Tom Christensen

$2-million autism chair

October 31, 2007

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SFU will house the first national chair in autism research and intervention thanks to seed grants of $1 million each from the provincial and federal governments. The university will begin raising funds this fall to bring the total endowment to the estimated $4 million required to attract a world-class researcher. According to B.C.’s children and family development minister, Tom Christensen (above), SFU’s proposal was chosen because it included a second faculty teaching position.

"Research alone will not solve the problem," says Christensen. "We need to find professionals to work with the children." The fulltime faculty position, which SFU will provide, will work to increase the number of qualified behaviour consultants — the people who train, mentor and supervise people providing services for autistic children.

"A key part of SFU’s proposal was this concerted effort to increase the number of qualified professionals to provide services for families." More than 4,700 children and youth in B.C. received medical services for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) this year. The disorder interferes with brain development, affecting reasoning, social interaction and communication. There is no one medical test for ASD and causes are not fully understood.

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