LEADING THE WAY IN AUTISM RESEARCH

SUNY and TCFD

The Center for Discovery® is leading the way in autism research in America.

With the absolute goal of making TCFD the nation’s hub of cutting-edge research, innovation, and compassion for the most medically complex children and adults in New York State and the nation, 44 doctors, researchers and support staff gathered for a day-long roundtable discussion at the SUNY Global Center in New York City.

They shared results, ideas and theories, and brainstormed their visions for collaboration across the SUNY system – an important partner of science and research for The Center.

TCFD Associate Executive Director, Dr. Theresa Hamlin, set the tone for the day, describing every aspect of the HealthE6 Model of care developed by The Center over the course of nearly 40 years. The model includes comprehensive assessment, appropriately structuring the environment, providing clean, organic whole-foods, attention to energy and emotional regulation, and robust data collection and analysis.

Autism, she said, is a complex condition that at TCFD has always been examined and analyzed using a systems-based framework because that is simply how every child and adult at TCFD has always been viewed. “We treat behaviors,” she said, as a “manifestation of a biomedical problem.”  By comparison, most behaviorally based programs view autism as a strictly brain-based developmental disorder that manifests in hallmark behaviors. “Our understanding of complex conditions like autism is more robust” said Dr. Hamlin.

Add to this “systems approach” a vast collection of data (collected 24 hours a day, 7 days a week), access to residents and students, and the new addition of the Children’s Specialty Hospital and Research Institute, and it is obvious The Center is in a unique position to research, study and ultimately change the face of care for people with complex conditions. The participants from the SUNY system as well as Columbia University, Harvard University, Georgia Tech, Emory University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, were enthusiastic about the ongoing research and potential for the future.

Dr. Kara Margolis, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University as well as a Pediatric Gastroenterologist, outlined for her colleagues the preliminary results of her ground-breaking study into the microbiome and gut-brain axis. She found that the residents and students of TCFD, who eat organic, local, whole-food based diets, had vastly different microbiomes as well as better outcomes than the other participants. Her final results are due out this fall.

Dr. John Ratey, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said of TCFD: “They live the message.” For 10 years, his focus of study has been on movement and the brain. “When we move, we turn our brains on,” he added.  So, based on his work, the children and adults at The Center – move 65% of their day. They walk, exercise, play sports and work on the farm. The movement raises good neurochemicals – and therefore, mood and cognition. And, it also decreases stress, inflammation and ultimately co-morbidities. Dr. Ratey’s latest study of the cerebellum area of the brain and coordination in people with complex conditions, like autism, is due next month.

Dr. Gene Morse, the Director of the Center for Integrated Global Biomedical Sciences at the University of Buffalo and the Co-Director of the SUNY Global Health Institute, urged everyone to consider that progress in the health sciences means there must be collaboration. Researchers can no longer operate in “silos.” “Informatics is the key,” he said – a combination of global communications, health information, and technology.

The energetic discussion that ended the day’s “Roundtable” made it clear – the road is now being paved for that collaboration – and it will lead to The Center for Discovery® and the upcoming Children’s Specialty Hospital and Research Institute.

For more information on the SUNY session, along with TCFD’s cutting-edge research, please reach out to the Office of Strategic Outreach and Communications at StrategicOutreach@tcfd.org.

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