Sunday, December 02, 2007

Advocates, Parents Among Those Appointed to Autism Committee at National Institutes of Health

One theme of the Combating Autism Act of 2006 was to do more to coordinate federal government efforts on autism research and diagnostic screening along with autism services and education programs. Following this directive, Mike Leavitt, the Bush Administration's secretary of Health and Human Services, on Nov. 27 announced 19 appointments to the government's Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee.

The committee's goal is to make sure government agencies are sharing information so they can coordinate their respective efforts on various autism-related programs. You can read Leavitt's full announcement by clicking here.

While the law calls for the director of the Centers for Disease Control to be appointed to this panel, Leavitt instead appointed another CDC official to represent the agency head, Julie Gerberding. (You can read the text of the Combating Autism Act here in a PDF file. For those of you interested in the specific section of the law pertaining to this committee, read to the end of this post.)

The committee chair is Thomas R. Insel, M.D., director of National Institutes for Mental Health. "The committee's first priority will be to develop a strategic plan for autism research that can guide public and private investments to make the greatest difference for families struggling with autism," Dr. Insel said in a statement.

Four Parents, One Autistic Adult Appointed to the Committee

The law calls for the committee to have one-third of its members come from the public at large, and at least one person with autism, one parent and one member of the autism advocacy organization. Levitt's six choices to fill these roles are below, with notes from the government's press release and some associated website links:

Stephen Shore, Ed.D., the executive director of Autism Spectrum Disorder Consulting. See his website at Shore has an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. He is an education consultant who is an expert "on adult issues pertinent to education, relationships, employment, advocacy, and disclosure." Shore serves on the board of the Autism Society of America, as board president of the Asperger's Association of New England, and is on the board of directors for Unlocking Autism, the Autism Services Association of Massachusetts, MAAP Services, The College Internship Program, and the KEEN Foundation.

Parent Lee Grossman, the president and CEO of Autism Society of America (ASA), a leading advocacy organization based near Washington D.C. He is the parent of a young adult son with autism. Mr. Grossman is also the chair of the ASA Foundation and a member of the ASA Environmental Health Advisory Board.

Parent Christine McKee is a lawyer who has developed and manages an in-home therapy for her autistic child. She participates in monthly consultations with a Board Certified Behavior Analyst/Speech Pathologist. She applies the therapeutic measures in her daily parenting and childcare routines.

Parent Lyn Redwood is co-founder and president of the advocacy group Coalition for Safe Minds. The coalition is a private nonprofit organization "founded to investigate and raise awareness of the risks to infants and children of exposure to mercury from medical products, including thimerosal in vaccines." She is a nurse practitioner who has 25 years of experience, and began her advocacy efforts for autism research after her son was diagnosed with pervasive development disorder in 1999."

Parent and sibling Alison Tepper Singer is executive vice president of Autism Speaks and is a member of the board of directors. Prior to joining Autism Speaks, Ms. Singer spent 14 years at CNBC and NBC where she served in several positions. She has both a daughter and an older brother with autism, giving her long-term, personal experience with the disorder.

Yvette Janvier, M.D., is the medical director for Children's Specialized Hospital in New Jersey. Dr. Janvier is also a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Her specialties are autism and developmental and behavioral
pediatrics. Dr. Janvier is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Government Officials on Committee

Secretary Leavitt appointed 13 government officials and researchers to this committee. They are:

Duane Alexander, M.D., director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at NIH. The Institute supports research on all stages of human development, from preconception to adulthood, to better understand the health of children, adults, families, and communities.

James Battey, M.D., is director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders at NIH. The Institute supports biomedical and behavioral research and research training in the normal and disordered processes of hearing, balance, smell, taste, voice, speech, and language.

Ellen Blackwell is a social worker and health insurance specialist of the Division of Community and Institutional Services, Disabled and Elderly Health Programs Group, Center for Medicaid and State Operations, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services where she serves as an expert on policies that affect individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

Margaret Giannini, M.D., is director of the HHS Office on Disability. Dr. Giannini serves as advisor to the Secretary on HHS activities relating to disabilities. She is also a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Gail Houle, is associate division director of the Research-to-Practice Division, Early Childhood Programs, Office of Special Education Programs, Department of Education where she oversees programs for children with disabilities and their families funded through the Individual with Disabilities Education Act. Her expertise focuses on services for children with autism spectrum disorders.

Larke Huang is senior advisor on children and a licensed clinical-community psychologist who provides leadership on federal national policy pertaining to mental health and substance use issues for children, adolescents and families for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Thomas Insel, M.D., is director of the National Institute of Mental Health at NIH. The Institute's mission is to reduce the burden of mental illness and behavioral disorders through research on mind, brain, and behavior.

Story Landis is director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at NIH. The Institute's focus is directed toward reducing the burden of neurological disease through research on the normal and diseased nervous system.

Cindy Lawler is scientific program director of the Cellular, Organs, and Systems Pathobiology Branch, Division of Extramural Research and Training, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at NIH. The Branch plans, directs, and evaluates the Institute's grant program that supports research and research training in environmental health.

Patricia Morrissey is commissioner of the Administration on Developmental Disabilities at the Administration for Children and Families, which seeks to improve services to and assure that individuals with developmental disabilities have opportunities to make their own choices, contribute to society, have supports to live independently, and are free of abuse, neglect, financial and sexual exploitation, and violations of their legal and human rights.

Edwin Trevathan, M.D., is director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) at CDC. NCBDDD is focused on identifying the causes of and preventing birth defects and developmental disabilities, helping children to develop and reach their full potential, and promoting health and well-being among people of all ages with disabilities. Dr. Trevathan is representing Julie Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H., director of the CDC, on the committee.

Peter van Dyck, M.D., M.P.H., is associate administrator of Maternal and Child Health at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Dr. van Dyck oversees HRSA's Maternal and Child Health Bureau, which seeks to improve the health of mothers, children, and families, particularly those who are poor or lack access to care.

Elias Zerhouni, M.D., is director of the National Institutes of Health. A world renowned leader in the field of radiology and medicine, Dr. Zerhouni has spent his career providing clinical, scientific, and administrative leadership. He leads the nation's medical research agency and oversees the NIH's 27 Institutes and Centers with more than 18,000 employees.

Notes on This Panel from the Combating Autism Act

The law calls for the committee to meet at least twice a year, in public. Here's what the law says about its goals:

In carrying out its duties under this section, the Committee shall—

(1) develop and annually update a summary of advances in autism spectrum disorder research related to causes, prevention, treatment, early screening, diagnosis or rule out, intervention, and access to services and supports for individuals with autism spectrum disorder;

(2) monitor Federal activities with respect to autism spectrum disorder;

(3) make recommendations to the Secretary regarding any appropriate changes to such activities, including recommendations to the Director of NIH with respect to the strategic plan developed under paragraph (5);

(4) make recommendations to the Secretary regarding public participation in decisions relating to autism spectrum disorder;

(5) develop and annually update a strategic plan for the conduct of, and support for, autism spectrum disorder research, including proposed budgetary requirements; and

(6) submit to the Congress such strategic plan and any updates to such plan.

Related Stories on Autism Bulletin:

CDC Director Cites Autism as Urgent Concern

Bush Signs Combating Autism Act

National Institutes of Health Reorganizes Autism Research Program

Federal Research Grants Shows Intensified Effort to Find Autism Clues, Treatments, NIH Says

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