Keynote Speech

Promoting Quality of Life and Best Outcomes: A Global Perspective on Community Engagement and the Empowerment of Individuals and Families with ASD

In the 8 years since the United Nations helped launch the Global Autism Movement with the passage of World Autism Awareness Day resolution, we have witnessed a dramatic increase in autism awareness, advocacy and research. While many challenges remain, we now have the technical expertise and an unprecedented opportunity to better meet the needs of our children and families worldwide. Research has consistently demonstrated the importance of family and community engagement for successful public health programs and policies. Since parents and other family caregivers shoulder a majority of the responsibilities for managing support and care of their children with autism, their knowledge, health and well-being will have direct consequences on the impact of the services, family functioning and eventual outcomes. By supporting and empowering parents and family caregivers affected by autism with feasible and effective resources relevant to their needs, the global autism community can narrow the treatment gap and make measurable gains in quality of life and outcome. Caregiver Needs Survey, Parent Skills Training program and other case studies from Autism Speaks international development portfolio will be discussed to highlight the challenges and the benefits of caregivers and community engagement and the emerging importance of implementation science and community-based participatory research (CBPR) in the development and successful implementation of feasible and sustainable programs and services.

Dr. Andy Shih
Senior Vice-President, Public Health and Inclusion, Autism Speaks

Dr. Shih works closely with Autism Speaks’ leadership to develop and implement the organization’s research and programs. He oversees the public health portfolio, which includes Autism Speaks’ Global Autism Public Health (GAPH) initiative, an international advocacy and development effort currently active in over 70 countries that integrates awareness, research, and service development. Dr. Shih and his team serve as technical advisor to government agencies by facilitating multi-stakeholder collaboration and sourcing needed expertise with the goal of delivering feasible, cost-effective and sustainable solutions.

Dr. Shih’s research background includes published studies in gene identification and characterization and cell-cycle regulation. He was instrumental in the cloning of a family of small GTPases involved in cell-cycle control and nuclear transport, and holds three patents on nucleic acids-based diagnostics and therapeutics. Prior to focusing on Autism Speaks’ public health/international development efforts, Dr. Shih oversaw the organization’s investments in genetics, environmental sciences, epidemiology and assistive technologies.

Andy Shih