentation Title: Early intervention in ASD: History, intervention approaches and selection decisions

Abstract: Since the 1960s and until today, a number of educational intervention programs for children with ASD have been developed. Our review identified seven interventions that can be considered comprehensive, that is, addressing the core behavioral excesses and deficits exhibited by children with ASD. These were: (1) Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-handicapped Children (TEACCH), (2) Sensory Integration Therapy (SIT), (3) FloorTime, (4) Early and Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI), (5) Pivotal Response Training (PRT), (6) Relationship Development Intervention Program (RDI), and (7) The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM). A literature review identified a lack of outcome research evaluating the effectiveness of these interventions. Also, for the outcome studies that have been conducted, the scientific quality varied greatly, and scientific quality needs to be taken into account when considering treatment efficacy. Results of the literature review shows that Early and Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) is by far the best researched and best documented intervention for children with ASD. Several studies have demonstrated that EIBI may produce significant increases on standard scores in both intellectual functioning and adaptive functioning, as well as reductions in autistic symptoms and aberrant behaviors. Another recent comprehensive intervention, the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), carries considerable promise. However, until now, only one outcome study evaluating ESDM has been published. Hence, to date, EIBI is the only comprehensive educational intervention that can be considered evidence based for children with ASD.

Dr. William L. Heward - Ohio State University, Professor Emeritus, USA


William L. Heward, Ed.D., BCBA-D, is Professor Emeritus in the College of Education and Human Ecology at The Ohio State University. Bill has been a Senior Fulbright Scholar in Portugal, a Visiting Scholar at the National Institute of Education in Singapore, a Visiting Professor of Psychology at Keio University in Tokyo and at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, and he has given lectures and workshops in 16 other countries. He has published more than 100 journal articles and book chapters and nine books. His texts, Applied Behavior Analysis, 2nd ed. (2007, co-authored with John Cooper and Tim Heron) and Exceptional Children: An Introduction to Special Education, 10th ed. (2013), have been translated into several foreign languages. Awards recognizing Dr. Heward’s contributions to education and behavior analysis include the Fred S. Keller Behavioral Education Award from the American Psychological Association's Division 25 and the Ellen P. Reese Award for Communication of Behavioral Concepts from the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. A Past President and Fellow of the Association for Behavior Analysis International, Dr. Heward's research interests include "low-tech" methods for increasing the effectiveness of group instruction in inclusive classrooms and adaptations of curriculum and instruction that promote the generalization and maintenance of newly learned knowledge and skills.

Presentation Title: Working Together: Roles and Responsibilities of Teachers and Behavior Analysts on Behalf of Children with Autism in the Schools

Abstract: Children with autism are difficult to teach. Teaching them as well as they deserve demands extraordinary energy, technical skill, emotional commitment, perseverance, and teamwork by professionals and parents. This presentation will explore the following questions: What is the purpose of special education? What are the defining features of special education when practiced most effectively and ethically? What roles should special education teachers and behavior analysts fulfill to maximize the educational outcomes for a child with autism? What can both groups of professionals do to collaborate and serve children with autism more effectively?

Dr. Yankż Yazgan - Marmara University, Professor Emeritus, Turkey


Yanki Yazgan, M.D. (1959),  a graduate of Ege University Medical School, Izmir, Turkey (1983), received his child and adolescent psychiatry training (1995) at the Yale Child Study Center of Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, where he also completed a research training track in early onset neuropsychiatric disorders. Dr. Yazgan has taught and conducted research at the Marmara University School of Medicine as a full professor. He also holds a clinical/adjunct appointment at the Yale Child Study Center. Dr. Yazgan’s clinical interest is in the area of early-onset neuropsychiatric disorders such as ADHD, autism and Tourette’s syndrome/ obsessive-compulsive disorder, across the lifespan.

Presentation Title: How does a medical treatment in autism get established?
Evidence-based medical methods for comparing established and alternative treatments

Abstract: The purpose of medical practices is to cure diseases and to comfort patients, relieve pain when there is no cure. Although knowing the cause of the disease is a step towards treatment, this is not sufficient for guaranteed treatment. On the other hand, although the development mechanism is not known exactly, patients can also benefit from medical and non-medical treatments that are not disease-specific. Modern medicine has developed various methods to identify the limits of efficacy and safety of medical treatments to designate them as matching the ‘standards’ and being ‘established’. The role of medical treatments in treating autism and related neuro-developmental disorders is very limited. Practices based on especially educational, to a limited extent psycho-pedagogical/behavioral, and sensorimotor methods aiming to facilitate the development of children and individuals with autism can be viewed as enhancers that let individuals proceed in the developmental path rather than as a classical treatment. Current medical treatments, especially taking medication, provide support to practices carried out as well as to the ‘natural development’ process to a certain extent by controlling behavioral and cognitive problems. A by-product of not being able to develop standard medical treatments for autism due to various reasons is several diverse approaches collected under the name of ‘alternative’. The majority of these approaches consist of (a) biomedical approaches (e.g., diets, hyperbaric oxygen, etc.) that lack external support but have internal consistency; (b) medicines which passed the initial trials and gained anecdotal support but far from being established (e.g., cycloserin); and (c) medications proven to be effective for other conditions but not associated with autism. In order to derive a treatment out of the overlap between treatments which are promising or carrying a potential of improvement and the ‘alternative’ group that benefits patients as well as matches scientific criteria, differentiating ‘efficacious and safe’ treatments from the rest is one of the main focuses of medical research. During my presentation where I will address evidence-based medical approaches regarding how to investigate the differences between ‘being beneficial’ and ‘being counted as treatment’ by summarizing methods to establish and examine efficacy and to identify the benefit/harm limits of medications/treatments, I will share the knowledge regarding ways of developing medical treatments via autism-specific examples.