PALO ALTO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Janet Cartwright knows first-hand the balancing act required to raise a child with autism. In some ways, her daughter Katie Halpin is an ordinary 11-year-old -- she loves dancing to music, playing with her dog and exploring the outdoors. But Katie also faces many challenges related to autism, such as a speech delay, behavioral problems and digestive difficulties.
To stay informed on how best to meet Katie's complex needs, Cartwright will attend the fifth annual Autism Spectrum Disorders Update at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital on May 12. It will be her second time at the symposium, which this year has the theme "Translating Science into Treatment."
"As Katie is getting older, we encounter new problems and old problems that manifest in different ways," said Cartwright, who lives in Santa Cruz, Calif. She looks forward to hearing about how current autism research might help her daughter. "It's kind of exciting to say 'Is there something new that we can try?'"
Based on feedback from previous symposia, this year's event focuses on "making the science more immediate and real, and showing parents that there are new developments that might help their children now and in the future," said Carl Feinstein, MD, director of the Stanford Autism Center at Packard Children's Hospital and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The organizers have also increased the emphasis on presentations oriented toward practical problems associated with autism, he added. "We want symposium participants to leave with information, but also with hope," Feinstein said.
In spite of Katie's ongoing challenges, Cartwright is succeeding in her efforts to balance autism with the rest of life. Last summer, the mom and daughter even took a vacation through 10 national parks in the Southwest, where Katie enthusiastically participated in the parks' hands-on educational activities. "She really liked getting her junior ranger badges," Cartwright said. "Here's a kid who is struggling with some of her academics, but she did well. It was really good motivation."
The autism symposium is just one of the parent-education activities at Packard Children's that have helped Cartwright and Katie. "Their autism specialists are extremely supportive. They're very creative in the solutions they offer, and they listen both to me as a parent and Katie as a child," Cartwright said. "Packard Children's has really been, for me, the place where we finally got some help."
WHAT: The program for the fifth annual Autism Spectrum Disorders Update at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital features two plenary sessions that focus on the effect of the prenatal environment on autism risk, and on improving teens' adaptive skills at school. Participants will chose from eight break-out sessions on: genetic testing for autism; use of the hormone oxytocin as an autism treatment; understanding state education laws for special-needs children; feeding and digestive problems in autism spectrum disorders; decoding your child's difficult behaviors; sleep problems and treatments; brain imaging for autism diagnosis; and current treatments for sensory, motor-coordination and speech problems in autism spectrum disorders.
WHERE: Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center, Stanford University, 326 Galvez St., Stanford, Calif. Register online by visiting www.autism.lpch.org and following the link to the "5th Annual Autism Spectrum Disorder Update."
WHEN: Saturday, May 12, 2012, 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Registration and continental breakfast begin at 7:30 am).
WHO SHOULD ATTEND: Parents, teachers, pediatricians, psychologists, caregivers, media and anyone with an interest in autism are invited to attend. The $100 registration fee includes a continental breakfast and a buffet lunch.
Note to reporters: Janet Cartwright is available for interviews before and after the autism symposium. To schedule an interview, contact Reena Mukamal at firstname.lastname@example.org or 650-218-3139.
***Photo and Interview opportunity***