In NC State magazine’s Autumn 2008 issue, we wrote about Chuck Gardner ’83, whose tireless advocacy helped lead to the creation of the M.I.N.D. Institute, which the National Institute of Mental Health has called “the hope for people with autism.” Gardner, who has a son with autism, pitched the idea to the University of California-Davis School of Medicine and helped to raise $5 million in startup money.
The New York Times recently featured the M.I.N.D. Institute’s effort to pioneer a new type of therapy designed to help look for signs of autism in children as young as 6 months. The program, called Infant Start, uses games and pretend play to help improve the I.Q., language and social skills of toddlers. Though it’s currently in the trial stages, the work could have important implications. David Mandell, associate director of the Center for Autism Research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, explains:
“What you ultimately might be doing is preventing a certain proportion of autism from ever emerging. I’m not saying you’re curing these kids, but you may be changing their developmental trajectory enough by intervening early enough that they never go on to meet criteria for the disorder. And you can’t do that if you keep waiting for the full disorder to emerge.”