Aussie Home Town Girl Returns with State-of-the-Art Autism Technology

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Cynthia Howroyd, president of a Canadian company producing a technological solution to the lack of funding and services in the world-wide autism epidemic, returns to her Australian homeland with a leading autism researcher bearing the latest in autism research and technological choices.

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AutismPro gives parents, educators and novice clinicians the tools they need to design and implement autism intervention programs that meet the specific needs of each child

Leaving Tasmania at the age of six when her father accepted a teaching post at a Canadian university, Cynthia Howroyd went on to become one of the first speech language pathologists on the Canadian East Coast to work with children with autism. Years later, as president and CEO of a software company, she's a pioneer in the use of technology to provide autism services. Today, she's back home in Australia on a whirlwind tour of workshops and presentations along with internationally renowned autism expert, Dr. Jeanette Holden.

"It's wonderful to be back," said Ms. Howroyd. "I'd almost forgotten how beautiful Australia is. And there's so much nostalgia from my early childhood coming back to life. I'm beginning to realize how much I've missed this magical place. Last weekend we watched wallabies coming to eat veggies we put out for them at my uncle's cottage at the beach and swam in turquoise waters in Honeymoon Bay."

Ms. Howroyd's company, Virtual Expert Clinics, has created a software program for delivering autism services over the Internet. "The concept came to me while I was in the hospital after a car accident," she said. "The children I was working with were spread all over the province of New Brunswick and they went without services while I was hospitalized."

Having some familiarity with computer applications and the Internet, Ms. Howroyd began to work on the idea of providing autism intervention guidance online. "The idea was to provide a means for families in remote areas or on waiting lists to learn about autism and give them the tools to design and begin a program tailored to their child's needs."

After forming a partnership with autism expert and author Dr. Kathleen Ann Quill from the Autism Institute in Boston, Ms. Howroyd hired experts in artificial intelligence and Internet technology developers. She quickly attracted a board of autism experts from around the world and, within a few years, released her first product, AutismPro.

"AutismPro gives parents, educators and novice clinicians the tools they need to design and implement autism intervention programs that meet the specific needs of each child," said Ms. Howroyd. "It includes assessment tools, thousands of printable activities, tons of up-to-date resources, and hundreds of learning strategies."

The program is currently being used in a study on the effectiveness of technology in the provision of autism services. Dr. Jeanette Holden, PhD, FCCMG, of Queen's University in the province of Ontario is the director of an international consortium of autism researchers. In a study begun in July 2006, Dr. Holden selected 50 families of children with autism to participate in a research study using AutismPro. "The results so far have been encouraging," said Dr. Holden, "and support my belief that using technologically-based approaches is essential in order to provide the needed amount of therapy to the hundreds of thousands of children world-wide with minimal or no services."

Ms. Howroyd and Dr. Holden are on a tour of South Eastern Australia giving a series of workshops and presentations on AutismPro and the use of technology in treating autism.

"I'm also rediscovering my family roots and have met uncles and cousins I have not seen since early childhood," said Ms. Howroyd, "which is very gratifying between madly dashing off from one workshop to another! I'm staying with a cousin in Brisbane tonight who is an architect. It turns out he helped design the resort where the conference is being held. I also discovered that my grandfather was once the Minister of Education and then the Minister of health for Tasmania. So lots of personal discovery too!"

"It feels like I've come full circle," said Ms. Howroyd. "It's wonderful to be back, especially this time of year, when Canada is covered with snow and freezing temperatures."

Information about the Australian workshops is available at http://www.autismpro.com.

Cynthia Howroyd, M.Sc., SLP is CEO of a Canadian software company, Virtual Expert Clinics (VEC), as well as a Speech Language Pathologist with over 15 years experience providing therapy to children with autism and other developmental disorders. Over the past 5 years, she has collaborated with an international team of autism experts to develop a new technology that can help make quality autism therapy more accessible to many, and may one day answer important research questions about autism.

Dr Jeanette Holden, PhD, FCCMG is internationally recognized for her research on autism and intellectual disabilities. She is Program Director of the Autism Spectrum Disorders - Canadian-American Research Consortium (ASD-CARC), a group of more than 60 researchers, clinicians, and parents carrying out research to understand the Autism Spectrum. She is also Program Director of the Autism Spectrum Disorders Strategic Training in Health Research (STIHR) Program at Queens University.

Web sites: http://www.autismresearch.com, http://www.asdcard.com and http://www.autismtraining.com. Her research is supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Ontario Mental Health Foundation, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Autism Speaks/NAAR, and the US March of Dimes.

AutismPro is a 9-step online treatment platform for parents and professionals of young children with autism. AutismPro was developed over a two year period with clinical content from approximately 30 therapists, the Geneva Centre for Autism and an advisory board of internationally recognized experts, including Dr Kathleen Quill, author of the best-selling text DO-WATCH-LISTEN-SAY: Social and Communication Intervention for Children with Autism (2000, Brookes Publishing Company). AutismPro was launched at the Geneva Centre for Autism's 2006 International Symposium. For more information on AutismPro, visit http://www.autismpro.com.

Contact:

Thomas Mitchell

Media Manager

Email: mitchell (at) vecinc.com

Phone: 0011+1+506+474+8134

In Australia, contact Cynthia Howroyd at:

Howroyd (at) vecinc.com

AutismPro, VEC

46 Dineen Drive, Suite 347

National Research Council Building

Fredericton, New Brunswick

E3B 9W4

Web Site: http://www.autismpro.com

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THOMAS MITCHELL
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