An international conference examining all aspects of autism – clinical, educational and social – is expected to attract more than 1,000 experts and interested individuals from across the globe to Israel this coming August.
Being organized by the New York-based non-profit organization ICare4autism, the conference is to take place at the capital’s International Convention Center with keynote presentations from Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and British businesswoman and philanthropist Dame Stephanie Shirley, who is a founding ambassador for philanthropy for the British government.
The conference will also feature guest speakers from as far afield as the Philippines, Brazil, Mexico, India, China, Britain and the US, who will unveil groundbreaking research and educational techniques for the treatment of autism apectrum disorders (ASD).
“We picked Jerusalem again this year because of the amazing success we had here two years ago,” ICare4autism CEO and founder Dr. Joshua Weinstein told The Jerusalem Post Monday.
Visiting Israel this week from New York, Weinstein said that the organization’s first conference here in 2010 had also caused a buzz among those who work in the field and that it had also brought experts from the medical field, educational research and policy-making from all over the world to Israel.
“When we first started ICare4autism, people told us that we could not put educators, researchers and medical clinicians in the same conference but we proved them wrong because it was exactly what parents wanted, everything in one place,” explained Weinstein about the organization, which aims to foster partnership and act as a hub for all those connected in someway to the developmental disorder.
Weinstein said that he received similar discouragement when he first suggested planning an international conference on autism in Jerusalem, but he added that the outpouring of interest and support from professionals around the world has been astounding.
“One of the most important things to understand is that we are not an Israeli organization and everyone can come on board,” he emphasized, adding, “my belief is that Jerusalem has a certain aura no matter where you come from and it is the center of the world.”
As well as international experts who are expected to converge on Jerusalem for the August conference, the New York-based Weinstein also said that he plans to highlight some of the work being done in Israel in the field and the roster of speakers includes several Israelis.
“We are also trying to make sure that the Minister of Welfare and Social Affairs [Moshe Kahlon] joins us,” he said.
However, Weinstein, who has held several mini-conferences here over the past two years, said that Israel still has a long way to go, especially in encouraging collaboration between all those involved in working with autism and raising social awareness.
“There is tremendous research but there is little collaboration between all the people,” he said, adding that he even found two researchers working on similar projects in the same hospital but who were unaware of each other.
Weinstein also noted a recent State Comptroller’s Report, which strongly criticized programs and treatment for children and adults with autism. He said that one of the organization’s projects was to create a work program for autistic adults.
ICare4autism also plans to open a global center for autism research in Hadassah Medical Center on Mount Scopus, sometime in 2015.
According to information provided by ICare4autism, while there is an alarming increase in worldwide cases of ASD, there is also incredible advancements in research, early diagnosis and more effective intervention.
“The ICare4autism 2012 Global Conference will be a unique opportunity for leading researchers, clinicians, educators and policymakers from all over the world to share their latest findings and create powerful new international collaborations that will ultimately allow us to discover the etiology of autism and its biologic and environmental causes,” commented Dr. Eric Hollander, a psychiatrist at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in New York and chairman of the ICare4autism Advisory Council.
He added, “This global cross-disciplinary gathering will play a vital role in speeding the development of improved methods of autism detection and treatment that are urgently needed by patients and the families.”