Debra Dunn is the outreach director at the Center for Autism Research at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and she is the mother of a 15-year old son with Asperger Syndrome. As outreach director, Deb’s role is to recruit research participants and to translate the research being done at CAR and elsewhere into useable information for families and community providers serving children with ASD
As a litigation attorney turned full-time mom of a son with ASD, Deb initially focused on special education issues and helped other families navigate the special education process. She joined the Right to Education Task Force in my local county, a court-mandated organization designed to ensure special education students receive appropriate services, teachers and support staff have adequate training and resources, and collaborating organizations are utilized effectively. She helped found ASCEND, initially a support group for parents of children diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, and later an organization which also supports professionals working with individuals with ASD. Deb also served on the board of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the Autism Society of America.
Deb plans to present a summary of some of the most interesting advances in autism research presented at IMFAR 2012 to at least one group of parents and professionals, in addition to sharing her experience at IMFAR with the professionals and parents on the autism boards and committees to which she belongs. Through her work and volunteer activities, she anticipate’s multiple opportunities to talk to a variety of stakeholders, including self-advocates, family members, teachers, administrators, and other community providers.
Jon Shestack is the founder of Cure Autism Now (CAN) and is a board member of Autism Speaks. He has a son, Dov, diagnosed with autism. CAN became a driving force in growing the field autism research and a leader in raising awareness and funding. Soon after founding CAN, Jon helped establish the Autism Genetics Resource Exchange (AGRE), an autism gene bank that was the first to provide open access to the entire scientific community and soon grew to become the world’s largest. Jon also established CAN’s Scientific Review Council (SRC), an advisory council modeled after the NIMH Advisory Council, whose members were made up of scientists and clinicians most of whom were also parents of autistic children. The SRC was responsible for ensuring that the research which CAN funded was relevant and reflected the urgency of those affected by the disorder. Jon has been a tireless advocate for those with autism, and his attendance at IMFAR will only serve to further aid his awareness efforts.