Whitworth Communications

For Immediate Release

April 2, 2008

Lindaman Chair to Explore the Cause of Autism in April 16 Lecture at Whitworth

Fifty years ago, autism was a rare condition; now, one out of every 150 children is diagnosed with this devastating disorder. The unprecedented rise in autism has fueled enormous speculation and intense research to identify its cause, according to Betty Williams, Ph.D., Lindaman Chair and professor and coordinator of special education at Whitworth University. Williams will present the fifth annual Lindaman Lecture, "Separating Science from Science Fiction: Research on the Cause of Autism," at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 16, in the Robinson Teaching Theatre in Weyerhaeuser Hall at Whitworth. Admission is free. For more information, please call (509) 777-3228.

According to Williams, parents and professionals are understandably bewildered by myriad new discoveries and claims. In her April 16 lecture, Williams will sort scientific fact from science fiction regarding the cause of autism to better evaluate what evidence is conclusive, what remains inconclusive, and what has been disproven. Williams will discuss prominent theories about the causes of autism in terms of their scientific merit, including research on the incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorder, brain structure and function, vaccinations and thimerosal (a controversial preservative used in vaccines), special diets, the secretin hormone and genetic factors.

The annual Lindaman Lecture is held each spring and features Whitworth's appointed Edward B. Lindaman Chair. The position is an endowed, rotating chair for senior Whitworth faculty who are engaged in significant regional and national academic initiatives and who contribute to public dialogue concerning important social issues. Williams' four-year appointment began in fall 2007.

Williams' Lindaman Chair appointment allows her to broaden her research in early intervention and autism. Under Williams' leadership, Whitworth is responding to the "Age of Autism" in a number of innovative ways, including establishing a website devoted to evaluating autism research, and collaborating with universities in the Inland Northwest to expand research and training in early intervention. This effort is directed toward the development of a center for interdisciplinary service, research and training of personnel serving children from birth to age three.

Williams, who is in her 10th year at Whitworth, is the co-author of Very Young Children with Special Needs, 3rd. Ed. (Howard, Williams, & Lepper, 2004), a text for professionals and families working with children with disabilities from birth to age six. Williams is also editor of the text Directions in Early Intervention and Assessment (Williams, 2003), which is the result of a series of regional interdisciplinary conferences sponsored by the Spokane Guilds' School, with which she works closely. Williams began her work in special education 40 years ago and has published and presented extensively in this area. 

Williams was previously a professor of education at Gonzaga University for 19 years and helped establish the university's early childhood special-education training program and preschool. Williams was among the first professionals to train Head Start teachers to integrate children with disabilities, well before the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was established; she also coordinated a regional Resource Access Project, out of the University of Kansas Medical Center, which served young children with disabilities in Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska. Williams initiated the Infant Training Component (INTRAC) in Kalamazoo, Mich., for infants and toddlers with multiple disabilities and their parents; the program is still in operation after 38 years. 

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,600 students, offers 53 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Betty Williams, Edward B. Lindaman Chair and professor of education, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4688 or bwilliams@whitworth.edu.

Pat Bailey, program assistant, School of Education, Whitworth University, (509) 777-3228 or pbailey@whitworth.edu.

Julie Riddle, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-3729 or jriddle@whitworth.edu.

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