According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there is no cure for ASDs but there are ways to help minimize the symptoms and to maximize learning. These include therapy for speech, occupation, and physical movement. Schools can also provide individualized education tailored to the needs of the child.
But we need to understand the magnitude of the problem and focus our scientists and entrepreneurs on solutions.
Vivek Wadhwa is Vice President of Innovation and Research at Singularity University and Arthur & Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University. His other academic appointments include Harvard, Duke and Emory Universities as well as the University of California Berkeley.
(Illustration by Allie Ghaman/The Washington Post) - For Carly Fleischmann, the social Web along with other technologies allow her to have a voice. In the not-so-distant past, she likely would have been left to languish in silence.
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Bob Wright said that he had convinced the government of South Korea to study the prevalence of ASDs in its population. Shockingly, it found that 2.64 percent of children 7 to 12 years of age—or one in 38—was affected. Most of the cases had been previously undiagnosed.
Bob and his wife Suzanne Wright founded Autism Speaks in 2005 after their grandchild was diagnosed with autism. At the Nantucket Project event, Bob said,“evidence suggests we are also underestimating autism prevalence in the U.S. due to current research methods that fail to capture cases in the general population, enrolled in typical classroom settings that are generally higher functioning.” The Wrights have made it their mission to increase awareness and catalyze cures.
Autism Speaks and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently entered into a collaboration to replicate the South Korean study case-finding methodology at test sites in the United States. The organization has also partnered with the Beijing Genomics Institute in China to sequence the genome of approximately 10,000 individuals from families living with autism in China and the U.S. They plan to make these data freely available to anyone who wants to research the disease. They have launched a Web site to bring together a community to “hack autism.”
The Nantucket Project event was billed as a gathering of about 400 “visionaries, thinkers, innovators, and performers.” Attendees included tech celebrities such as Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel, actor Mark Ruffalo, political activist Grover Norquist and former lobbyist Jack Abramhoff, former Senator Bill Frist, and former treasury secretary Larry Summers.
In my talk on the autism panel, I challenged the attendees to marshal their resources to help solve these problems. Entrepreneurs and philanthropists can make the difference. I also hope that Kerry keeps his word to write a recommendation letter for Carly to gain admission to his alma mater: Yale.
Disclosure: I gave three talks at The Nantucket Project. The organizers of the event provided transportation to the Island as well as accommodation for the two nights I was there.
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