Your Duke Center for Autism News & Updates

What's in this issue?
We are excited to share news from recent events, including the screening of "Extraordinary People", the Music 2 the Max workshop, and the Autism Society of North Carolina Triangle Walk. In addition to a variety of activities, we have been busy growing our clinical and training programs in the Center. We welcomed several new trainees over the summer, and they have been working closely with faculty and staff to serve children and families in the clinic. We also recently celebrated the first anniversary of our expanded clinical program in early December. It has been a productive and eventful time.  
As we usher in 2019, we are pleased to share updates on upcoming events and activities that are planned for the coming year!  
   Dr. Nicole Heilbron
   Associate Director, Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development
clinicspotty Clinic Spotlight
Dr. Tyler Hassenfeldt, PhD
Dr. Tyler Hassenfeldt 
What is your professional training/background?
I earned a BA in Psychology at Clemson University and then worked at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh prior to grad school. In 2016, I graduated from Virginia Tech with a PhD in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Child Development. Along the way, I had great externships in Roanoke, VA, Miami, FL, and Washington, DC, which taught me how to support children with developmental disabilities, autism, anxiety, ADHD, and challenging behaviors. I completed a one-year internship at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, OH and a postdoctoral clinical fellowship at Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, GA. At these hospitals, I was able to train at a variety of specialty clinics, including Down Syndrome, Bowel Management, Neurodevelopment, and Pediatric Feeding Disorder clinics.
What is your current role here at the Center?
I am a clinical psychologist working full-time in the Duke Autism Clinic, and I've been here for just over a year. I'm very fortunate that the majority of my time is spent working directly with patients and their families, including completing autism evaluations and doing therapy. I get to spend a lot of time playing, coloring, blowing bubbles, reading books, and having great conversations with the children I work with - which is a lot of fun! 
What brought you to the Center? 
I was very excited to join the hospital-based Duke Autism Clinic when it opened in 2017. It has been so exciting to watch its growth, and we recently celebrated the clinic's first birthday! I work with an amazing team of providers and staff who teach me new things every day. I have also loved getting to know the Triangle autism community, especially through DCABD events such as Baseball Bonanza and Music 2 the Max. 
What do you enjoy about the work that you do?
I love working with my patients and their families. It is incredibly rewarding to help answer parents' questions about why their child might be having struggles at home, in school, or with their friends. In therapy, I want to provide parents with strategies to help their children be successful and learn new skills. I try to teach children how to use coping tools to regulate their emotions so they can feel their best, have great relationships, succeed in school, and handle new situations well. 
Tell us about a fun fact, aspiration, or pastime!  
I was born in Seattle but grew up in Baltimore and Pittsburgh. I spend most of my spare time playing with my 8-month-old puppy, Fisher. She has loved the snow recently, and we can't wait to take her hiking by the Eno River in the spring. I also enjoy crafting, watching sports, and traveling.
research Research at Duke Center for Autism - Partner with Us!

We are recruiting children between the ages of 1 and 7 who have autism, ADHD, and typical development for a new research project.  The Duke A+ Study is funded by the National Institutes of Health Autism Centers of Excellence Program. The study aims to improve screening, diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of children with autism and/or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The Duke A+ study involves three different projects. The A+ Health project focuses on early screening and diagnosis. The A+ Development project explores social, language, and brain development. The A+ Treatment project is a treatment study offering early behavioral intervention based on the Early Start Denver Model. Some children in the treatment study will also be receiving a medication to help ADHD symptoms. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact to find out if your child can participate in one or more of these projects. Click on this link to see a video
Join Our Autism Research Family

Through our registry, we are pleased to connect families and individuals with research opportunities. We also host events and activities to connect with the community. To date, over one thousand families and more than two thousand unique participants have joined our registry.  
By enrolling in our Volunteer Registry for Autism Research , we can share information about upcoming events and emerging study opportunities that may be a good fit for you or your family.
The registry is open to individuals of all ages with and without autism. Your participation is always voluntary, and you may withdraw at any time.  To learn more about the registry and sign up, you may read the consent form, enroll, and submit your information through our secure online enrollment survey. 
You may also call us at 1-888-691-1062 or send an email to We will answer any questions you may have and help you get registered!    
eventsEvents: What We've Been Up To
Taking "Music 2 the Max": Duke Center for Autism partners with Duke Arts & Health and Push, Play, Sing to host music workshop
Over 30 children on the autism spectrum and their families gathered at the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS) "Cube" on December 1st, 2018 to participate in the Duke Center for Autism's inaugural "Music 2 the Max" event.  
Participants took part in three unique workshop stations that gave them the opportunity to try out different ways of making music. William Dawson, Musician In Residence & Performing Arts Coordinator for Duke Arts & Health, led the ukulele station where kids played open-tuned ukuleles and sang songs together. Max Puhala and Berk Ozturk from Chapel Hill-based organization Push Play Sing guided kids in playing electronic music on keyboards, drum machines, and other electronic devices. Elie Abdelnour, a staff member at the Duke Center for Autism and experienced musician, helped participants make their own cardboard and rubber band instruments, which they then were able to play through an amplifier with special sound effects. At the end of the event, all the participants and their families participated in a special podcast that can be found here.
Participants and staff posed in their rockin' sunglasses that everyone received at the end of the event.
Staff members Kevin Ramseur, Ava Rohloff, Kayla Belvin, and Alex Kandah volunteered at the event.
Participants strumming along at the ukulele station.
Elie Abdelnour helps a participant play her instrument through a wah-wah pedal.
Participants playing electronic music at the Push Play Sing station.
Dr. Geri Dawson checks in on the instrument-making process.
Tanner playing his handmade instrument.
To learn about events hosted by the Center, please contact .  
Extraordinary Ventures Screening 

On October 29th, 2018, staff and faculty from the Duke Center for Autism showed their support for local non-profit Extraordinary Ventures by attending a private screening of Extraordinary People, a documentary film that tells the story of six adults on the autism spectrum who have overcome challenges and found success and a sense of pride from their jobs at Extraordinary Ventures. The screening was held at the Full Frame Theater on the American Tobacco Campus in downtown Durham.
Employment of adults with autism is a critical issue in the autism community. According to the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, the unemployment rate for adults with autism is 86%. Prior to their current employment, many of Extraordinary Ventures' employees were told they were incapable of holding down a meaningful job. However, Extraordinary Ventures believes that all people are employable and has created a successful employment model that can be replicated.
Dr. Tara Chandrasekhar, who attended the event, commented that "Engaging in meaningful work is shown to positively impact mental health for individuals on the autism spectrum.  This film beautifully illustrates how a supportive community fostered by Extraordinary Ventures allows each person to flourish and foster his or her innate talents." 
Autism Society of North Carolina Autism Triangle Walk
The 20th Annual ASNC Triangle Walk was held on October 13th, 2018. Duke Center for Autism team members and all those in attendance helped to raise over $100,000 this year. Since its inception, the Triangle Walk has helped to raise over one million dollars to fund local programs of the Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC), the leading statewide resource organization serving the over 65,000 people in NC across the spectrum throughout their lifespans.   
Upcoming: Autism Awareness Month Guest Speaker, Hon. Mike Lake 
We are excited to announce our 2019 Autism Awareness Month annual event! Our speaker will be the Hon. Mike Lake, Canadian Member of Parliament and global autism advocate. Mr. Lake is the father of 22-year-old Jaden Lake, who has autism. Through his role as a Member of Parliament, Mr. Lake has had many opportunities to share the story of life with Jaden. An article about Mr. Lake and Jaden can be found here.   

Hon. Mike Lake, PC, MP and his son Jaden
Mr. Lake will deliver an inspiring presentation titled, "Expect More: An Autism Adventure." The event will take place on Monday, April 15, 2019 at 6:30 pm in the Levine Science Research Center on Duke University's West Campus. The event is free and open to the community. We will send a link for event registration in February.  
advocacyAdvocacy, Opinion & Global Impact 
undayNew prevalence estimates for autism
A large study analyzing parent surveys from the 2016 National Survey of Children's Health found that approximately 1 in 40 children in the US have been diagnosed with autism.
The study, conducted by lead author Dr. Michael Kogan and published in the journal Pediatrics, found
that kids with ASD are more likely to have greater health care needs and difficulties accessing care compared to kids with other behavioral, emotional, or neurodevelopmental conditions, and to children without these conditions. Another recent study published in JAMA found similar findings using other data, whereas a CDC study found rates to be slightly lower.  Kogan's study also found that ASD is still more common in boys, and that  rates of diagnosis are higher among lower-income families compared to higher-income families.  You can read more about the study here.
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