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Autism experts to gather at USC symposium

USC faculty and community experts are slated to convene on March 9 at the USC Occupational Science Symposium to share research and perspectives on autism and autism spectrum disorders with an audience of university colleagues and students, health professionals and public advocates.

The 2012 Occupational Science Symposium, titled "Autism in Everyday Life: Interdisciplinary Research Perspectives at USC," is a day-long event that will showcase USC's excellence in autism research across the sciences, arts and humanities, and will foster dialogue between disciplines approaching autism from different angles.

The symposium, now in its 23rd year, will be hosted by the USC Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC. In years past, the symposium has attracted renowned guests, such as physicist Stephen Hawking, primatologist Jane Goodall, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio and psychologist Jerome Bruner, to USC.

This year's lineup will feature five distinguished lecturers and two moderated panel discussions. Scheduled speakers will include Catherine Lord, director of the Institute for Brain Development at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, the largest autism-specific facility in the New York City area, and author of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, a "gold standard" instrument used by health professionals for assessing and diagnosing autism; Florence Clark PhD '82, associate dean of the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, and member of the state of California's newly formed Autism Advisory Task Force that is overseeing the enactment of California's recent autism insurance reform legislation; Pat Levitt, director of the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, where neuroscientists are working to understand and ultimately develop cures for a range of neurological and psychiatric disorders, including autism; Rodney Peete '89, former USC and National Football League quarterback who, as the father of a son with autism, has become an autism awareness advocate and author; and Susan Knox MA '68, PhD '97, author of the Knox Preschool Play Scale, a standardized instrument that evaluates play in children to provide a measure of their functional development.

Two moderated discussion panels will feature USC scholars from the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, the Keck School, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the USC School of Cinematic Arts, including Academy Award-winning documentarian and Distinguished Professor Mark Jonathan Harris and University Professor Marsha Kinder. Harris and Kinder are producing a transmedia project titled "Interacting With Autism."

"The mission of the division," Clark said, "is to improve the health and quality of life for individuals with disabilities, their families and caregivers, and our communities. The Occupational Science Symposium has been facilitating this objective across four decades, and I know the 2012 edition will certainly be one to remember."


Contact: Mike McNulty
University of Southern California

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