PARENTS are invited to attend a major conference on autism, a condition which an expert says is becoming a "national epidemic".
Dr Geraldine Leader, Director of the Irish Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Research (ICAN) at NUI Galway, made her comments in advance of the International Autism Conference to be held at the university tomorrow and Wednesday.
Professor Peter Gerhardt from the McCarton School, New York, will deliver an address.
The conference will feature a series of talks and workshops aimed at providing parents, practitioners, teachers and researchers with the latest evidence-based approaches to diagnosis, clinical management and adult service provision.
Dr Leader said: "It will place a special emphasis on providing practical solutions for parents struggling with autism on a daily basis.
"Workshops will be delivered on managing behaviour in the home, sleep, toileting, interventions for non-verbal, minimally verbal and verbal children and how to manage transitions effectively."
Much of the research literature to date focuses on the needs of young children with little, if any, discussion paid to the needs of adolescents, she pointed out.
"For many parents, they are either currently dealing with teenagers challenged with autism, or are anticipating this new phase in a few short years. We are hosting a practical workshop as part of the conference on 'Adolescence, growing up and sexuality'."
Professor Deborah Fein from the University of Connecticut will discuss what determines best outcomes for children on the autism spectrum.
Dr Leader's international evidence indicates an alarming rise in the prevalence of autism, as reflected in the recent data from the US-based Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which estimates that one in 88 children, including one in 54 boys, has an autism spectrum disorder.
"By way of comparison, these estimates represent more children currently diagnosed with autism than diabetes, AIDS, cancer, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and Down syndrome combined."
To register for the conference visit http://www.conference.ie. The late fee for parents is €95.