Searching for Genetic Causes of Autism in African American Children

May 15, 2013

UCLA's $10 million NIH-funded autism research project

Los Angeles Dr. Daniel Geschwind, a renowned autism scientist and researcher at UCLA, will be joined by California Assemblymember Holly Mitchell, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Special Needs Network (SNN) president Areva Martin, Esq., among others, for a press conference and roundtable discussion to highlight Dr. Geschwind's National Institutes of Health (NIH) $10 million grant project. The grant has opened the doors for a UCLA team to research the genetic causes of autism in African American children – a population that has been overlooked by autism researchers.

The group will be joined by other professionals in the autism and disability community on May 17 at 2 p.m. in the First 5 LA Multi-Purpose Room at 750 N. Alameda Street, across from Union Station, to discuss the impact Dr. Geschwind's research will have on thousands of LA children and families living with autism. The event is free and open to the public.

The first five years of a child's life are critical, says Kim Belshé executive director of First 5 LA. It's no secret that African American children with autism are less likely than their Caucasian peers to be diagnosed early. Research will allow us to better understand this disorder's impacts on African American families and to obtain additional resources for these children.

Improving our health care system, especially for underserved communities, requires that we make use of every available tool that research offers, says Assemblymember Mitchell, who chairs California's Legislative Black Caucus and serves as a member on California's State Assembly committees on Budget, Health, Insurance and Public Safety. Many in the African American community are wary, given the uses to which genetic studies have been put in the past. This is an opportunity to undertake research in a culturally sensitive way, directing it toward finding helpful interventions that children with autism need.

Contact: Jessica Munday, (843)216-0442