[PHOTO - The Irish Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopment Research at NUI Galway, in partnership with Autism Speaks and The American Ireland Fund, Launch the First International Autism Conference in Ireland]



Irish Minister for Health James Reilly Allocates €1m in Additional Funding for Autism

GALWAY, IRELAND (January 13, 2012) –

Irish Minister for Health Dr. James Reilly (photo) today announced the allocation of €1m in additional funding to address the needs of children with autism this year, with a further €1m following over each of the next two years - €3m in total. His announcement came at the conclusion of Ireland's first international autism conference, “Autism Spectrum Disorder: From Clinical Practice to Educational Provision,” which took place from January 12 to January 13, 2012, and was convened by The Irish Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopment Research, at NUI Galway, in partnership with Autism Speaks, The American Ireland Fund, and Galway University Foundation.

“For school age children with disabilities, including autism, access to therapy supports contributes significantly to the extent to which they can engage in school life and with the curriculum. In this context, additional funding is being allocated to address existing waiting lists and ensure that children with autism receive the supports they require to achieve their full potential,” said Dr. Reilly.

An estimated 1 in 100 children in the UK is on the autism spectrum, or 1%, which is what researchers suggest is the global prevalence.

Over 600 international autism experts, researchers, healthcare professionals, teachers, and parents gathered at the conference to discuss best practices from diagnosis to intervention and associated medical conditions. Experts presented the latest research on early signs of autism and the use of medication for people on the autism spectrum.

Experts that attended included Professor Connie Kasari, Ph.D., from the Centre for Autism Research and Treatment at UCLA; Professor Cathy Lord, Ph.D., Director of the Weill Cornell Medical College and New York Presbyterian Hospital Institute for Brain Development; Professor Richard Foxx, Ph.D., of Penn State University; and Professor Helen McConachie, Ph.D., of Newcastle University.

“This is a tremendous example of transatlantic cooperation to tackle one of the most demanding and complex issues affecting millions of families worldwide,” said Kieran McLoughlin, CEO of the American Ireland Fund. “The partnership between Autism Speaks and NUI Galway and the willing support of our donors is a wonderfully tangible expression of the depth of Irish-American relations.”

Virginia Bovell, founding parent of the Tree House School in London, spoke about her longtime campaign for autism services in England and experience raising her son Danny, who is on the autism spectrum, in the context of the wider policy and intellectual environment.

Ms. Bovell, who received her masters degree and is currently studying for a doctorate in medical ethics and law, suggested future social policy goals should include 1) access to relevant and appropriate support will be available to all, without struggle, and across the lifespan 2) developments in autism research and practice will be informed and led by a partnership of stakeholders, professionals and researchers.

“Having a child with autism has been an amazing journey, and it’s a real pleasure and privilege to share some of that at this conference at NUI Galway. The work of the Irish Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopment Research is truly exciting and I am sure will help many people directly and by inspiring others,” said Ms. Bovell. “Setting up Tree House and seeing it grow over time has been a big adventure, I’m just thrilled to know that we are all – wherever we live – dedicated to making lives better for people with autism and their families.”

The conference unveiled the latest autism research covering early diagnosis, practical solutions, clinical management, education and adult service provision.

Adrian Jones, a parent of an autistic child who is a board member of Autism Speaks and of the American Ireland Fund welcomed the conference. “Our family has been dealing with autism since we got Liam's diagnosis 10 years ago, during which time we have been fortunate to benefit from the insight and guidance of experts in the field,” Jones said. “We've seen the impact that Autism Speaks has had in generating awareness throughout the U.S., and the tangible benefits to families of its many programme initiatives. We hope the insights of global experts at this conference will accelerate improvements in care for children and adults with autism.”

Parents of children with autism participated in workshops on early intervention, caring for children on the autism spectrum, new technologies and practical strategies for schools.

President of NUI Galway Dr. Jim Browne said the conference highlighted NUI Galway’s commitment to autism research and underscored the translational dimension of the university’s work. “With over 600 parents, professionals and support workers present to learn from best international practice, we are bringing our research-led teaching from the clinic to classroom and back again,” Browne said. “This conference will be an important landmark for many families affected by autism.”

The Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopment Research at NUI Galway will be officially launched on Friday, February 24, 2012.

For further information on the conference, or to register, visit




About NUI Galway NUI Galway* is one of Ireland’s foremost centres of academic excellence. Over 17,000 students undertake an extensive range of studies at the University, which is renowned for the quality of its graduates. NUI Galway is a research-led University with internationally recognised expertise in areas including Biomedical Science and Engineering, Web Science, Human Rights, Marine Science, Energy and Environmental Science, Applied Social Sciences and Public Policy, and Humanities, in particular literature, theatre and Irish Studies.

For more information visit or view all NUI Galway news here.

*The University's official title is National University of Ireland, Galway. Please note that the only official abbreviation is NUI Galway.

The Irish Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopment Research is a centre of excellence in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and related neurodevelopment disorders. ASD affects 1:100 people and the diagnosis involves difficulties in communication, forming relationships, developing language and in using abstract concepts.

The lack of services in Ireland places an enormous burden on parents. The mission of The Irish Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopment Research is dedicated to ensuring improvements for individuals with ASD and their families; through research, education and improving services.

NUI Galway offered an MSc program in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) in 2006. Since its inception, 55 students have graduated, and are working throughout Ireland as autism treatment specialists, family support workers, and consultants to schools and educational programs that serve children with autism diagnoses.The University now offers a PhD programme in ABA, training graduates to become practitioners, researchers and educators.

About Autism Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated 1 in 110 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum – a 600 percent increase in the past two decades that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.

About Autism Speaks

Autism Speaks is the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. Since its inception in 2005, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $160 million to research and developing innovative new resources for families.

The organization is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. In addition to funding research, Autism Speaks has created resources and programs including the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, Autism Speaks’ Autism Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, which Autism Speaks celebrates through its Light it Up Blue initiative.

Also, Autism Speaks award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council has received over $300 million in donated media. Autism Speaks’ family resources include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit, a Grandparent’s Guide to Autism, and a community grant program. Autism Speaks has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the government’s response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments in 29 states thus far, with bills pending in an additional 10 states. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 80 cities across North America.

To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit

About the Co-Founders

Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright (photo), the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Senior Advisor at Lee Equity Partners and Chairman and CEO of the Palm Beach Civic Association.

He served as Vice Chairman of General Electric; and as the Chief Executive Officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than twenty years.

He also serves on the board of directors of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation, Mission Product, EMI Group Global Ltd., and AMC Networks Inc., and is a Trustee of the New York Presbyterian hospital. Suzanne Wright is a Trustee Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater.

Suzanne has received numerous awards, the Women of Distinction Award from Palm Beach Atlantic University, the CHILD Magazine Children’s Champions Award, Luella Bennack Volunteer Award, Spirit of Achievement award by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's National Women’s Division and The Women of Vision Award from the Weizmann Institute of Science.

In 2008, the Wrights were named to the Time 100 Heroes and Pioneers category, a list of the most influential people in the world, for their commitment to global autism advocacy. They have also received the first ever Double Helix Award for Corporate Leadership from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the NYU Child Advocacy Award, the Castle Connolly National Health Leadership Award and the American Ireland Fund Humanitarian Award.

In the past couple of years the Wrights have received honorary doctorate degrees from St. John’s University, St. Joseph’s University and UMass Medical School.

About the American Ireland Fund

The American Ireland Fund is a philanthropic network that supports worthy causes in Ireland and around the world. Our mission is to be the largest network of friends of Ireland dedicated to supporting programs of peace and reconciliation, arts and culture, education and community development throughout the island of Ireland. Founded in 1976, The Worldwide Ireland Funds currently operate in 12 countries and have raised over $380 million for more than 1,200 outstanding organizations.

The Worldwide Ireland Funds have launched the Promising Ireland Campaign to raise $100 million by the end of 2013 on behalf of Irish charities. Charities across the island of Ireland are experiencing an increased demand for their services at a time of a major reduction in resources. The Campaign's title - Promising Ireland - reflects The Worldwide Ireland Funds' pledge to these groups as well as a belief in Ireland's future.


Connie Kasari, Ph.D. is Professor of Psychological Studies in Education and Psychiatry at UCLA, where she is the Principal Investigator for several multi-site research programs, including the Characterizing Cognition in Nonverbal Individuals with Autism Intervention network by Autism Speaks.

She received her PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was a NIMH postdoctoral fellow at the Neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA. Since 1990 she has been on the faculty at UCLA where she teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses, and has been the primary advisor to more than 30 PhD students. She is a founding member of the Center for Autism Research and Treatment at UCLA and has been actively involved in autism research for the past 25 years, leading projects under the CPEA, STAART, and Autism Centers of Excellence programs from NIH. Her current research focuses on developing targeted interventions for early social communication development in at risk infants, toddlers and preschoolers with autism, and peer relationships for school aged children with autism.

She is involved in several randomized controlled trials, with her most recent work involving multi-site studies for interventions aimed at underserved and under-represented populations of children with autism. She has published widely on topics related to social, emotional, and communication development and intervention in autism. She is on the treatment advisory board of the Autism Speaks Foundation, and regularly presents to both academic and practitioner audiences locally, nationally and internationally.

Catherine Lord, Ph.D. is the Director of the Institute for Brain Development, a new autism center at New York Presbyterian Hospital, a collaborative effort among Weill-Cornell Medical College, Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons and the New York Center for Autism, a not-for-profit autism advocacy organization. Previously she was the director of the University of Michigan Autism and Communication Disorders Center (UMACC) and the Urie Bronfenbrenner Collegiate Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Pediatrics.

She is a clinical psychologist who has worked in Canada and the U.K. and at various universities in the U.S., including the TEACCH program. She was involved in developing standardized diagnostic instruments for ASD [the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), an observational scale, and the Autism Diagnostic Interview – Revised (ADI-R), a parent interview]. She was the Chair of the Committee on Effectiveness of Early Intervention in Autism for the National Research Council and is currently on the DSM-V Neurodevelopmental Disorders Committee.

In her current, as well as previous positions, she provides clinical evaluations, carries out and consults to various interventions and trains university students and professionals in the diagnosis of ASD.

Most recently, she has participated in randomized studies of four preschool interventions: the Early Start Denver Model (Rogers & Dawson), the Early Social Interaction study (Wetherby & Wood), a focused supplemental intervention targeting joint attention/symbolic play (Kasari), and a pilot test of a new home-based intervention designed to better meet the needs of families with very few resources.

Other recent or current projects include the development of a toddler ADOS module and a more efficient diagnostic interview; analysis of behavioral data from a genetic repository for families with a child with autism and a typical child; the development of a measure of spontaneous, functional language in children with ASD and other language disorders; and a longitudinal study of children from North Carolina and Chicago followed from age 2 who are now in their twenties.

Virginia Bovell has an 18-year old son with autism and severe learning difficulties. He attends the 6th form of Tree House School, which is run by the charity Ambitious about Autism (formerly the TreeHouse Trust – which she helped found, together with other parents).

Virginia has been active in awareness-raising and lobbying, hoping to make autism a higher priority among policy-makers and opinion-formers. She has participated in a range of UK Government working parties and was one of the Expert Advisers on the Lamb Inquiry into parental confidence in the Special Educational Needs system. She has been a trustee for the NAS and remains a NAS Regional Councillor for Greater London.

Before all of this she worked as a researcher at London School of Economics. In recent years she has completed an MA in Medical Ethics and Law and is enrolled for a doctorate at Oxford to research the ethical issues around ‘cure’ and ‘prevention’ of autism. She is a member of the UK Autism Rights Movement.

Gillian Baird is Professor of Paediatric Neurodisability at King's College London and a consultant paediatrician at Guy's & St Thomas Trust, where she works with a multidisciplinary team in diagnosis and management of a range of neurodevelopmental disabilities in children and young people.

Her research interests are in autism, language disorders and cerebral palsy. She is vice president of Afasic and the NAS , chair of the british academy of childhood disability and on the neurodevelopmental working groups of both the DSM and ICD.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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