Mystery surrounds the cause and effects of autism, but Middle Georgians might soon get some answers.
Two upcoming lectures will shed light on the condition that affects children differently.
At Georgia College, in Milledgeville, Newell Visiting Scholar Eduardo Mercado will deliver his final lecture Thursday.
Much of the neuroscientist’s work has been in brain research.
“Infants’ brains change very rapidly in the first years of life,” Mercado said in a news release. “How a baby’s brain changes as he learns from experience may determine whether he develops autism or the level of severity.”
Symptoms on the autism spectrum range from a total lack of communication and repetitive behaviors, such as rocking, to higher-functioning Asperger’s syndrome, in which people may have social anxieties that manifest in odd behavior.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 68 children in the U.S. have been identified with the disorder, which affects all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
Mercado focuses research on brain plasticity, or its ability to change.
At 7 p.m. Thursday in the Arts and Sciences Auditorium on the Milledgeville campus, Mercado will explore how the brains of children with autism spectrum disorder develop differently.
“My research has focused on understanding how young children with autism learn new categories,” he said in the statement. “They do not learn in the ways that most theories of autism would predict.”
The visiting professor strives to understand why children learn differently, and he wants to identify the “novel ways in which they perceive the world.”
Understanding those differences can lead to the development of effective strategies and treatments, he said.
Next month, the Medical Center, Navicent Health, will host ts second annual Spring Symposium for Autism & Developmental Disorders beginning at 8 a.m. April 8, in the Eversole Auditorium at 877 Hemlock St.
As part of National Autism Awareness Month, the Autism Center, Navicent Health, will partner with Mercer University’s Tift College of Education to share knowledge, training and resources to those affected by autism spectrum disorder.
“The symposium is a great way for participants to gain insights and share information, strategies and available resources for families,” said Dr. Kelly Reffitt, associate dean of the Tift College.
A tour of the Autism Center, Navicent Health, will follow the seminar.
Dr. Elizabeth Young, medical director of the center, said the symposium will be a wonderful opportunity to bring the community together.
“Our goal is to promote the earliest possible screening, diagnosis and intervention, with evidence-based treatment, so children with autism spectrum disorder or other developmental disorders may reach their full potential in life,” Young said. “Well informed families become greater advocates, leading to greater success for the individual and family.”