Regional Corridor Update

Regional Corridor Update  

Compiled by Jason Dehart

FSU Studies Early Intervention of Autism in Toddlers

By Jason Dehart

Researchers at Florida State University and the University of Michigan have been awarded a $7 million grant to team up and discover how much of a difference early treatment makes in the lives of toddlers who have autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Previous studies show children 3 to 5 years old with ASD have the best outcomes if they undergo treatment at least 25 hours a week. But the numbers aren’t yet in on the effectiveness of treatment on kids younger than that, because children with ASD aren’t typically diagnosed prior to age 3.

Amy Wetherby, a professor of clinical sciences and director of FSU’s Autism Institute in the College of Medicine, is principal investigator for the grant from the National Institutes of Mental Health. Professor Catherine Lord is her counterpart at Michigan.

“A preliminary study at FSU demonstrated the feasibility and promising results of this early intervention,” Wetherby says. “With the new funding from NIMH, we will be able to train researchers at the University of Michigan on early intervention and conduct a large-scale study to examine the impact on toddlers with ASD and their families. The findings will underscore the importance of early detection of ASD leading to early intervention.”

No single red flag shows that a child has ASD. Symptoms at 18 months include a lack of appropriate gaze; lack of using eye gaze with sounds, gestures and facial expression; lack of sharing interest or enjoyment; lack of response to name; lack of warm, joyful expressions; lack of showing or pointing gestures to get others to notice objects of interest; unusual melody of speech or babbling; and repetitive movements with objects or with the body.

Researchers hope the study will reveal important evidence of parent-implemented intervention for toddlers, and that screening toddlers is crucial to early intervention.

“The future for children with ASD is changing every day as we create more services to support their strengths and address or prevent difficulties,” Lord says. “As we develop ways of identifying ASD in younger and younger children, we must develop treatment methods and family supports that are appropriate for toddlers.”


Regional Leadership Conference Comes to THE Beach A regional leadership conference on how to stimulate economic activity in the Northwest Florida market will be held at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Destin, Oct. 15-17. “Stimulating the Economy with Transportation, NW Florida’s Gulf Coast ‘Cleared for Take-Off,’” is sponsored by the Walton Area Chamber of Commerce, Florida’s Great Northwest, Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Panama City Beaches Chamber, Coastal Vision 3000/THE Beach, The Building Industry Association of Okaloosa & Walton Counties Inc. (BIA), Bay County Chamber of Commerce, Niceville Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce, The Florida Association of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), 850 Magazine, Emerald Coast Association of Realtors, The Walton Sun, The Destin Log, The Northwest Florida Daily News, and the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce. A number of state and national economic development and tourism experts will be speaking and taking part in panel discussions.

New Study Identifies Statewide Opportunities Florida’s Great Northwest, along with a group of 18 other partners, recently released “Florida’s Innovation Benchmark Study,” an in-depth review of the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities associated with Florida’s efforts to build an innovation-based economy. The study sought to identify opportunities that might speed up Florida’s efforts for economic diversification. Among the state’s strengths, the study identifies the ability to attract outside talent due to a desirable quality of life as an important advantage. The cultural diversity of the state was cited as a strength, as was the willingness of companies, universities and organizations across the state to develop partnerships and work together on economic opportunities.

PBS&J Donates to EducationThe engineering management firm of PBS&J, with funding through the PBS&J Foundation Inc., has presented a $5,000 donation to the North Central Panhandle Education Foundation Inc. to provide funds for the Washington County Take Stock in Children program. Take Stock in Children is a comprehensive statewide program that helps low-income children succeed by providing scholarships, mentors and, most importantly, hope. The donation from PBS&J will be matched by the Orange Hill Soil and Water Conservation District and then matched again by the state of Florida for a total investment of $20,000 for local students. These funds will provide four-year tuition scholarships for two students in the Florida Panhandle.