Website Launch for Families “Interacting With Autism”

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Children’s Hospital Los Angeles along with Autism Speaks recently co-sponsored an event to launch the website Interacting With Autism, a comprehensive website where parents, educators and healthcare providers can explore the latest information on autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

The event, held at the University of Southern California (USC) School of Cinematic Arts, was highlighted by a multiscreen viewing of the video-intensive website. The day also included expert panels on autism, including “The Causes of Autism” which featured Heather Volk, PhD, a principal investigator at The Saban Research Institute who spoke about the link between freeway pollution and autism. Families enjoyed refreshments throughout the day as well as performances, activities for children and a considerable array of representatives from organizations that serve individuals with ASD.

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles was an early partner in developing this website with the goal of helping families everywhere have the necessary information to be successful in getting a diagnosis and navigating services. Michele Kipke, PhD, principal investigator of the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network Center of Excellence at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, said, “Our early involvement in this important project was driven by our desire to provide families with the tools they need so that children everywhere can receive early diagnosis and intervention in order to achieve the best possible outcomes.”

The website, Interacting With Autism, is video-intensive and features interviews with parents, researchers and experts. Pat Levitt, PhD, director of Developmental Neurogenetics at the Institute for the Developing Mind, The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, is featured throughout the site and speaks on a variety of topics ranging from gastrointestinal issues associated with ASD to the interplay between genetics and the environment as a cause of the disorder. The website also features hours of interviews with parents, children, adolescents and adults with ASD.

The website is organized into three main themes:

-Understanding autism – including the suspected causes and diagnostic criteria. It also presents “voices from the spectrum” and parent perspectives and features one of our patients and her mom who is a member of the parent advisory board of the Boone Fetter Clinic.

-Treating autism – provides an overview of the different approaches as well as a videotaped session.

-Living with autism – deals with education, advocacy and resources.

Funded by the US Department of Health’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the three co-investigators responsible for the project include: USC School of Cinematic Arts Distinguished Professor and three-time Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker, Mark Jonathan Harris; USC School of Cinematic Arts professor Marsha Kinder; and education specialist, Gisele Ragusa.