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“Sounding the Alarm,” an Autism Speaks-produced documentary that chronicles the lives of families living with autism, was screened for the McLean community on March 25, followed by a lineup of panelists who discussed different aspects of autism, including Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks, which is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization.
The documentary was part of an event designed to bring the hospital’s autism research and clinical communities together, said Bill Carlezon, PhD, director of the behavioral genetics laboratory and associate director of the Basic Neuroscience Division at McLean, and professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Harvard Medical School.
Carlezon, who was one of the panelists, came up with the idea for the event after attending an Autism Speaks conference and viewing the documentary at a Massachusetts General Hospital event in 2014. “At McLean, we have preclinical researchers who don’t interact with patients and may or may not know what autism looks like in people,” he said, “and we also have clinicians such as those from Pathways Academy, who are with patients, treating them and getting them through their day, and they may not have the bandwidth to become familiar with what we’re doing to get at the basis of autism. These are two communities who may not be fully aware of one another’s activities despite having parallel missions.”
Other panelists included Chris Cowen, PhD, director of the Integrative Neurobiology Laboratory at McLean and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and Joseph Gold, MD, chief medical officer; chief of the Simches Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, director of community child psychiatry services, partners psychiatry and mental health; medical co-director, Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project (MCPAP), and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.
The event, which was open to all McLean staff, “helped those attending to better understand the different contributions being made by autism researchers and clinicians as well as learn more about the condition and the progress that’s being made,” said Carlezon.
“The benefits for the research community include learning more about what these conditions actually look like. This will make it more real, resulting in better research and becoming more inspired by what they see,” he said. “The clinicians want to hear about the research that’s being done so they can emphasize hope and progress, and learn that new ways to treat and perhaps even prevent the condition may be on the horizon.”
“This will also hopefully open dialogue between the two communities,” said Carlezon. “The idea is to shine some light on the issue that will result in a better understanding for all of us.”