||New U-M center mix of clinic, training, research: Research looks at genetics, development, and diagnostic tools
By: Anne Reuter, Ann Arbor News Staff Reporter
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
Catherine Lord featured in two articles on the February 23, 2003 Ann Arbor News Connection, page E1.
Catherine Lord, who heads the University of Michigan's year-old Autism and Communication Disorders Center, rarely gets a chance to catch her breath. The problem of autism caused only murmurs 30 years ago when, as a psychology graduate student, she tried to teach two institutionalized autistic children to speak. Now, as autism concerns have risen to a clamor, Lord is at the heart of stepped-up efforts to help children with the neurological condition known as autism spectrum disorder - and learn its causes. The center runs a clinic offering diagnostic and follow-up services for families of autistic children. It also trains professionals who deal with autism. Its third thrust is research.
Internationally known as an autism expert, Lord has brought several ongoing projects to U-M. She previously held posts at the University of North Carolina, the University of Chicago and Harvard.
Among the projects:
A long-term study is tracing the course of autism in children as they grow up. Participants who started at age 2 are now in their teens. Researchers hope to learn how therapy alters brain activity, why some children regress and why some have seizures in adolescence.
Studies continue to refine a rigorous two-part diagnostic method, now the standard in research studies, that is becoming widely used outside academia. The tools hold promise in monitoring change as children grow.
The center's staff is working with researchers in England, France and Denmark on a genetics study looking into the role of heredity in families with more than one close family member with autism. "Several genes have been identified as places to look more closely," says Christina Corsello, the center's associate director.
The center's clinic saw 107 children last year. It is organizing support groups for adolescent girls with autism and for adults with Asperger's syndrome, a disorder related to autism.
Since there is no cure for autism, Corsello tells parents they need to "conserve their financial resources and their energy." Lord is well aware of the challenges parents with autistic youngsters face. "What do you do if you can't go out because you have a child who's afraid of door jambs?" she asks. She worries that many parents feel they're falling through the cracks.
To help more autistic children early, school districts and parents need to work together to decide what is realistic, and how to tap existing programs, she says.
© 2003 Ann Arbor News
Lord was also featured in another article on the same page by Anne Rueter, titled "Still trying to attune to autism."
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