From the Director’s Corner
We are pleased to bring you new perspectives on Autism, as we enter a new transformative era of collaboration and cooperation led and informed by the Autistic community.
Together with parents and self-advocates, we intend to tackle many issues in research, treatments and services across the lifespan of the Autistic person, who will be playing an active role in steering us, the New Jersey Autism Center of Excellence, on the proper path towards a new Strength-Based Model of Autism (S.M.A).
The S.M.A. highlights from an early age, the best capabilities, and predispositions of the young infant in the pre-cognitive stages of neurodevelopment, when the nervous systems scaffold the socio-somatic-sensory-motor axes, creating capacity for social readiness. During these early formative years and beyond school age, our ACE will strive to find new ways to build awareness and to educate the public about existing sources of support and accommodations for the Autistic individuals and their families, by borrowing from other fields where similar issues have been successfully resolved.
Our NJACE is unique in more than one way, as our staff and consultants are an integral part of the Autistic Community. Indeed, because of the heterogeneity of Autism, we are not a homogeneous group with a “one-size-fits-all” approach. As Autism is, we too are a highly heterogeneous spectrum, spanning from parents of Autistics across the lifespan, to Autistic individuals of different ages, to medical professionals, educators, and researchers actively engaged across different disciplines.
Our approach combines hard-core exact sciences, objective-physical data, and subjective-clinical observations with best practices for Autism Diagnoses and Treatments. We boast a new cooperative model that significantly augments current gold standards with the latest cutting-edge technology and scientific discoveries of our times.
Our scientific approach to Autism is open and shared across the community. We strive for reproducibility, transparency, and accountability, to put the research at the service of the Autistic individuals and their families. We have much to do to overcome many current barriers in Autism, but we can do it together, as a community, under a new cooperative spirit that consolidates past achievements and moves forward towards new accomplishments of the 21st Century.
Come join us on a new path to embrace Autism and neurodiversity, to build truly inclusive communities, where we are all active contributors to our collective well-being and higher quality of life.
Dr. Elizabeth Torres is a Professor at Rutgers University and a scientific innovator who has brought emerging computer science technology to autism. She attained the first NSF theoretical / computational grant to Autism (in 2009) and since then has raised over 8 million research-dollars in autism-related research with a focus on developing smart technology to create support and accommodations for autistic individuals. This work has led to 4 granted US / international patents with technology informed and guided by the autistic nervous systems development across the lifespan. Torres has authored two peer-reviewed printed books, three peer-reviewed electronic-books related to autistic somato-motor-sensing differences and over 50 peer-reviewed publications with well over half a million online hits on her translational research. She has developed new scientific methods to evoke bodily autonomy and agency in Autism and created a new vision for the only New Jersey Autism Center of Excellence that is funded by the NJ Governor’s Council for the Medical Research and Treatments of Autism and the NJ DOH. This new vision brings together a highly interdisciplinary coalition of researchers from top institutions across the state, to build digital methods to improve Autism treatments, as informed by the autistic community. The aim of her work is to help guarantee insurance coverage to diversify treatments, and to select the most adequate combinations of treatments based on objective outcome measures of their effectiveness, beyond subjective observation and opinion alone. She is an active speaker engaging many audiences from industry, biopharma, and schools, bringing awareness across the world of the need for a strengths-based model leading to embrace the social agency of autistic individuals and their families.
Younger siblings of children with ASD are known to be at higher risk for developing language delays. The Infancy Studies Lab at Rutgers University-Newark has created an engaging interactive acoustic experience with the aim of helping baby siblings of children with ASD develop better pre-language skills known to be important for optimal and efficient language acquisition. Watch this short video to learn more about how to participate in this exciting, innovative research study.