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Prize for work with autism

Dr Liz Pellicano

Dr Liz Pellicano

Press release issued: 30 October 2007

A young researcher, Dr Liz Pellicano, has been awarded a prestigious prize for her work on the different ways children with autism develop.

Dr Elizabeth Pellicano, in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Bristol is a joint winner of the 2007 Michael Young Prize, which is sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and The Young Foundation.

Conceived in honour of the late Lord Michael Young, the founder of the ESRC, the prize aims to reward and encourage early career researchers whose work offers genuine new insights and is likely to have an impact beyond academia. Dr Pellicano‚Äôs award of £3,000 will be used to communicate her research to the general public.

Dr Elizabeth Pellicano said, "I am delighted to receive this award. I intend to use the prize money to help establish a series of events at which people with autism, parents and carers of children with autism, and policymakers, can discuss possible factors that might shape the development of the condition."

Autism is a lifelong condition that affects about one in a 100 children in the UK. Individuals diagnosed with the condition experience significant difficulties in social interaction and communication. The impact of these difficulties is far-reaching - on the individuals themselves, their carers, and broader society.

Previously most research in this area has focussed on the causes of autism rather than understanding it as a developmental disorder. By following a group of autistic children over a period of three years Dr Pellicano, from the University of Bristol, found that there was no uniform pattern of development.

The findings of the study will help to shape better policy responses to autism. It will also provide carers and parents of children with autism with answers some of their every day concerns such as whether an autistic child will ever have a 'real' friendship or hold down a job.

Science and Innovation Minister Ian Pearson said of the award: "We have a deserved reputation for research excellence in this country. The Michael young Prize not only recognises such excellence but builds upon it. By helping communicate the fantastic work of its winners their research can have a real impact in people's lives. Ensuring great research can be exploited to benefit society is central to the aims of the Department for Innovation Universities and Skills".

Professor Ian Diamond, Chief Executive of the ESRC added: "The decision to have two winners this year mirrors the exceptional standard and range of applicants this year. Getting research into practice so that it has a measurable impact on policy, business and wider society is at the heart of what the ESRC does. I am delighted that, by working with The Young Foundation, we can encourage researchers at the start of their careers to do just that."

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