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by Alison Hogan


  New York City will soon lead the way in the research and treatment of Asperger Syndrome, thanks to a donation recently bestowed on the NYU Child Study Center.  The $30 million gift will enable the Center to focus on Asperger’s the way Sloan-Kettering and Dana-Farber concentrate on cancer, according to NYU Center officials.

   Twenty million dollars will be earmarked immediately for educational programs, clinical services and state-of-the-art research; while $10 million will go to the capital campaign for the building of a new NYU Center of Excellence in Child Mental Health (slated to open in 2009).

   Asperger’s is a neurobiologically-based condition on the pervasive developmental disorder spectrum. Children and adolescents with Asperger often have difficulty accomplishing early developmental tasks involving language, motor skills, communication, and socialization. While there are no conclusive studies, researchers estimate its prevalence at one in 300 people.

    The new Asperger Institute will bring together renowned researchers in the field to continue their work, and professionals who will devise training programs and set up an educational program designed for gifted adolescents with atypical social development, as well as a nationwide information clearinghouse and resource center for families with children with Asperger Syndrome.  A proposed learning program for students in grades 8-12 will offer optimal educational opportunities for gifted learners, while providing the specialized social, emotional, and learning support they often lack in typical school settings. "Children with Asperger Syndrome often face challenges in traditional school settings because schools are not necessarily equipped with the knowledge and resources to accommodate the needs and individuality of these students," said Ira Statfeld Recanati, co-donor with partner Michael Statfeld Recanati.

   "The visionary funding that the Statfeld Recanati family is so generously providing allows us to create an effective paradigm by assembling a team of experts to identify the genes that contribute to this neurological disorder," said Harold S. Koplewicz, M.D., NYU Child Study Center founder and director. "By building on cutting-edge research findings, the clinician-investigators at the Institute will lead the field in developing novel collaborative methods of treatment." 

   The new Institute will also work with the Steinhardt School of Education, the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, and the College of Arts and Sciences at NYU, as well as Hunter College CUNY, to identify college classes for gifted students during their junior or senior year of high school and arrange for students to attend those classes. The Institute will also collaborate with the NYU Henry and Lucy Moses Center for Students with Disabilities to formalize and institutionalize a college track at NYU that is sensitive to the needs of gifted students with Asperger Syndrome. The Institute's educational program will offer advanced academic electives, custom designed for each student's unique interests and abilities, and will emphasize the importance of mentorships to academic development.

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