Raising Awareness for Autism at Pittcon's 70th Birthday

Since its establishment as a Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, Pittcon has emerged as the world's biggest annual conference and exposition for laboratory science.

The annual congresses are always highly anticipated as a special chance to connect with peers from around the world, discover cutting-edge innovations, and investigate solutions to forthcoming laboratory challenges alongside developers of the latest technology and apparatus. This year’s congress possessed additional appeal, as it represented Pittcon’s 70th anniversary.

The 70th Pittcon Annual meeting occurred at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia between the 17th and 21st of March 2019. Attendance was nearly 10% more than in 2018, comprising over 12,500 delegates from 94 countries worldwide representing government, academia and industry.

Outside of the United States, the top five attending countries were China, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom and Mexico. The interests of the attendees were similarly wide ranging, including various scientific disciplines, which ranged from agriculture and food science to drug discovery and nanotechnology.

Additionally, the Pittcon exposition featured stands from 713 companies exhibiting the most recent analytical instrumentation, products and services. Of these companies, 101 were exhibiting at Pittcon for the first time. Many of the booths provided delegates with hands-on experience of the latest technologies.

The main attraction of the Pittcon congress, its dynamic scientific programme, was also extensive, and offered over 2,000 technical presentations and 75 short courses, each imparting skills training and continuing education for laboratory professionals across a broad spectrum of subjects.

The Pittcon charity focus of 2019 was the Parent Education & Advocacy Leadership (PEAL) Center. Pittcon 2019 offered an extra space for the PEAL Center to increase awareness for individuals with autism and other disabilities. This repeats a similar productive partnership in 2011. Former Pittcon President Penny Gardner exclaimed, “After 2011, I honestly didn’t think I’d get another opportunity to preach the message of autism awareness at Pittcon. We’ve got a lot of irons in the fire this year in terms of fundraising and awareness and we expect it to be a very successful effort.”

The PEAL Center

The PEAL Center assists families of children with disabilities and special healthcare needs throughout Pennsylvania. It supports them in connecting with the services they require, supplies them with access to specialist tools designed to augment awareness and skills for coping with special needs, and helps them to access inclusive education, health care, and community-based services.

PEAL consistently endeavors to defeat stereotypes and destroy barriers for people with disabilities. This year, Pittcon helped to generate donations and knowledge to underpin the invaluable work of the PEAL Center during its 2019 annual conference.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

One of the disabilities for which the PEAL Center is increasing awareness is autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. People with ASD are usually perceived as being different, and the PEAL Center is striving to teach people that this does not need to be viewed negatively, to advocate their integration into society and to enhance their employment opportunities.

Autism

© Photographee.eu/Shutterstock.com

ASD is a permanent developmental condition that generates difficulties with communication and social interaction, and is linked to restricted/repetitive interests and behaviors. These are often associated with sensory problems, such an oversensitivity to touch, sounds or smells. The conjunction of these issues may cause behavioral difficulties for certain individuals.

Moreover, while there are some shared attributes, autism manifests differently in different people. The specific composition and seriousness of symptoms are widely varied, which is why it is designated as a spectrum disorder. It is necessary to recall that, while people with ASD might struggle with communication or empathy, they can be highly capable and can offer valuable skills. Significantly, many people on the autism spectrum can exist entirely autonomously. Nevertheless, individuals with ASD often experience exclusion as a result of their abnormal behaviors being misapprehended.

Public Awareness of ASD

ASD impacts on roughly 1% of the world’s population, with over 3.5 million Americans coping with the disorder alone. Unfortunately, the general public remain regretfully uneducated about ASD, its properties and its symptoms. In a survey of over 200 people, 60% believed that autistic people were more likely to suffer from epilepsy and less than 50% believed that autistic children could attend regular schools.

Moreover, roughly 20% of those questioned thought autism to be related to cerebral palsy or akin to mental retardation. Only 9% of respondents appraised themselves to have a sound understanding of ASD. The survey thus exposed the substantial extent of common misconception and misinformation regarding ASD. Focused educational campaigns are therefore essential to improving the treatment and achievement prospects for people diagnosed with autism, as well as reducing possible linked social stigma.

Ongoing ASD Research

The state of affairs is aggravated by the restricted understanding of the pathogenesis of ASD. Additional research into the disorder is needed to detect dependable biomarkers and clinical phenotypes of ASD. The Autism Research Center is dedicated to identifying the fundamental causal pathways of ASD and administers seven continuing research programs committed to realizing this objective.

It possesses already developed screening techniques to enable early diagnosis of ASD and has also spearheaded the evolution of therapies to aid children with ASD in the management of their symptoms. Contemporary psychological studies are being utilized to progress experimental methodologies for the objective evaluation of ASD communication impediments, while the foundations of sensory hypersensitivity are also being investigated.

Pittcon’s Contribution to Raising Awareness of ASD

For its 2019 program, Pittcon assimilated a selection of events to generate awareness and donations to reinforce the objectives of the PEAL Center. Pittcon events featured a presentation by Penny Gardner, Former Pittcon President, indicating the value of increasing autism awareness. Cindy Duch, Director of Parent Advising at the PEAL Center provided a summary of the activities of their Parent Training and Information Center, which helps to augment opportunities for children with ASD in the home, classroom, and community.

Furthermore, a networking session entitled ‘Barriers and Misconceptions Concerning Employment for Individuals with Disabilities’ dealt with a variety of topics connected to the employment of people with disabilities, including customized employment opportunities, alternative ways to evaluate individual strengths and approach interviews, and techniques to connect people with appropriate potential employers.

Fundraising activities featured a 5 km Walk/Run in collaboration with Anton Paar and a variety of exciting events in the exposition space, including a planetarium experience. Additionally, donations to the PEAL Center were offered by Pittcon exhibitors: KNF donated $500, and Tosoh Bioscience and Fritsch Milling and Sizing Inc. donated $1 for each badge scanned. Altogether, the endeavors of the Pittcon 2019 organizing committee, exhibitors, and attendees helped to collect roughly $9,000 for the PEAL Center. Pittcon will return next year and nominations are already open for the distinguished Pittcon awards at the 2020 Conference & Expo, which will take place 1st to 5th March in Chicago, Illinois, USA.

About Pittcon

Pittcon is the world’s largest annual premier conference and exposition on laboratory science. Pittcon attracts more than 16,000 attendees from industry, academia and government from over 90 countries worldwide.

Their mission is to sponsor and sustain educational and charitable activities for the advancement and benefit of scientific endeavor.

Pittcon’s target audience is not just “analytical chemists,” but all laboratory scientists — anyone who identifies, quantifies, analyzes or tests the chemical or biological properties of compounds or molecules, or who manages these laboratory scientists.

Having grown beyond its roots in analytical chemistry and spectroscopy, Pittcon has evolved into an event that now also serves a diverse constituency encompassing life sciences, pharmaceutical discovery and QA, food safety, environmental, bioterrorism and other emerging markets.


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Last updated: May 13, 2019 at 6:35 AM

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