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Autism Experts Collaborate to Improve Treatment

New network will set up 'centers of excellence'

THURSDAY, Feb. 24, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Leading American experts in autism are banding together to form the Autism Treatment Network (ATN), a national, non-profit organization for doctors and medical centers aimed at improving autism treatment.

ATN includes doctors and other health experts from six leading medical centers who will evaluate medical conditions present in autism and provide "best-practice" guidelines for the identification and treatment of these conditions. They will also organize regular conferences and set up regional "centers of excellence" where experts can teach others the latest in state-of-the-art autism care.

"Because of the dramatic rise in autism rates in the United States during the past decade, we have seen increased attention to research and education," ATN co-founder Richard Fade said in a prepared statement. "However, treatment has not received the same focus and investment," he said.

"There are hundreds of thousands of children and families struggling with autism. They face a tremendous challenge, as considerable gaps remain in understanding how best to treat this disorder. This is especially true with regard to medical issues," Fade said. "By establishing collaboration among leading hospitals, ATN will create a better standard of care for autism and help make that care broadly available."

Autism expert Dr. Margaret Bauman, of the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, agreed. "ATN represents the start of a cooperative venture to study and create new treatments for autism," she said in a prepared statement.

She pointed to the fight against childhood cancers as a model for the new endeavor.

"It took focused leadership to bring together the many individual units studying children's cancers 30 years ago and have them cooperate in studying new treatments. Today there are dramatic improvements in the survival of children with cancers," Baumann said.

"Many people and programs are doing important research on mechanisms of childhood autism, but so far none have developed a strong collaboration among centers focused on treating medical conditions in a similar way that revolutionized the care of childhood cancer," she said.

More information

For more information, check out the organization's website.

SOURCE: Autism Treatment Network, news release, Feb. 3, 2005
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