One in 80 children in Israel is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). To provide resources for these children, Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO)
, in partnership with the Hebrew University
, has established the first interdisciplinary university-based autism center in the Middle East.
According to Prof. Eitan Kerem, head of pediatrics at Hadassah, “The health services are fragmented and focus mainly on palliative care. This innovative center will focus on accruing and disseminating knowledge for research, professional development, clinical care and community engagement in the field of autism. This will be the only center in Israel that will provide a comprehensive and holistic approach to children and adults suffering from autism.”
“Currently, research is done by various scientists who are interested in the field,” Prof. Kerem explains. “However, they are from disparate disciplines that focus on different aspects of autism. The center will bring all the multidisciplinary research together from within the Hebrew University and integrate it with the clinical expertise and experience of Hadassah’s medical professionals.”
Bringing together this cutting-edge research, clinical experience, state-of the-art training and education for both professionals and parents will, in turn, lead to better clinical practice, public programming, policies in support of those who deal with ASD, and will be a reservoir of help for families and caregivers. An interdisciplinary center that bridges several faculties within the Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical Center, it will be anchored in the Hadassah-Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine.
“There is a tremendous need for a facility like this in the Middle East, and the hospital will do much to improve the state of autism research all over the world,” says Hadassah president Marcie Natan.
As Prof. David Lichtstein, dean of the faculty of medicine at Hebrew University, points out, “Our goal in establishing the Autism Center is to lead Israel and the Middle East in research, training, clinical services and community engagement for the benefit of individuals with ASD and their families. By bringing together the relevant disciplines at Hebrew University, including medicine, social work and education and combining them with the clinical excellence of Hadassah hospitals, the autism center will be positioned to achieve important breakthroughs in the research, diagnosis, and treatment of autism.”
According to the Hebrew University, while some universities in the Middle East have extensive autism research programs and others have specific associations with clinical services, none approximates this comprehensive, collaborative model. In order to provide the kinds of services envisioned, the autism center intends to learn from and work with existing centers worldwide and to grow to serve as a model by expanding on current models of interdisciplinary research and service.