The Simons Foundation, through its Autism Research Initiative, has signed a $7.8 million, two-year contract with the Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository (RUCDR) to establish a collection of DNA samples for autism studies. The samples will be collected from 2,000 families that have a single autistic child.
One of six Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE) in the country has been established at the University of California, San Diego by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to be directed by Eric Courchesne, Ph.D., professor of neurosciences at the UC San Diego School of Medicine and a leading expert on brain abnormalities associated with autism, a brain disorder affecting an estimated two million people in the U.S. The symptoms are impaired social, emotional, language and cognitive development.
Autistic children are doubly stigmatized. On the one hand, they are often dismissed as ?low functioning? or mentally retarded, especially if they have poor speaking skills as many do. Yet when autistics do show exceptional abilities?uncanny visual discrimination and memory for detail, for example?their flashes of brilliance are marginalized as aberrations, mere symptoms of their higher order cognitive deficit. They often earn a dubious promotion to ?idiot savant.?