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International Conference at Hunter Addresses Autism Crisis

International Conference at Hunter Addresses Autism Crisis

Photo credit: Education Update,

On September 27, 2012, the Hunter College Autism Center joined the U.N. General Assembly and the organization Autism Speaks in hosting a global symposium. World leaders, spouses of heads of state, researchers, clinicians, and advocates for the disabled gathered at Hunter's Roosevelt House for the Fifth Annual World Focus on Autism conference.

First held in 2008, the conference was the brainchild of Suzanne and Bob Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks. This year's event, moderated by Sue Herera of CNBC, included presentations by Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Panamanian First Lady Marta Linares de Martinelli and Hunter faculty member Michael Siller. Dr. Siller, along with Dr. John Brown, directs the Autism Center, which conducts research, provides professional training, and creates family outreach programs.

Among the many dignitaries in attendance were Ricardo Martinelli, the president of Panama; Ban Soon-taek, wife of the U.N. Secretary General; Nataša Jeremić, wife of the president of the General Assembly; Tim Mathieson, domestic partner of the prime minister of Australia; Deolatchmee Ramotar, the first lady of Guyana; and Penehupifo Pohamba, the first lady of Namibia.

Early in the conference, Hunter President Jennifer Raab offered welcoming remarks that thanked the Wrights, the assembled dignitaries, and every other participant for constructively confronting autism as an international problem. She also noted how fitting it was that they had gathered at Roosevelt House, where a polio-stricken FDR once struggled to overcome his own disability and conceived the idea for the future United Nations.  

"We are confident that he and Eleanor would be proud to have in their home so many leaders in the fight against one of today's biggest challenges," Raab said.

Photo (L-R): First Lady of Panama Marta Linares de Martinelli, President of Panama Ricardo Martinelli, Co-Founder of Autism Speaks Suzanne Wright, Spouse of the UN Secretary General Ban Soon-Taek, Co-Founder of Autism Speaks Bob Wright, and Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab.


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