SAN DIEGO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Autism Comprehensive Educational Services (ACES), a provider of applied behavioral analysis and ancillary services to individuals and families impacted with autism or other special needs, today announced that its Founder and CEO Kristin Farmer has made a significant gift to the UC San Diego Autism Center for Excellence. The funding will support the work and research of Karen Pierce, PhD, internationally renowned neuroscience and autism expert and co-director of the Center, and her colleagues. Farmer and Pierce have a long history of collaboration focused on enhancing the quality of life for individuals and families impacted with autism.
Farmer’s gift will support the creation of the ACES Innovation Project to further this mission and focus on advancing research in early autism diagnosis tools and translating tools into clinical settings. The gift specifically targets three aspects of Pierce’s research:
- Translating Pierce’s method for automatic eye tracking as a tool for the early detection of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) into standard clinical practice as a means of understanding prognoses and outcomes. For more than a decade, Pierce and her colleagues have been using eye tracking to understand what social and nonsocial stimuli capture the attention of toddlers – for example, videos of children playing versus moving geometric shapes – to assess ASD risk. Pierce and her team discovered that infants and toddlers who prefer to look and attend to geometric images rather than to social images have more than a 90 percent risk of having ASD.
- Refining the Get SET Early program, which has been used to screen more than 100,000 infants and toddlers. Created by Pierce and introduced in 2011, the Get SET Early program has been shown able to identify risk for ASD and other developmental disorders at 12-, 18- and 24-month well baby checkups. It is based on questionnaires conducted by parents and pediatricians, and systematically identifies telltale clues for ASD. The Get SET Early Program has been replicated in multiple studies and is expanding nationwide.
- Establishing an excellence fund that will provide discretionary support to pursue novel biological and behavioral methods to make diagnoses and prognoses even earlier and linked to specific treatments.
Farmer said, “I met Dr. Pierce more than 25 years ago when I was a teacher. We both shared the same dream: to make the world better and more inclusive for individuals with autism and developmental disabilities. At ACES, our top priorities are clinical excellence and continuing the search for ways to innovate within our field, and we focus on applying the tools of science to effectively help people with autism in clinical and educational environments. To mark our 25th anniversary, I am celebrating by supporting Dr. Pierce’s work, which has the potential to redefine diagnoses of autism and enable us to elevate standards in its treatment.”
“The areas that Kristin’s gift will support are all critical components of our work at the UC San Diego Autism Center for Excellence,” said Pierce. “They represent initiatives intended to be transformative in our ability to understand and treat autism and, most importantly, maximize the potential of every child with autism. Kristin and I have known one another and worked together for decades. We share the same dream: to change the world for the better for children living with ASD. I’ve pursued that dream through research, and Kristin through therapies that improve children’s daily lives. This gift represents a moment of joining forces.”
Pierce, who is also a professor in the Department of Neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine, has studied autism spectrum disorder (ASD) for more than 25 years, historically focusing on developing neural and clinical markers for earlier identification of the neurological condition that affects an estimated one in 54 children.
Farmer is a regarded expert in the autism field and has significantly grown ACES since its founding to provide ABA therapy in home, school, and clinic-based settings. ACES’ highly tenured, clinically-led senior management team has utilized a comprehensive suite of therapeutic methodologies, with a long track record of outcomes.
“My dream is that the work funded by this gift, and the achievements made, will translate into real-world benefits for children not just in San Diego, but well beyond. This gift represents Dr. Pierce and I uniting our life’s work to innovate the field of autism, spread hope and enable a future full of possibilities.”
About Comprehensive Educational Services (ACES)
ACES is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for individuals and families impacted with autism or other special needs. Founded in 1996 by Kristin Farmer, ACES provides comprehensive, professional services to maximize individuals’ potential in the home, school, clinic and community using accepted teaching and therapeutic methodologies. ACES serves more than 50 markets and thousands of clients throughout the Western United States, including in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Washington. Learn more at https://www.acesaba.com/.