Geraldine Dawson Ph.D. Professor of Psychiatry This Emotional Life - PBS

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Geraldine Dawson Ph.D.

Professor of Psychiatry

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Dr. Dawson earned a Ph.D. in developmental and child clinical psychology from University of Washington and was a postdoctoral fellow at UCLA. In 1980, she was Assistant Professor at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. In 1985, she returned to UW as Professor of Psychology. In 2008, Dr. Dawson became Chief Science Officer at Autism Speaks and Research Professor of Psychiatry at UNC, Chapel Hill. She was Founding Director of the UW Autism Center, a multidisciplinary autism research and clinical program. Her scientific achievements include discovering that autism symptoms can be recognized during infancy, pioneering the use of event-related potentials to study brain dysfunction in autism, and, with Sally Rogers, developing an early intervention for autism.

Dr. Dawson has published over 180 articles and chapters and has coedited or authored several books, including Autism Spectrum Disorders; Human Behavior, Learning, and the Developing Brain; and A Parent's Guide to Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism.

Awards and Credentials

  1. Fellow, American Psychological Society
  2. Fellow, American Psychological Association
  3. Member, NIH Committee to Establish Roadmap for Autism Research
  4. Associate Editor, Development and Psychopathology

Related Links

Recommended Reading List

  • "Early Behavioral Intervention, Brain Plasticity, and the Prevention of Autism Spectrum Disorder." Dawson, G. (2008) Development and Psychopathology, 20.

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  1. Topics

    Geraldine Dawson became Autism Speaks' first chief science officer in January of 2008. Dawson serves as the scientific leader of Autism Speaks, working with the scientific community, stakeholders, and science staff to shape, expand and communicate the foundation's scientific vision and strategy. Dawson is also Research Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to joining Autism Speaks, Dawson was Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Washington (UW) and Founding Director of the UW Autism Center, which has been designated an NIH Center of Excellence since 1996. While at the University, Dawson led a multi-disciplinary autism research program focusing on genetics, neuroimaging, diagnosis, and treatment. Dawson's own research has been in the areas of early detection and treatment of autism, early patterns of brain dysfunction (electrophysiology), and more recently, development of endophenotypes for autism genetic studies. Dawson received continuous NIH funding for her research from 1980 until 2008 when she left UW to join Autism Speaks. Dawson's scientific achievements include discovering that autism symptoms could be recognized during infancy, defining the earliest manifestations of autism, pioneering the use of event-related brain potentials to study early brain dysfunction in autism, development of behavioral and electrophysiological endophenotypes in genetic studies of autism, and development and evaluation of the Early Start Denver Model, an intervention for infants and toddlers with autism. Dawson has published over 180 scientific articles and chapters and co-edited or authored a number of books about autism spectrum disorder and brain development, including Autism Spectrum Disorders; Human Behavior, Learning, and the Developing Brain; and A Parent's Guide to Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism. She has received over 50 grants supporting her research, including 17 research grants from NIH. From 2000-07, Dawson founded and directed University of Washington Autism Center's multi-disciplinary clinical services program, which is the largest of its kind in the northwestern United States. A strong advocate for families, Dawson has testified before the U.S. Senate on behalf of individuals with autism and played a key role on the Washington State Autism Task Force. Dawson earned a Ph.D. in developmental and child clinical psychology from the University of Washington. After graduate school, she studied as a postdoctoral fellow at the Neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA and, a year later, accepted a position as Assistant Professor at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. In 1985, she returned to the University of Washington as a faculty member, where she continued her research on autism and practiced as a clinical psychologist specializing in autism until she accepted her current position at Autism Speaks.

  2. Topics

    Jason is a twenty-nine year old man with Asperger’s Syndrome from Rockland County, NY. Asperger’s Syndrome is part of the Autism Spectrum of Disorders and is a pervasive developmental disorder that affects the senses, motor skills, social skills and language. Jason was diagnosed relatively late in life and has endured a great deal of emotional pain due to his lack of social skills. He was also misdiagnosed with various conditions in his childhood, including schizophrenia and ADHD, and was given medication which caused horrible physical side-effects.

    Jason eventually found a therapeutic/social network in an Asperger's group at the JCC in Manhattan. He entered the program lacking all the social skills we take for granted and is now learning them. He has progressed from being isolated and virtually non-verbal, to developing friendships and, according to his brother, being “a total motor mouth.” He recently went on his first date which presented a number of challenges, not least of which is his dislike of being touched.

    Jason has overcome huge obstacles to work as a sonographer specializing in Cardiac and Vascular Ultrasound. Jason enjoys philosophy, psychology, movies, poetry and writing his blog: http://drivemomcrazy.com/

    His story illuminates the building blocks of friendship—listening, reading, social cues, reciprocity, and negotiation. It also shows that as we move beyond our families into the larger social world, we must adapt in order to form new bonds with peers—bonds that are very different from those we form with our parents and siblings.

  3. Topics

    Richard Perry, M.D.

    Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

    New York University School of Medicine

    Dr. Perry is a Clinical Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine and an Assistant Attending Psychiatrist at NYU Medical Center and Bellevue Hospitals. At Bellevue Hospital and in his private practice, part of his work is devoted to the he diagnosis and treatment of individuals who are in the autistic spectrum. During the 1980s and 1990s he was a member of the Children's Psychopharmacology Unit at Bellevue which conducted research aiming for a better understanding of the causes and treatment of autistic disorders.

    Dr. Perry is board certified in general and in child and adolescent psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He is also an expert in Asperger's syndrome. Dr. Perry received his B.S. from Tufts University and his M.D. from Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. He completed his residency in psychiatry and a two-year National Institute of Health Fellowship in Child Psychiatry at Bellevue Hospital's Psychiatric Division. Prior to joining the NYU School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital Center, Dr. Perry was a Staff Psychiatrist for the Jewish Board of Guardians, the Spence-Chapin Agency, and St. Vincent's Hospital. He was a Panel Psychiatrist for the Children's Aid Society and Chief Psychiatrist for the Child, Adolescent and Family Clinic at the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health.

    Dr. Perry is a member of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. He has served as the Director of the New York Council on Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Dr. Perry has published in a number of peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

    Related Links

    Recommended Reading List

    • "Early Diagnosis of Asperger's Disorder: Lessons from a Large Clinical Practice." Perry, R. (2004) Journal of American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, v43.
  4. Topics

    Ami Klin, Ph.D.

    Professor of Child Psychology and Psychiatry

    Yale University

    Dr. Ami Klin is the Director of the Marcus Autism Center, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Chief of the Division of Autism and Developmental Disabilities at Emory University School of Medicine. He directed the Autism Program at the Yale Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine until 2010, where he was the Harris Professor of Child Psychology & Psychiatry.

    Dr. Klin's program of research focuses on the socialization process in autism spectrum disorders and why it becomes disrupted. This work includes a close collaboration with Warren Jones in the development of novel techniques to measure social processes using eye-tracking technologies. It aims to visualize and quantify social engagement as it unfolds. New approaches to data analysis have been used with children, adolescents, and adults with autism spectrum disorders and have revealed abnormalities of visual scanning behaviors when viewing naturalistic social approaches and situations.

    With the support of the Simons Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Dr. Klin is currently monitoring babies at risk for autism from birth. His goal is to create objective measurements of vulnerabilities for autism in the first year or maybe months of life, possibly before the emergence of detectable symptoms. This program of research also includes studies of the ability to impose social meaning on ambiguous visual displays, probing systems involved in the perception of biological motion and human action more broadly. Additional projects include studies of diagnostic profiles, neuropsychology, adaptive functioning, and circumscribed interests in autism spectrum disorders. Collaborations include studies in functional neuroimaging, genetics, neurobiology, and psychopharmacology.

    Awards and Credentials

    1. Honorary Member of the Connecticut Academy of Arts & Sciences, 2008
    2. Researcher of the Year, “Healthcare Heroes," Business New Haven in collaboration with Yale - New Haven Hospital & ConnectiCare, 2008
    3. Honorary Committee, 2nd Annual “Magic Moments” Event – The Kennedy Center Autism Program, Trumbull, CT, 2008
    4. Pearl H. Rieger Award for Excellence in Clinical Science, Rush Neurobehavioral Center, Rush Medical Center, Chicago, IL, 2007
    5. Honorary Scientific Committee of the 8th International Congress Autism Europe, Oslo, Norway, 2007

    Related Links

    Recommended Reading List

    • "Two-Year-Olds with Autism Fail to Orient towards Human Biological Motion but Attend Instead to Non-social, Physical Contingencies." Klin, A., et al. (2009). Nature.
    • "Heterogeneity and Homogeneity across the Autism Spectrum: the Role of Development." Jones, W., et al. (2009). Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
    • "Three Things to Remember if You Are a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Researcher of Face Processing in Autism Spectrum Disorders." Klin, A. (2008). Biological Psychiatry, 64(7).