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History of CARA

The Centre for Autism Research in Africa was founded by Prof Petrus J de Vries in 2012. Prof de Vries trained in Medicine at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa before moving to the UK where he did clinical training in Psychiatry and Child & Adolescent Psychiatry in Cambridge, and completed a PhD in Developmental Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge. He returned to South Africa in 2012 to take up the Sue Struengmann Professorship of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Cape Town.

Prof de Vries’ clinical and research expertise is in developmental neuropsychiatry, and, in particular, in neurodevelopmental disorders such as ASD, and in the neuropsychiatric manifestations of rare neurogenetic disorders such as tuberous sclerosis complex. When he returned to Africa, he was struck by the lack of systematic and comprehensive research programmes in ASD. He therefore set out to identify and grow an interdisciplinary team of clinicians and researchers with a shared passion for ASD clinical research in Africa.

By 2016, the Centre for Autism Research in Africa (CARA) had grown to more than 15 core team members from three Departments and two Faculties in the University of Cape Town, and a growing network of collaborators and colleagues across Africa and beyond. The team includes psychiatrists, psychologists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, special educationists, engineers, and even a veterinarian!

The Centre for Autism Research in Africa have projects in collaboration with other South African Universities, USA universities (including a particular partnership with Duke and the Duke Global Health Institute), the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Autism Speaks. They have received research funding from the National Research Foundation (South Africa), National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), National Institutes of Neurological Diseases and Stroke (NINDS), Autism Speaks, Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance (USA) and Tuberous Sclerosis Association (UK).