The Hadassah Medical Center, in partnership with the Hebrew University, is establishing the first interdisciplinary university-based autism center in the Middle East.

The Autism Center will bring together cutting-edge research, clinical services, state-of- the-art training, and education for both professionals and parents. Research will be informed by the relationship with the community, which will in turn lead to better clinical practice, public programming, and policies in support of those who deal with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Prof. Eitan Kerem, Head of Pediatrics at the Hadassah Medical Center explained that “One in 80 children in Israel suffers from ASD. The health services are fragmented and focus mainly on palliative care. This center is innovative, focused 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. However they come from disparate disciplines that focus on different aspects of autism. Bringing them together will allow integration of all research resources available at the Hebrew University with the ability to learn from the experience according to the clinical expertise available at the Hadassah Medical Center.

As a result Hadassah patients will benefit from cutting-edge research and clinical services. State-of-the art training and knowledge translation for parents in the community will all exist under one roof. The Autism Center will serve as a major resource of knowledge, consultation and support for both families and caregivers”.

This interdisciplinary center will bridge several faculties within The Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical Center, and will be anchored in the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine. “Our goal in establishing the Autism Center,” explains Prof. David Lichtstein, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Hebrew University, ”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 the Hadassah Medical Center, the Autism Center will be positioned to achieve important breakthroughs in the research, diagnosis and treatment of autism.”

ASD is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder, diagnosed in approximately one percent of children. The Israel Ministries of Education, Health, and Welfare recognize ASD as a top priority and provide diagnostic services, intervention programs, and support for families. Despite these efforts, however, significant gaps exist within the system. The Autism Center aims to fill these gaps.

According to the Hebrew University, the proposed combination of research, education, and training with clinical and community work is rare in autism centers worldwide. 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.

Universities abroad follow the model of either focusing on research or work with a community service agency through which applied research projects are established. The Autism Center aims to learn from and work with existing centers, and to grow to serve as a model by expanding on current models of interdisciplinary research and service.