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09 May 2023

Dr Rosa Hoekstra elected as secretary of the International Society for Autism Research and receives award for her research project

The International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) has announced Dr Rosa Hoekstra as secretary and awarded her research team the Cultural Diversity Award.

Rosa Hoekstra INSAR secretary
The SPARK research team left to right: Eva Mwangome, Professor Amina Abubakar, Dr Rosa Hoekstra, Elisa Genovesi, Dr Melissa Washington-Nortey, Dr Tsegereda Haile Kifle, Dr Vibian Angwenyi

The 2023 INSAR Annual Meeting took place 3 to 6 May in Stockholm, where INSAR elected their new board members and announced the winners of their seven awards. At this year’s meeting Dr Rosa Hoekstra, Reader in Global Perspectives on Neurodevelopmental Disabilities at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), was announced the new secretary of INSAR.

I am delighted to be elected Secretary of INSAR. I was elected Secretary on a pledge to try address barriers of INSAR membership and meeting attendance for those traditionally underrepresented in autism research. I will do my very best to make INSAR more accessible to researchers from low-income countries and to autistic scientists.

Dr Rosa Hoekstra, Reader in Global Perspectives on Neurodevelopmental Disabilities at King's IoPPN

At the IoPPN, Dr Hoekstra directs the Global research on Autism and other Developmental disabilities (GLAD) lab. The lab is focused on conducting high quality research that makes a difference to autistic people and their families worldwide. Together with Professor Amina Abubakar at Aga Khan University, she co-leads the £4.3 million SPARK research project that aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of children with autism and other developmental disabilities and their caregivers in Ethiopia and Kenya. The SPARK project is an international research collaboration between researchers and community stakeholders from Ethiopia, Kenya, the UK and the World Health Organization.

On the second day of the INSAR Annual Meeting, the SPARK Research Team received the Cultural Diversity Award in recognition of their work to bridge the care gap in the underserved communities of Ethiopia and Kenya. The award committee praised the team’s work as providing “exemplary models for implementing culturally appropriate care for children with developmental disabilities that face severe stigma, low literacy rates, high needs and limited resources". The award committee also highlighted the project’s potential to inform policy and practice in other low-income countries as well as in under-resourced communities in high-income countries.

I am equally thrilled for our SPARK team to be presented with the INSAR Cultural Diversity Award. The SPARK project reaches very vulnerable families in Ethiopia and Kenya, most of whom have no access to formal support. Through working directly with the community, we hope we can make a real difference in these families’ lives. It is great to see our efforts recognised with this award.

Dr Rosa Hoekstra, Reader in Global Perspectives on Neurodevelopmental Disabilities at King's IoPPN

INSAR is the main international autism research society. It is a cross-disciplinary organisation spanning biomedical autism research (including neuroscience and genetics) as well as social science research (including psychology, intervention research and cross-cultural perspectives). The INSAR Annual Meeting takes place every May to exchange and disseminate new scientific progress among autism scientists around the world. It is typically attended by around 2,200 researchers with representation from across the globe.

The INSAR Presidency was previously held by Francesca Happé, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at King’s IoPPN (2013-2015).

For more information, please contact Amelia Remmington (Communications & Engagement Officer).

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Rosa Hoekstra

Reader in Global Perspectives on Neurodevelopmental Disabilities