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Third Annual Autism Update: Stanford Autism Center at Packard Children’s Hospital Reaches Out to Parents

-- Parents and caregivers of children with autism face great challenges. They must rapidly learn what autism spectrum disorders are and then navigate a thicket of often-conflicting information about treatment and educational services. Help with this task and more can be found on May 15 at the third annual Autism Spectrum Disorder Update: Advances in Science and Clinical Care for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Sponsored by the Stanford Autism Center at Packard Children’s Hospital, the event will be held at the Arrillaga Alumni Center on the Stanford campus.
The daylong program provides a window into the clinical services offered at the Autism Center at Packard Children’s Hospital, as well as into the research being carried out by Stanford scientists. It also provides an opportunity for exchange between parents, caregivers and clinical and research faculty. According to Carl Feinstein, MD, the Autism Center Director, “We work hard to try to provide clinical information that is truly substantive and to communicate important developments in autism research. It’s also an excellent opportunity to present the work of our faculty to the community we serve.”
The autism center is dedicated to state-of-the-art evaluation, care and support for individuals with autism and their families. “In all of our clinical programs, we look for ways of targeting the primary symptoms of autism,” said Feinstein, “but we also pay special attention to all the associated behavior problems that hold the child back from full school or community involvement or seriously disrupt family life.”
“Additionally,” said Feinstein, “our training and research programs are some of the nation’s best.”
May 15 Presenters

Speakers will include Marsha Seltzer, PhD, Vaughan Bascom Professor of Social Work and Director, Waisman Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who plans to speak about what to expect when a child with autism reaches adulthood. “The outcomes are wide because the spectrum is wide,” Feinstein commented. “The situation for current adults with autism may not be a reliable guide as to what to expect when today’s youngsters with autism spectrum disorders grow up. We didn’t have the treatments a generation ago that we have now, and we are hopeful that will translate into a higher quality of life in adulthood,” Feinstein said.
Other speakers will present exciting new research directed at understanding the biological basis of autism spectrum disorders and will cover the current testing of new treatments.
Morning Sessions

  • Behavioral neuroscientist Karen Parker, PhD, will discuss the role of oxytocin in regulating social behavior in animals, present evidence that oxytocin signaling is disrupted in autism, and discuss exciting new studies showing that oxytocin treatment improves social functioning in autism.
  • Autism research scientist Joachim Hallmayer, MD, will present news on the genetics of autism. Hallmayer and child psychiatrists Antonio Hardan, MD, and  Allan Reiss, MD, are currently studying twins, some with autism and some without, to look for gene–brain associations.
  • Thomas Sudhoff, MD, an internationally-recognized neuroscientist at Stanford, will speak about how nerve cells connect and how genes affect synaptic development, as well as explain how this helps our understanding of the causes of autism.

Afternoon Sessions

  • Antonio Hardan, MD, Director of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Clinic at Packard Children’s, will talk about several new treatment research programs under way at Stanford.
  • Heidi Feldman, MD, PhD, the Director of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at Stanford, will round out the formal presentations by speaking about language development in children with autism spectrum disorders.

Families Can Pick a Topic

After each of the scheduled speakers, there will be an opportunity to submit questions, and breakout sessions in the latter half of the afternoon will allow a more flexible focus.
“These sessions will give the audience a chance to ask questions that are important to them and hear from experts in that specific field,” said Feinstein. “It’s a tremendous, two-way opportunity for us to share with families what we have learned and also learn from families what they know.”
The May 15 update is organized by the Stanford Autism Center at Packard Children’s Hospital, aided by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health. Parents, teachers, pediatricians, psychologists, caregivers, media and anyone with an interest in autism can attend. More information is available at
NOTE TO MEDIA: Another popular offering of the center is a series of classes designed to provide parents with information on autism spectrum diagnoses, treatments and services. The next classes begin May 6, and more information is available at (650) 721-6327. Spanish-speaking families can call (408) 727-5775, x119.



About Stanford Children’s Health

Stanford Children’s Health, with Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford at its center, is the Bay Area’s largest health care system exclusively dedicated to children and expectant mothers. Our network of care includes more than 65 locations across Northern California and more than 85 locations in the U.S. Western region. As part of Stanford Medicine, a leading academic health system that also includes Stanford Health Care and Stanford University School of Medicine, we are cultivating the next generation of medical professionals and are at the forefront of scientific research to improve children’s health outcomes around the world. We are a nonprofit organization committed to supporting the community through meaningful outreach programs and services and providing necessary medical care to families, regardless of their ability to pay. Discover more at


About Stanford University School of Medicine

The Stanford University School of Medicine consistently ranks among the nation’s top medical schools, integrating research, medical education, patient care and community service. For more news about the school, please visit The medical school is part of Stanford Medicine, which includes Stanford Health Care and Stanford Children’s Health. For information about all three, please visit