Shedding Light on National Autism Awareness Month: GW Experts Available to Comment

More than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder, and prevalence of the condition increased 119 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to the Autism Society. Experts from the George Washington University are available for comment during April’s National Autism Awareness Month.

2017 will mark the sixth consecutive year GW will "Light It Up Blue" for autism awareness on the Foggy Bottom campus. Developed by Autism Speaks, and championed on campus by GW ANDI, "Light It Up Blue" aims to raise awareness and increase support for the millions of people around the world diagnosed with autism.

To schedule an interview with any of the below experts, contact Emily Grebenstein at 202-994-3087 or [email protected].

GW’s Flash Studio, a state-of-the-art broadcast studio, is available for remote, live or taped television and radio interviews. The studio is operated in partnership with VideoLink.

Kevin Pelphrey is the Carbonell Family Professor in Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders and the Director of the Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute. Dr. Pelphrey is a leading expert on adults and girls with autism. Dr. Pelphrey is working to refine and implement the institute’s vision as a resource that provides both evidence-based clinical treatments and conducts research. Chung Hyuk Park, professor of biomedical engineering, is using robotic systems to engage in natural play and musical settings with children with autism for social and emotional interaction. The robots will encounter or display social and emotional situations--such as a room with bright light or loud noise, surprising or frustrating events, or diverse emotional expressions--and help children learn with robotic friends how to be more actively engaged in social and emotional interactions. Roy Grinker, professor of anthropology, international affairs and human sciences, is an expert on autism, mental illness and psychological anthropology in children. Dr. Grinker completed the first-ever epidemiological study of autism spectrum disorder in South Korea and is the author of many publications, including “Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism.” Jennifer Frey, assistant professor of special education and disability studies, researches early language and social behavior interventions to improve the social communication skills of young children with disabilities, including autism, across home and school settings. Dr. Frey is a board certified behavior analyst and the coordinator of the early childhood special education graduate program at GW. Valerie Hu, professor of biochemistry and molecular medicine, developed a potential biomarker screen and is working on developing biology-based therapeutics based on gene expression signatures, which has identified genes that differentiate cells derived from autistic and non-autistic individuals. Her work has also led to the identification of a gene that may be a major contributor to the male bias in autism as well as to gene-environment interactions that increase risk for autism. Dr. Hu is the sole editor of a recently released book, "Frontiers in Autism Research: New Horizons for Diagnosis and Treatment," which focuses on emerging research areas of autism. Olga Acosta Price, associate professor of prevention and community health, is an expert on the role that schools play in helping children and adolescents with autism succeed, including the transition from high school to college or a career. Her work focuses on promoting evidence-informed policies, programs and practices in schools that support achievement and well being for all children, including those with special needs. She is the director of the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools at the Milken Institute School of Public Health. Donna Betts, professor of art therapy, studies the clinical utility of art therapy in addressing treatment goals of individuals with autism. She also researches the reliability and validity of the Face Stimulus Assessment, a performance-based, non-verbal drawing instrument for individuals with autism that is used to identify a patient’s strengths and treatment goals and determine progress. Greg Wallace, an assistant professor of speech and hearing sciences, is available to comment on cognitive strengths and difficulties as well as structural brain differences and development among individuals with autism spectrum disorder.