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Jupiter, Fla. (May 3, 2017) – Over 175 professionals, self-advocates and community leaders gathered for a two-day meeting that featured presentations from leaders in autism science, practice and public policy from around the globe.  The 2017 Autism Innovations and Global Impact State of the Science Conference, hosted by the Els for Autism Foundation, more than delivered on its promise to inspire and motivate attendees.


“World-class science was the star of the show throughout the event—from new advances in studying neural connectivity via neuroimaging, to innovations in public health to enhance early detection and intervention, to longitudinal studies of developmental trajectories and factors affecting long term outcomes,” said Dr. Michael Alessandri, Executive Director, Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, University of Miami, and Conference Chair.


Among the highlights:


  • Deeply personal journeys of Alex Plank, an autistic adult and founder of, the Honorable Mike Lake, father of a son on the autism spectrum and Member of Parliament in Canada and Dr. Roy Richard Grinker, father of an adult daughter with autism, noted anthropologist and author of Unstrange Minds.


  • Talks by other notable leaders including Andy Shih (Autism Speaks), Adriana di Martino (New York University), Petrus de Vries (University of Cape Town), Catherine Lord (New York Presbyterian Hospital & Weill Cornell Medical Center) Ami Klin (Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Georgia Research Alliance) and Roberto Tuchman (Nicklaus Children’s Hospital & Miami Children’s Health System).


  • Presentations on how to positively change outcomes for those in low resource areas around the globe through innovative strategic partnerships and treatment adaptations that would make intervention more accessible to those most in need.


“The importance of parental involvement, including specialized training on engaging their child, as well as the value of employment for people with autism, were other key takeaways,” noted Dr. Marlene Sotelo, Director of Programs and Operations at the Els For Autism Foundation.  “There is also a greater need for cultural sensitivity in understanding autism from a diagnostic and intervention perspective.”


“Eight years ago when the Center was founded with Ernie and his wife Liezl, we could have never imagined the progress we would make in the field, from a school for 128 autistic boys and girls that will double enrollment this fall, to this inaugural conference that brought together a renowned group of educators,” said Marvin R. Shanken, Chairman of the Board, Els for Autism Foundation and head of M. Shanken Communications.  “We have so much more to accomplish with this talented group of leaders.”


The Els for Autism Foundation

The Els for Autism Foundation was established in 2009 by PGA TOUR golfer Ernie Els and his wife Liezl (residents of Jupiter, FL) shortly after their son Ben was diagnosed with autism. The Foundation’s overarching mission is to help people on the autism spectrum fulfill their potential to lead positive, productive and rewarding lives. The Els for Autism Foundation has offices in the U.S., Canada, South Africa, and the UK. To help fulfill its mission, Els for Autism has built a state-of-the-art Center of Excellence in Jupiter, FL, with a local, national and global reach.


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For questions, call Lori Rosen at 212.255.89010