Autism spectrum disorders are severe neurodevelopmental disorders affecting young children that are usually detected in the first years of life. Autism is now recognized as one of the most common developmental disorders — likely to affect about 10,000 youth under age 18 in Oregon.
Meanwhile, epidemiological studies have shown increasing rates of autism in most countries. On Tuesday, April 2, as part of the OHSU Brain Awareness Season lecture series, I will speak about my work over the last 25 years in studying autism. And I will talk about the factors that might account for the upward trends and rates, including the role of prenatal factors or childhood immunizations.
Major progresses have been achieved in the last few years with large-scale genetic studies on autism. An increased proportion in cases of autism — about 25 percent — can now be traced back to known genetic causes.
The new genetic discoveries are paving the way for identifying novel treatments and drug therapies currently under development that might become available in the not-too-distant future.
The outcome of autism has changed since the development of early intensive behavior programs that can significantly improve the developmental trajectories of children with autism — provided that they are accessed early and with sufficient intensity. On Tuesday, I will also talk about treatments that work and how available those treatments are.
Capitalizing on existing strengths in basic and clinical sciences, OHSU is now developing a Center for Excellence in Autism that will act as a resource center for health-care providers and families in the community while contributing through research to a new understanding of the causes and treatments of autism.
Eric Fombonne, M.D.
Professor of Psychiatry
Director, Autism Research Center, OHSU Brain Institute