UCT’s autism centre receives international award

From left are Dr Liezl Schlebusch, Dr Michael Harty, Sarosha Pillay, Prpfessor Petrus de Vries, Marisa Viljoen, Dr Lauren Franz and Professor Simon Baron-Cohen.

UCT researchers have won international praise for their work on autism.

The International Society for Autism Research awarded UCT’s Centre for Autism Research in Africa the inaugural Cultural Diversity Research Award at the society’s conference in Rotterdam.

The award recognises researchers whose work leaves a lasting impact on under-served or under-researched communities.

Petrus de Vries, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at UCT, said he was thrilled with the recognition given to his team.

“We really believe that research is about working together and collaborating with passionate and positive international partners. “Without this teamwork none of our work or achievements would be possible”.

At the same conference, Professor De Vries was made a fellow of the society, honouring the significant international impact of his autism research.

Professor Dan Stein, head of UCT’s department of psychiatry and mental health, said: “I am delighted by the international recognition of our autism research.”

But he added that a lot of work still needed to be done, given the burden of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in poor communities, particularly in Africa. ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is associated with difficulties in social interaction and communication and a pattern of repetitive and ritualistic behaviours.