Keynote Presentations

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Ron SuskindAuthor Ron Suskind, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist

Life, Animated: A Tale of Autism & Hidden Potential

Ron Suskind’s sixth book, Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes and Autism, examines his family’s 20-year struggle with youngest son Owen’s autism.

Having lost his speech at age 3, Owen seized upon a particular interest in the form of animated Disney movies, which helped him make sense of himself and the world. By memorizing these iconic movies and parroting their dialogue, he learned how to communicate and express himself, prompting his family members to create elaborate stage sets in the home to re-enact these films and “speak Disney” along with him.

Owen emerged as a teenager with a unique skill set; along the way, he may have created a method for other parents and medical experts to reach autistic kids by following a similar model of emulative expression.

This deeply personal but universally resonant presentation is an adventure story of the human heart, in which Ron shares stories of Owen’s unique transformation from quiet solitude to animated communication. The tale culminates in a memorable father/son appearance with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central’s annual autism fundraiser, Night of Too Many Stars, where Owen, so long a silent child, joyfully outshines America’s biggest stars.

The Suskind motto – “your passion is your pathway” – now guides educators, therapists and parents in tapping the deep potential in us all.

Suskind’s book is the basis for a film, Life, Animated, by Academy Award®-winning director Roger Ross Williams.

Antonio Hardan, M.D.Antonio Y. Hardan, MD, Professor, Department
of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Stanford University

Translational Research in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is very heterogeneous. Developing effective interventions will depend on increasing our understanding of the pathophysiology of ASD, but more importantly, on identifying clinically and biologically meaningful subgroups. In this presentation, recent treatment research will be reviewed and approaches on how to deal with the heterogeneity of ASD will be discussed. Pivotal response training, a naturalistic behavioral intervention, will be examined and data from ongoing randomized controlled trials will be presented. Finally, novel pharmacological interventions, such as N-acetylcysteine and arginine vasopressin, will be reviewed, and updated information on recent trials involving these compounds will be discussed.

Dr. Antonio Hardan is the director of the Autism and Developmental Disorders Clinic at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University. He is a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist with more than 20 years’ experience assessing and treating children and adults with developmental disorders including autism. Dr. Hardan’s research expertise is in the neurobiology of autism and in the development of innovative treatment for individuals with intellectual disabilities. He is also a professor as well as the director of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry division at Stanford University.

Learn more about Antonio Hardan.

Past keynote speakers