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America's only pop-culture image of autism is that of Dustin Hoffman counting cards in Rain Man; real autism is both far more common and much different than the Hollywood version.

Casi's Quest, the Florida chapter of the Autism Autoimmunity Project, brings two internationally known researchers to the Marriott Marina in Fort Lauderdale this weekend, doctors Andrew Wakefield and Jeffrey Bradstreet, who present "Autism Research: The Cutting Edge 2001."


"Autism Research: The Cutting Edge 2001"

Marriott Marina, 1875 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale

Saturday, September 8, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The celebrity auction is held from 7 to 10 p.m. at Sutra, 109 SW Second Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Admission costs $60, or $100 per couple. Call 954-506-5654.

Bradstreet heads the International Autism Research Center in Palm Bay, Florida. Saturday he discusses the current state of affairs in autism treatment and prevention, including dietary interventions, infectious diseases, and toxic accumulations such as mercury and other heavy metals. While years ago autism was so rare many doctors would not encounter a case their entire lives, Wakefield's recently published research staggeringly claims that the rates for the disease in the United States and his native United Kingdom now approach 1 in every 100. Of course bringing top researchers to the Marriott to speak to those concerned with the illness and carrying on with all Casi's Quest's other projects costs the center no small amount of spare change. Luckily it has found a few big names to help out.

After the presentation ends at 4 p.m., a fundraiser for Casi's Quest begins at 7 p.m. at Sutra, that vaguely Middle Eastern- themed nightclub in Himmarshee Village: The event features an auction of items autographed and donated by John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Jim Carrey, Kevin Bacon, and many other stars. And while this offers the public the rare opportunity finally to get within one degree of Kevin Bacon, Travolta and Preston have given the most support to the cause of all celebrities involved, granting permission to use their names in conjunction with Casi's Quest and the autism fundraiser. And if anyone knows nightclubs, it ought to be Travolta; of course in his day they were called discos.


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