April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day – a day to recognize all those individuals around the globe who live on the autism spectrum.
These are our family members, friends, classmates, and colleagues. In Canada, 1 in 68 children are currently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
The McMaster Autism Research Team (MacART; www.macautism.ca) is proud to embody the goals of World Autism Awareness Day. MacART is a partnership between McMaster Children’s Hospital, Hamilton Health Sciences, and McMaster University that aims to bridge the research-to-practice gap in ASD. MacART is designed to foster collaboration among the families, researchers, clinicians, educators, and policymakers whose lives and work are touched by ASD. An essential part of this mission is working with stakeholders, including individuals with ASD.
In the upcoming months, MacART will be launching the Pediatric Autism Research Collaborative (PARC) Study together with clinicians at McMaster Children’s Hospital. The PARC Study will work to embed a research protocol into ASD Services, which will follow children newly diagnosed with autism and their families over an initial period of two years.
“We are excited to have researchers and clinicians working together in a collaborative way,” says Dr. Caroline Roncadin, Clinical Director of ASD Services at Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre. “The PARC Study will have the potential to produce research findings that can directly inform the clinical care we provide families.”
One of the tools that will be used in the PARC Study will be the Autism Classification System of Functioning: Social Communication (ACSF:SC), a standardized assessment that identifies the strengths and abilities of children with ASD. “This tool will help us profile the social communication abilities of children within the different ASD programs at McMaster Children’s Hospital,” says Dr. Briano Di Rezze, Assistant Professor in the School of Rehabilitation Science and one of the tool’s developers. “The focus on strengths is a unique feature – we try to focus on what these children can do, instead of on what they cannot.”
This emphasis on strengths is important to remember on not only World Autism Awareness Day, but every day. MacART will continue working towards its goal of advancing autism care through meaningful research, and a key component of this goal is celebrating the many ways in which individuals with ASD contribute to our society.