Research News

Vanderbilt autism experts available for World Autism Day, National Autism Awareness Month

Autism experts from Vanderbilt University are available for interviews on World Autism Awareness Day, designated by the United Nations as April 2.

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This annual day of awareness comes in the wake of the CDC announcement that one in 88 children have an Autism Spectrum Disorder, up from one in 110 released in 2009.

All of the researchers listed below are members or investigators within the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development.

As part of Autism Awareness Month, nationally recognized each April, The Kennedy Center will host a community forum titled, “What’s on the Forefront of Autism Research?” Panelists will discuss recent research findings in the areas of intervention, neuroimaging and genetics and will take questions from the audience. The event is April 21 from 9 – 11 a.m. in room 241 of the One Magnolia Circle building and is free and open to the public. Registration is required.

To schedule an interview with one of these experts, contact Jennifer Wetzel at (615) 322-4747. Vanderbilt has a campus broadcast facility with a dedicated fiber optic line for live TV interviews and a radio ISDN line.

Researchers designated with an asterisk (*) will be panelists at the April 21 community forum on autism.

Stephen Camarata, professor of hearing and speech sciences, associate professor of special education; and Mark Wallace, professor of hearing and speech sciences, psychiatry and psychology
Camarata and Wallace study early language development and interventions for children with autism. The researchers are currently evaluating sensory integration therapy, a widely used but controversial method for improving communication skills in children with autism.

Carissa Cascio, assistant professor of psychiatry*
Cascio focuses on the neural basis of sensory processing differences in children and adults with autism and investigates what role sensory disruption plays in the core features of autism such as decreased socialization, restricted interests and repetitive behaviors.

Blythe Corbett, assistant professor of psychiatry
Corbett examines factors that enhance or diminish the response to social and nonsocial stress. Corbett founded SENSE Theatre, a theatrical intervention program designed to improve the social and emotional abilities of children with autism.

Carolyn Hughes, professor of special education
Often parents of children with disabilities are unaware of state services to assist with employment, postsecondary education and independent living. Hughes can discuss how parents and teachers can prepare students with autism and other disabilities for adulthood.

Ann Kaiser, professor of special education, Susan Gray Chair in Education and Human Development
Kaiser can discuss communication strategies and interventions that parents of children with autism can use with their children.

Craig Kennedy, professor of special education and pediatrics
Kennedy studies severe disabilities, including autism, and can discuss issues of social interaction, aggression and the relationship between genes, the brain and environment on behavior. He is the senior associate dean of Vanderbilt’s Peabody College, which is ranked No. 1 in the country by U.S. News and World Report.

Beth Malow, Burry Chair in Cognitive Childhood Development
Sleep is a common struggle for many children with autism. Malow is an expert on the interface of sleep and neurological disorders and directs the Vanderbilt Sleep Division. She recently created a resource with Autism Speaks to help improve sleep for children affected by autism spectrum disorders.

Julie Lounds Taylor, assistant professor of pediatrics; assistant professor of special education*
Taylor studies how individual, family and societal characteristics interact to promote healthy development and can discuss how families experience the transition to adulthood for young adults with autism.

Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, assistant professor of psychiatry, pediatrics and pharmacology*
Veenstra-VanderWeele directs the Translational Medicine Program in the Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Current research involves genetic mouse models of autism spectrum disorders and clinical treatment studies based upon mouse models. He, along with colleagues Randy Blakely and James Sutcliffe recently published a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that found early disruptions in serotonin signaling in the brain may contribute to autism.

Zachary Warren, assistant professor of pediatrics and psychiatry*
Warren directs the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders, which examines the causes and treatment of autism spectrum disorders with current research programs including the diagnosis of autism, identification of genetic and core behavioral features of autism and early intervention with children at risk for autism. Warren leads the autism evaluation and diagnostic clinics within Vanderbilt’s Department of pediatrics and Division of Developmental Medicine.

Paul Yoder, professor of special education*
Yoder studies communication and language development in children with autism and other disorders. He can discuss parental and community influences on communication and language development with toddlers and preschoolers with developmental disorders.