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HHS Secretary Leavitt Announces Members of the New Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee

WASHINGTON, Nov. 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced today the members appointed to the Department of Health and Human Services' new Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. This committee coordinates efforts within the department to combat autism spectrum disorder through research, screening, intervention, and education. The committee will facilitate the efficient and effective exchange of information on autism activities among member agencies, and coordinate autism-related programs and initiatives.

"This important committee will play a key role in coordinating autism research, services, and education related to autism spectrum disorder," Secretary Leavitt said. "I'm pleased that its members bring to the committee a wide range and great depth of expertise, including research and program administration, advocacy and personal experience with the condition."

Authorized under the Combating Autism Act of 2006, the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee advises the HHS Secretary and the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Secretary Leavitt delegated the authority to establish the committee to the NIH, which designated its National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to lead this activity.

The committee chair is Thomas R. Insel, M.D., director of NIMH.

"The committee's first priority will be to develop a strategic plan for autism research that can guide public and private investments to make the greatest difference for families struggling with autism," Dr. Insel said.

HHS is active in fostering research and making the results available to aid people with autism.

Among the activities:

NIH funding and expertise support the Autism Centers of Excellence program, which the agency launched after the Combating Autism Act was passed, to seek the causes of autism and new treatments for the disorder.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports a multi-state collaborative study to help identify factors that put children at risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and other developmental disabilities. The five-year study, called SEED (Study to Explore Early Development), is currently enrolling participants.

CDC has reported findings from the first and largest summary of autism prevalence data from multiple U.S. communities. These findings, which found autism spectrum disorders in approximately one in 150 children in these communities, was reported by the Autism and Development Disabilities Monitoring Network, which was designed to provide more consistent and reliable estimates.

Federal members of the new panel:

Duane Alexander, M.D., is director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at NIH. The Institute supports research on all stages of human development, from preconception to adulthood, to better understand the health of children, adults, families, and communities.

James Battey, M.D., Ph.D., is director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders at NIH. The Institute supports biomedical and behavioral research and research training in the normal and disordered processes of hearing, balance, smell, taste, voice, speech, and language.

Ellen Blackwell, M.S.W., is a health insurance specialist of the Division of Community and Institutional Services, Disabled and Elderly Health Programs Group, Center for Medicaid and State Operations, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services where she serves as an expert on policies that affect individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

Margaret Giannini, M.D., F.A.A.P., is director of the HHS Office on Disability. Dr. Giannini serves as advisor to the Secretary on HHS activities relating to disabilities. She is also a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Gail Houle, Ph.D., is associate division director of the Research-to-Practice Division, Early Childhood Programs, Office of Special Education Programs, Department of Education where she oversees programs for children with disabilities and their families funded through the Individual with Disabilities Education Act. Her expertise focuses on services for children with autism spectrum disorders.

Larke Huang, Ph.D., is senior advisor on children and a licensed clinical-community psychologist who provides leadership on federal national policy pertaining to mental health and substance use issues for children, adolescents and families for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Thomas Insel, M.D., is director of the National Institute of Mental Health at NIH. The Institute's mission is to reduce the burden of mental illness and behavioral disorders through research on mind, brain, and behavior.

Story Landis, Ph.D., is director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at NIH. The Institute's focus is directed toward reducing the burden of neurological disease through research on the normal and diseased nervous system.

Cindy Lawler, Ph.D., is scientific program director of the Cellular, Organs, and Systems Pathobiology Branch, Division of Extramural Research and Training, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at NIH. The Branch plans, directs, and evaluates the Institute's grant program that supports research and research training in environmental health.

Patricia Morrissey, Ph.D., is commissioner of the Administration on Developmental Disabilities at the Administration for Children and Families, which seeks to improve services to and assure that individuals with developmental disabilities have opportunities to make their own choices, contribute to society, have supports to live independently, and are free of abuse, neglect, financial and sexual exploitation, and violations of their legal and human rights.

Edwin Trevathan, M.D., M.P.H., is director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) at CDC. NCBDDD is focused on identifying the causes of and preventing birth defects and developmental disabilities, helping children to develop and reach their full potential, and promoting health and well-being among people of all ages with disabilities. Dr. Trevathan is representing Julie Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H., director of the CDC, on the committee.

Peter van Dyck, M.D., M.P.H., is associate administrator of Maternal and Child Health at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Dr. van Dyck oversees HRSA's Maternal and Child Health Bureau, which seeks to improve the health of mothers, children, and families, particularly those who are poor or lack access to care.

Elias Zerhouni, M.D., is director of the National Institutes of Health. A world renowned leader in the field of radiology and medicine, Dr. Zerhouni has spent his career providing clinical, scientific, and administrative leadership. He leads the nation's medical research agency and oversees the NIH's 27 Institutes and Centers with more than 18,000 employees.

Non-federal members:

Lee Grossman is president and CEO of Autism Society of America (ASA) and the parent of a young adult son with autism. Mr. Grossman is also the chair of the ASA Foundation and a member of the ASA Environmental Health Advisory Board.

Yvette Janvier, M.D., is the medical director for Children's Specialized Hospital in New Jersey. Dr. Janvier is also a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Her specialties are autism and developmental and behavioral pediatrics. Dr. Janvier is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Christine McKee, J.D., has developed and manages an in-home therapy for her autistic child, creating and/or assembling all of the therapy related materials. Ms. McKee participates in monthly consultations with a Board Certified Behavior Analyst/Speech Pathologist. She applies the therapeutic measures in her daily parenting and childcare routines.

Lyn Redwood, RN, MSN, is co-founder and president of the Coalition for Safe Minds. Ms. Redwood is also on the board of the National Autism Association. She became involved in autism research when her son was diagnosed with pervasive development disorder in 1999. She is a nurse practitioner with 25 years of experience.

Stephen Shore, Ed.D., is executive director of Autism Spectrum Disorder Consulting. Drawing on his experiences as an individual with an autism spectrum disorders diagnosis, Dr. Shore presents and consults internationally on adult issues pertinent to education, relationships, employment, advocacy, and disclosure. He also serves on the board of the Autism Society of America, as board president of the Asperger's Association of New England, and is on the board of directors for Unlocking Autism, the Autism Services Association of Massachusetts, MAAP Services, The College Internship Program, and the KEEN Foundation.

Alison Tepper Singer, MBA, is executive vice president of Autism Speaks and is a member of the board of directors. Prior to joining Autism Speaks, Ms. Singer spent 14 years at CNBC and NBC where she served in several positions. She has both a daughter and an older brother with autism, giving her long-term, personal experience with the disorder.

The following Web page provides links to additional information on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, including information about upcoming meetings and highlights from meetings of the prior committee: ings/iacc/index.shtml

NIMH's mission is to reduce the burden of mental and behavioral disorders through research on mind, brain, and behavior. More information is available at the NIMH Web site,

NIH -- The Nation's Medical Research Agency -- includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at

SOURCE U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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