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Autism in the Holy Land: Conference Skyrockets Interest

International Autism conference in Jerusalem draws over 500 attendees.
By Ruth Amber Gristak and Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 7/17/2010, 11:30 PM / Last Update: 7/17/2010, 11:51 PM

Ron Uriel

One in 91 children worldwide, and one in 58 boys, are diagnosed with autism. Where do Jewish children rank in autism numbers? As there is no research in that specific area of autism, there is no answer. In Israel, the official statistic is 1 in 241. “Lack of answer” is the common end point for most questions about autism. There is no definitively known cause for the disorder.

This may be one reason that the Icare4autism 2010 International Autism conference in Jerusalem brought in over 500 attendees from Israel and around the globe. Attendees included educators, researchers, and those touched by autism. This conference was Israel’s first major international autism conference.

The event was held on July 5-6, 2010, by the NY-based, global non-profit, the International Center for Autism Research and Education (Icare4autism). It featured 30 speakers from around the globe and was held at the Ramada- Renaissance Hotel.

The conference aimed at connecting professionals from around the globe to synchronize the research and various methods of successful autism treatment. At the conference, professionals discussed their latest research and findings in the medical and educational fields. Conference attendees heard about how to better the lives of the children diagnosed with autism. Icare4autism’s Founder and President, Joshua Weinstein, said that he made it a special point to speak with as many attendees as possible, saying  he feels “fortunate to be able to provide this helpful and educational event.”

In addition to the autism professionals, there were a variety of other speakers. The event's opening address featured Yuri Geiron, the President of the Israel Bar Association. Geiron spoke about his own experience as a father to a child with autism. Later, in the day, at a special afternoon award ceremony and address, Israel's Minister of Science and Technology, Daniel Hershkowitz, spoke to the attendees. Hershkowitz also took time to leave a video message for online viewers.

Video footage of the speaker’s presentations will be available online, at www.icare4autism.org, beginning within the next month. Some of these presentations will be available to view at no cost; some will be for sale for a nominal fee.

Icare4autism is currently working on raising funds to purchase a small college campus in Jerusalem to turn into a model autism center. This venture would provide a venue for information, connection and collaboration between researchers, educators and family.

In Israel at present,  the largest organizaton for dealing with autism is ALUT, the Israeli National Autism Association, which provides pre kindergarten, kindergartens, occupational centers and adult homes in some areas to people with autism, works to advance their rights and to improve the services available to them and their families. Special methods such as Mifne, for dealing with infants, and the Meir Autism Treatment Center for home care are other sources for care in Israel.

On 2 April 2010, the United Nations marked World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD). The principal events were led by Israel and Qatar.

In a recent study, Dr. Ditza Zachor of Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine reported a possible link between IVF and mild to moderate cases of autism. Her findings were presented in May 2010 at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Philadelphia and reported in Science Daily.

Over 5,000 individuals in Israel have been diagnosed with autism and 250 infants are diagnosed annually in Israel, according to ALUT.