Irish Minister of Health to Speak at Nation’s First Ever International Autism Conference

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Pictured at the opening of the First International Autism Conference in Ireland at NUI Galway from left: Dr Simon Wallace, Autism Speaks; Dr Jim Browne, President of NUI Galway; Dr Geraldine Leader, Centre of Autism and Neurodevelopment Research, NUI Galway; and Mr Andy Shih, Autism Speaks.

The Irish Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopment Research at NUI Galway, in partnership with Autism Speaks and The American Ireland Fund, Launch the First International Autism Conference in Ireland

The Irish Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopment Research, in the School of Psychology at NUI Galway, in partnership with Autism Speaks, Galway University Foundation and The American Ireland Fund, are delighted to announce their first international conference, "Autism Spectrum Disorder: from Clinical Practice to Educational Provision," which began today, Thursday 12 January and Friday, 13 January 2012.

THE conference continues tomorrow when Minister of Health, Dr James Reilly TD will address an audience of over 600 researchers, healthcare professionals, teachers, and parents from around the world. The conference will unveil the latest research on early diagnosis of autism and will focus on providing practical solutions and approaches to diagnosis, clinical management, education, and adult service provision.

“This is a tremendous example of transatlantic cooperation to tackle one of the most demanding and complex issues affecting millions of families worldwide,” said Kieran McLoughlin, CEO of the American Ireland Fund.  “The partnership between Autism Speaks and NUI Galway and the willing support of our donors is a wonderfully tangible expression of the depth of Irish-American relations.”

International experts from the fields of health and education will discuss best practices, from diagnosis to intervention. Experts include Professor Connie Kasari from the Centre for Autism Research and Treatment at UCLA; Professor Cathy Lord, Director of the Weill Cornell Medical College and New York Presbyterian Hospital Institute for Brain Development; Professor Richard Foxx of Penn State University; and Professor Helen McConachie of Newcastle University.  

“We are delighted to be hosting such distinguished international experts,” said Conference organiser and lecturer in Psychology at NUI Galway, Dr Geraldine Leader. “It is only through the use of the latest up-to-date evidence based practices that we can ensure best outcomes for all individuals on the autism spectrum.”

Parents of autistic children have been invited to attend and participate in workshops on early intervention and caring for children on the autism spectrum.

Adrian Jones, a parent of an autistic child, a board member of Autism Speaks and Managing Director at Goldman Sachs, welcomed the conference. “Our family has been dealing with autism since we got Liam's diagnosis 10 years ago, during which time we have been fortunate to benefit from the insight and guidance of experts in the field,” Jones said.  “We've seen the impact that Autism Speaks has had in generating awareness throughout the US, and the tangible benefits to families of its many programme initiatives. We hope the insights of global experts at this conference will accelerate improvements in care for Irish children and adults with autism.”

Virginia Bovell, co-founder of the Tree House School in London, will speak about her longtime campaign for autism services in England.

Bovell will share stories of raising her son Danny, who is on the spectrum, and discuss her experience in the context of the wider policy and intellectual environment.

The conference workshops will highlight new technologies and practical strategies for managing challenges faced in schools for helping children on the autism spectrum. They will discuss treating associated medical conditions, and present the latest research on early signs of autism and the use of medication for people on the autism spectrum.

President of NUI Galway Dr Jim Browne said the conference highlights NUI Galway’s commitment to autism research and underscores the translational dimension of the University’s work.  “With over 600 parents, professionals and support workers present to learn from best international practice, we are bringing our research-led teaching from the clinic to classroom and back again,” Browne said. “This conference will be an important landmark for many families affected by autism.”

The Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopment Research at NUI Galway will be officially launched by President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins on Friday, 24 February.

For further information on the conference, or to register, visit



Author: Marketing and Communications Office, NUI Galway
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