25 Apr 2007

The Open University to host national conference on autism research

The Open University’s Department of Biological Sciences is to host Autism Research UK – from diagnosis to intervention on 11 and 12 May. This major conference, organised by autism researchers Payam Rezaie and Ilona Roth, brings together leading investigators from across the UK, to present their latest findings and exchange their ideas about Autism Spectrum Disorders.

In this, the first national meeting of this scope, internationally renowned keynote speakers and chairpersons will come together with senior representatives from the Medical Research Council, The Wellcome Trust, the Economic and Social Research Council, National Autistic Society and Autism Speaks, for two days of discussion and debate aimed at elucidating ways forward in understanding autism spectrum conditions, and in helping people on the spectrum and their families.

This most compelling and puzzling group of conditions is characterised by mild to profound disturbance of social, communicative and motor function, a diagnostic profile of symptoms which may co-occur with other problems, notably epilepsy in around one third of cases. Severe autism typically involves cognitive disability, yet a significant minority of individuals on the autistic spectrum also have specific areas of highly developed skill. While initially considered rare, on current estimates around 116 children in 10,000 have an autism spectrum diagnosis, with many more males being affected.

Key unanswered questions about autistic conditions such as their causes, core psychological features, the brain processes involved, and the most effective ways to support and work with people on the autism spectrum, will be addressed in a series of themed scientific sessions. Each session will present ‘cutting-edge’ research and will chart the way UK-based investigations have shaped and developed our understanding of autism over recent years.

The conference takes place at The Open University, Milton Keynes, and registration closes on 30 April 2007. Delegate rates are £200 and further registration information can be found at the conference website, see right.

Editor’s Notes
Session themes of the conference:
- Diagnosis and assessment
- Aetiology, epidemiology and genetics
- Metabonomic, biochemical and physiological perspectives
- Neurology, imaging and brain pathology
- Psychological perspectives, language and communication
- Education, management and early intervention

The conference is sponsored by the Medical Research Council; The Wellcome Trust; Autism Speaks; British Neuropathological Society; British Psychological Society; and Autism Unravelled.

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