Mercer wordmark

Mercer to Hold Panel Discussion Focused on Autism

November 11, 2010

Media Contact: Mark Vanderhoek (478) 301-4037 or

MACON – Mercer University will hold a panel discussion, titled “Autism: Scientific Analysis of Causes and Treatments,” Monday at 7 p.m. in the Medical School Auditorium on the Macon campus. The discussion is sponsored by the Scientific Inquiry Program as part of one of the units in the program. The panelists include parents of children with autism, practitioners and researchers.

According to the Autism Society of America, Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. It is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. As of 2009, studies suggest that the prevalence of autism has risen to one in every 110 births in the United States and to almost one in 70 for boys. As part of the unit on autism, students taking the scientific inquiry course this semester are reading Autism’s False Prophets, a book that explores and debunks several popular theories on causes of, and purported cures for, autism.

Panelists include three parents with children on the autism spectrum: Terry Goodridge, Ladonna Gosner and Dr. Jennifer Pilcher Duke, who is also a practitioner. Also on the panel are Barry L. Pierce, who works with autistic children at Morningstar Children and Family Services, and Dr. Michael J. Morrier, assistant director at the Emory Autism Center at Emory University School of Medicine and senior associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory.

Goodridge is a parent mentor in the Bibb County School District and has a son on the autism spectrum. Gosner is an advocate and a mother of three, including a son with Asperger’s syndrome. Dr. Jennifer Pilcher Duke is a practitioner at Awakenings Medical Center in Macon, and mother of a son on the autism spectrum. Pierce is a mental health paraprofessional and community support specialist for Morningstar Children and Family Services, a live-in facility for special needs children. Pierce has worked extensively with the autistic population on Morningstar’s campus. Dr. Morrier has worked with autistic children for more than 20 years, providing early intervention to preschoolers with autism spectrum disorders and their families through the Walden Early Childhood Center and he currently manages the Comprehensive Autism Diagnostic Clinics at the Emory Autism Center.  His research focuses on the disparities of a receipt of a medical diagnosis of autism based on race or ethnicity, as well as racial disparities in educational eligibility and placements of students with disabilities.

About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,200 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at three regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit

— 30 —