Everyone asked ‘Why Jerusalem?’ when Joshua Weinstein decided to set up the first global research and education center for autism in the holy city.
The American researcher, hailing from the ICare4autism International Center for Autism Research and Education in New York, who has opened schools and centers in both New York and Israel, has a simple answer: “Because it’s the capital of the world.”
There could not be a better place, he reasons. During the last conference held by the ICare4autism charity in Jerusalem, international speakers were excited to come to the Holy Land. Weinstein now sees the location as an important selling point to attract fellows and autism research “stars” to a world center.
While the new global headquarters of ICare4autism could have been anywhere in the United States – Miami, Los Angeles, New York – Jerusalem came to mind, he tells ISRAEL21c, because “it offers so much more.”
And it’s not just about location. “People want to go there and be associated with a place they want to visit. It was a great idea in retrospect. Also the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, jumped into the frame and became a catalyst for us and located a building on Mount Scopus,” says Weinstein.
Barkat said publicly: “We welcome ICare4autism’s plan to create a Global Autism Center on Mt. Scopus, and we look forward to the breakthroughs in research that will emanate from its campus to benefit the entire world.” Donors to the center are both private individuals and organizations.
Helping someone you love
Autism is a spectrum disorder (meaning that it may range from mild to severe) which afflicts as many as one in 100 people. That makes it highly likely that someone you know and love is affected, whether or not they know it. The new global research center to be based in Israel will be a one-of-a-kind venue that will tackle some of the major challenges associated with autism today – including better diagnosis in adults.
It will be a state-of-the art research facility; a global platform for all researchers in the field; and it will also offer continuing education programs for teachers and researchers looking to advance in the field, including university-level courses on autism.
The Jerusalem campus will house the world’s first university-level school of autism studies, with the aim of raising therapeutic standards worldwide. Currently, the center is working on obtaining an official affiliation with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Weinstein tells ISRAEL21c that among its specialties the center will cover the latest advances in autism research such as early detection methods. A residency program is expected to be an additional draw.
“Millions of people are still suffering from autism,” Weinstein relates. “And there are more people aware of autism today than 10 years ago, thanks to different education programs. We plan on integrating all the systems that work.”
A focus on autism and genetics
As the famed Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, currently located on Mt. Scopus in Jerusalem, moves to its new location in 2013, the ICare4autism center is expected to take over its digs.
Dominant channels of research will be comprehensive, from birth to adulthood, with a core focus on adults, a still neglected area, says Weinstein. His partner, Dr. Eric Hollander hopes to establish a program that will put a strong focus on genetics and autism – “which may hold a lot of keys to a lot of mysteries” about autism, according to Weinstein.
Hollander chairs the advisory council of ICare4autism. He is a world-renowned psychiatrist on the faculty of Montefiore Medical Center, University Hospital of Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
And in line with the worldwide trend, a multi-disciplinary unit for therapists will look to art and music, possibly even some joint projects with the Bezalel art college, to create innovative therapeutic interventions to combat autism.
In addition, the Jerusalem center is expected to include a radio station and multi-media station so it can broadcast its efforts worldwide, real-time.
Weinstein has several Masters degrees, in subjects like business management and education. Now finishing up a PhD, he’s worked in the autism field for more than 15 years, and has founded a school in New York that serves 1,000 people in the five boroughs – the Shema Kolainu-Hear our Voices School and Center for Children with Autism. He also founded the Tishma – ABA School and Center for Children with Autism in Jerusalem, Israel.
When CARE4Autism starts operating, in parallel Weinstein will set up satellite centers in major hubs around the world so that research, insights and new clinical approaches can be channeled quickly to autism sufferers. The centers will feature ongoing residencies and exchange program