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First Annual Autism Conference at Packard Children's and Stanford Brings Parents and Researchers Together

PALO ALTO, Calif., May 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Parents of children with autism often grapple with a bewildering array of questions and choices: "Did I do something to cause the disorder? Could it be genetic? What is it like to be a child with autism? Are there new medications or therapies that might alleviate some of my child's symptoms?"

On May 31, family members, caregivers and teachers of children with autism will have a unique opportunity to hear from researchers on the front line of the difficult disorder. 'Recent Advances in Autism Treatment and Research' is the first in what organizers from Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and Stanford University hope will be an annual event aimed at sharing the latest in autism research with the families of affected children.

"We're engaging family members and caregivers of children with autism," said Carl Feinstein, MD, the Endowed Director of Psychiatry at Packard Children's. "We want to share with the parents what we have learned and learn from the parents what they know."

Feinstein, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford's medical school, co-directs the Stanford Autism Working Group -- a collaboration of physicians, geneticists, neuroscientists, cell biologists, and bioengineers dedicated to discovering the neurological and biological basis of the complex disorder. The conference is meant to be the first in a series of productive exchanges between parents and members of the group.

"Parents are powerful advocates for their kids," said child psychiatrist Antonio Hardan, MD, who directs the autism and developmental disabilities clinic at Packard Children's. "But it is very important for them to be informed about the risks and benefits of intervention. We want to empower them by giving them a balanced view of the latest research and medical treatments."

At the all-day conference on the Stanford campus, Hardan, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford's medical school, will review the safety and effectiveness of traditional and innovative medications for some of the symptoms of autism and Asperger's Disorder. He will be joined by many other researchers and physicians from Stanford and Packard Children's.

"Stanford and Packard Children's have a very broad scientific community devoted to autism research," said child psychiatrist Joachim Hallmayer, MD. Hallmayer, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford, is studying pairs of twins to determine if there is a genetic link to autism. He will discuss the role of genes in the development of the disorder.

In addition to Hardan and Hallmayer, other researchers will discuss the medical management of autism, the basic science of autism, neurological problems associated with the disorder, and how a child with autism perceives the world. Finally, Judith Grether, PhD, from the California Department of Public Health, will review patterns and puzzles in environmental risk factors for autism.

"Much of the research owes its existence to the family members of these children," said Hallmayer. "There are some very good, very strong parent groups driving these types of investigations. They push for resources, for services and for public awareness of autism and associated disorders."

"We want to share what we've learned with these parents, even though we don't have all the answers," said Hardan. "They need to know what evidence there is, or isn't. This can help them understand the effectiveness of different approaches, enabling them to make the best decisions for their children."

"It's the beginning of what we hope will be a very open and productive dialogue," said Feinstein, "and we're excited about the possibilities."

The conference is organized by the Autism Working Group at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and the Stanford University School of Medicine, aided by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health. To register, visit The $100 registration includes lunch. The conference is scheduled from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm on May 31st at the Schwab Residential Center at 680 Serra St. on the Stanford campus. Parents, teachers, pediatricians, psychologists, caregivers, media and anyone with an interest in autism are invited to attend.

About Lucile Packard Children's Hospital

Ranked as one of the nation's top 10 pediatric hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford is a 272-bed hospital devoted to the care of children and expectant mothers. Providing pediatric and obstetric medical and surgical services and associated with the Stanford University School of Medicine, Packard Children's offers patients locally, regionally and nationally the full range of health care programs and services, from preventive and routine care to the diagnosis and treatment of serious illness and injury. For more information, visit


Robert Dicks


Todd Kleinheinz


SOURCE Lucile Packard Children's Hospital
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