National Autism Awareness Month kicks off Saturday with National Autism Awareness Day, drawing attention to West Virginia University’s efforts at combatting the developmental disorder that appears in the first three years of life and affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills. One in 68 children in the state are diagnosed with some level along the autism spectrum.

Susannah G. Poe, an associate professor of pediatrics in the WVU School of Medicine, developed and directs the intensive Autism Services Delivery Clinic at the WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities and serves as a LEND autism mentor.

“We know that very early intervention is the key to preparing people with autism for as independent a life as possible,” Poe said. “Our model program at iASD, has gained national attention for the work it is doing for providing the next generation of autism professionals.”

Poe was recently selected as one of 36 professionals from across the country to serve as an Act Early Ambassador for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Learn the Signs, Act Early” program.

She can be reached by phone at 304.293.4692 or by email at

Since 2009, more than 17,250 hours of free, intensive, behavioral interventions have been provided through the iASD Clinic to WV children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The clinic has also provided more than 30,000 hours of hands-on training and supervision to WVU students and physicians.

Meanwhile, WVU researchers have just published findings that show adults with autism are increasingly showing up in emergency rooms – visits more than doubled over the study’s five-year period.

“Our study sheds light on the need for better guidelines and greater support for incorporating ASD related training of physicians and other healthcare providers who usually report lack of self-perceived competency in treating and diagnosing adults with ASD,” Dr. Suresh Madhavan and his colleagues wrote.

Madhavan is chair and professor of pharmaceutical systems and policy in the WVU School of Pharmacy. He can be reached by phone at 304.293.1652 or by email at

Drs. Madhavan and Poe are among many West Virginia University experts who can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Search for an expert by name, title, area of expertise, or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVU Today.

In addition to providing expert commentary and background, there are several coverage opportunities during National Autism Awareness Month. The iASD Clinic is joining with Panera Bread to host the “Pieces of Hope for Autism” cookie campaign in all participating West Virginia; Ashland, Kentucky; and St. Clairsville, Ohio Panera Bread bakery-cafes. Panera Bread is inviting community members to purchase an exclusive Puzzle Piece Shortbread Cookie at their local participating Panera Bread bakery- caf� April 4-10. All proceeds will be donated to the intensive Autism Service Delivery Clinic.

Additionally, registration is open for the Annual Autism 5K Run & Family Fun Walk on April 30. A full day of activities is planned, including live music and family fun at Hazel Ruby McQuain Riverfront Park in Morgantown. For more information or to register online visit



CONTACTS: Melina Danko; WVU Center of Excellence in Disabilities


Amy Newton; WVU School of Pharmacy

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