Your Duke Center for Autism News & Updates

What's in this issue?
We are excited to share this issue of our newsletter with you. Over the past year, our Center has witnessed tremendous growth and progress.  We are especially proud that the National Institutes of Health has designated our Center as an NIH Autism Center of Excellence and provided $12M in new funding to conduct research aimed at improving screening, treatments and outcomes for children with autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). We are also pleased to let you know about the expansion of the Duke Autism Clinic and some of the exciting events that have taken place over the last several months.
Finally, we want to say thank you for your support and partnership. We could not do what we do without you! Your participation is essential for us to make new discoveries through research and increase our capacity for providing clinical services, all with the goal of making a real difference in the lives of people with autism and their families.
With very best regards,
Lin Sikich, MD
Associate Director, Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development
AutismclinicDuke Autism Clinic Expansion
We are thrilled to announce the expansion of the Duke Autism Clinic. Leadership from Duke University Hospital worked with Dr. Dawson, Dr. Heilbron, Dr. Sikich, and other leaders from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences to launch the new clinical program at the Pavilion East at Lakeview site (2608 Erwin Road, Suite 300, Durham, NC).  The Duke Autism Clinic is staffed by a multidisciplinary clinical team that includes child psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and nursing providers, many of whom are pictured in the photos below. The clinical team works closely with Duke specialty and primary care providers and the community to develop a comprehensive treatment plan for each family. 
Renovations were completed in December to allow for a larger clinic space designed to meet the needs of children, adolescents, young adults, and families. As part of the renovation process, a mural was added to make the space welcoming and fun. "We identified a muralist who had experience working in other health care settings, and she spent several weeks creating a true work of art in the clinic," said Dr. Heilbron, Associate Director of the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development. The mural depicts a "Mountains to Sea" theme incorporating landscapes and animals that are found in North Carolina and features special Durham landmarks such as the American Tobacco Tower and Duke Chapel.
The expansion of the clinic is an initiative that reflects the Duke Center for Autism's commitment to continually growing and improving our understanding and support for individuals and families with autism and related conditions.  Families can call 919-681-7148 to learn more about our clinical services, which include diagnostic assessments, therapy, transition planning, and medication management.     
clinicspotty Clinic Spotlight
Mary Beth Hooks, MSW, LCSWA
Mary Beth Hooks 
What is your professional training/background?
I began my educational journey at North Carolina State University, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology in 2008. During my time at NCSU, I became very interested in the field of autism and developmental disabilities. My interest in this population led me to The Mariposa School, where I stayed for five years as a behavior technician implementing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy for children with autism. I ventured back to NCSU for my Master of Social Work, as I discovered my love for working with children and families. During my graduate studies, I held internships at Duke Primary Care and UNC Child and Adolescent Outpatient Clinic through their Department of Psychiatry. After graduation, I began my journey towards clinical licensure and started working in community-based mental health providing intensive in-home treatment to children, adolescents, and their families. I have been working in the autism field since 2006 and am honored to be a part of this amazing team of dedicated, knowledgeable, and experienced professionals at the Duke Autism Clinic!
What is your current role here at the Center?
I am a clinical social worker who works with children, adolescents, and their families. I provide assessment services, behavioral consultation, and brief therapy in the clinic. Additionally, I provide direct support to the psychology team and medical providers by coordinating care for the patients and families we serve. 
What brought you to the Center? 
During my graduate internship at Duke, I was lucky enough to meet two individuals who played a huge role in my professional growth -- David Covington, LCSW and Dr. Barbara Keith Walter. These individuals have been incredible advocates for me over the years. These kind-hearted and caring professionals learned about an opening for a clinical social work position at the Duke Autism Clinic and contacted me right away. It was a no-brainer! I have been at the Center for 7 months and am loving not only the work that I do, but also the incredible individuals I work alongside!
What do you enjoy about the work that you do?
Everything! I especially love working with and supporting families and educating them about autism. I am passionate about direct care, advocacy, and community outreach. I thoroughly enjoy supporting, guiding, and connecting caregivers with newly diagnosed children. The families I have the opportunity to meet with on a daily basis amaze and inspire me, and I only hope to provide them with a portion of the support they provide their children. 
Tell us about a fun fact, aspiration, or pastime!  
I love to travel and spend time with family! My favorite weekend getaway, particularly in the summer, is Emerald Isle. I love being on or near the water! I also enjoy trying new foods/restaurants and being with friends. 
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
Duke Baseball and Center for Autism host
Baseball Bonanza  
Over 50 children and their families gathered at the Jack Coombs field on Duke's West Campus on May 5th, 2018 to participate in this year's Baseball Bonanza, led by Duke Baseball coaches and team members in collaboration with the Duke Center for Autism. The two-hour sports clinic included four stations with drills where youth practiced skills like catching, throwing, base running, and batting. Families had the opportunity to watch the baseball players in a Home Run Derby at the end of the event

Below are just a few snapshots of this special day! The event also received news coverage by ABC 11 Sports and  Spectrum News.  We look forward to the next sports clinic, which will be held in 2019. 

To learn about events hosted by the Center, please contact .  
Autism Awareness Month Speaker Event: "Shadow and Camouflage: Mental Illness, Psychiatry, and the Decline of Stigma in Autism" by Dr. Richard Roy Grinker

On April 12 th the Center commemorated Autism Awareness Month in an event co-sponsored by the
Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development , the   Duke Institute for Brain Sciences , and the   Department of Cultural Anthropology . Dr. Roy Richard Grinker, Professor of Anthropology, International Affairs, and Human Sciences at The George Washington University, author, and parent of a daughter with autism, gave an illuminating talk on the effects of stigma in autism and other conditions. Dr. Grinker was optimistic about how education and greater public awareness have improved acceptance and reduced stigma for people on the autism spectrum.

The event was held at Love Auditorium on Duke University's West Campus and saw attendance of close to 200 guests. Dr. Grinker shared valuable insights on several factors that may help reduce the stigma associated with disability, mental illness, and other conditions. These included increased transparency and media coverage of high-profile persons who have disabilities or other conditions, shifting towards a "spectrum" rather than "categorical" mentality, and appreciating the economic and financial advantages of the diverse skillset of individuals with developmental disabilities and other differences.
Read full story of the event on Duke's Research Blog here .
Autism Speaks Walk
The Triangle Walk Now for Autism Speaks was held on Duke's East Campus on April 29, 2018.
The Duke Center for Autism walked in support of Team Vanilla Ice , which is in its 6th year of fund raising and is led by Duke Professor Scott Kollins, PhD and his wife Katharine. Congratulations to Team Vanilla Ice, who was the top fundraising team again this year!
advocacyAdvocacy, Opinion & Global Impact 
Dong Dan: Visiting Graduate Student from China 
Dong Dan
Dong Dan, a graduate student from South China Normal University, spent the 2017-2018 academic year learning more about autism by participating on several research projects. During the two semesters of her program, she observed assessments and gained research experience by being involved in studies examining the overlap of ASD and ADHD, the use of umbilical cord blood for improving outcomes of children with ASD, social development in children with ASD, and sensory processing and anxiety in preschool age children with and without ASD. Dan provided a unique perspective to our center regarding the development of autism research among other cultures. There are different perceptions surrounding autism which are reflected in family-level and systems-level approaches to screening, treating, and diagnosing autism in China. 
When reflecting upon the differences between the US and China, Dan noted that, "As one of the first countries in the world to find out about autism, the United States has devoted a great deal of manpower and resources to the study of autism. A relatively well-established network of research and treatment resources has been created for children with disabilities through legal and government work. However, China started to research autism relatively late and still has a long way to go." According to Dan, the challenges China is facing include a need for more clinicians who can diagnose autism, increased access to intervention, investment in special education teachers, and greater government support. Our team was thrilled to have Dan as part of our team, and we look forward to continuing to collaborate with and engage international scholars in our mission. In this way, our Center can have both a local and global impact. 
undayDr. Dawson Attends UN for World Autism Day 
The United Nations annual World Autism Awareness event promotes the awareness and acceptance of autism while providing an opportunity for scientists, policy makers, educators and other leaders from all over the globe to examine the progress in increasing awareness and access to autism services worldwide.   
This year's theme was "Empowering Women and Girls with Autism."  During the event, Dr. Dawson reconnected with several key leaders in the world of autism research, treatment, and advocacy, including Saima Wazed Hossain of Bangladesh, the World Health Organization Goodwill Ambassador for Autism in the South-East Asia Region (pictured below).  Several important topics addressed by speakers included empowerment of persons with autism, policy change, stigma, under-diagnosis of girls with autism, and employment.
Dr. Dawson has attended the UN event for the past several years. One of the biggest changes in the event over the past decade, Dr. Dawson observed, is that, "now the event is led by persons with autism and other disabilities," pointing to Julia Bascom's address. "This shift itself recognizes the importance of empowering autistic people to have a voice and shape the discussion and priorities regarding supports and services for people on the spectrum," Dr. Dawson said. Still, "the discrimination faced by persons on the spectrum is significant and includes economic, employment, education, and healthcare discrimination."
Geraldine Dawson and Saima Wazed Hossain at the UN for World Autism Day 
summit Duke Hosts Autism Employer Summit  

Understanding the importance of employing people on the autism spectrum, on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, Duke University hosted an Autism Employer Summit in McClendon Auditorium at Duke's Fuqua School of Business. Nearly 100 attendees participated in the event, including human resources leaders from local companies and businesses, representatives from non-profit and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), educators, parents of adults with autism, and adults on the spectrum.  The focus of the event was to help community members and representatives from local companies better understand how to successfully employ adults on the autism spectrum.
The 3 hour event was moderated by Duke Center for Autism's Dr. Tara Chandrasekhar (pictured on far left in photo above). Speakers included Duke faculty and José Velasco and Jewell Parkinson from international software company SAP, who presented on SAP's impressive "Autism at Work" program and how it is leveraging the talents of individuals on the spectrum and providing employment opportunities for hundreds of adults with autism around the globe. The event concluded with an engaging panel discussion and question and answer session with audience members. Panelists included (left to right in photo) Raghav Swaminathan, an adult with ASD who works at the Duke Center for Autism; Jewell Parkinson, Head of Human Resources for SAP North America; Jeffrey Day, an adult on the spectrum and self-advocate; Marleen Sotelo, Director of Programs and Operations for the Els Center of Excellence; José Velasco, Global Lead for SAP's Autism at Work Program; and Gregg Ireland, founder of Extraordinary Ventures in Chapel Hill. Each panelist offered a unique and personal perspective on how to promote employment of those on the autism spectrum.
Families may email to learn about future events hosted by the Duke Center for Autism.  
Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development |

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