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New Central Michigan University center provides autism assessment, treatment and training.

New CMU center to provide autism assessment, treatment and training

October 30, 2014

A new center at Central Michigan University will help tackle Autism Spectrum Disorder. ASD is the fastest growing developmental disability in the U.S., affecting approximately one in 68 children according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Central Autism Assessment and Treatment Clinic will provide diagnosis and treatment to children and adolescents in central and northern Michigan. The new center is one of only eight of its kind in Michigan, and one of only two that train professionals in diagnosis and treatment.

The center, which opened this week with financial support from the Michigan Department of Community Health, is addressing priority needs in Michigan by decreasing the wait time for a diagnosis and for receiving applied behavior analysis therapy.

“With an increase in ASD referrals, we need more practitioners who have specific training in this area to promote accurate diagnosis,” said center director Christie Nutkins. “We can help one child at a time but we can impact many more people by training CMU students on how to accurately diagnose this growing disability.”

For those visiting the new clinic, a comprehensive multi-disciplinary assessment is completed in order to reach a diagnosis. The assessment includes interviews with parents and/or caregivers, speech and language evaluation, a full psychological battery test; and a medical examination by a CMU College of Medicine pediatrician.

According to the CDC, it is estimated to cost at least $17,000 more per year to care for a child with ASD compared to a child without ASD.

“The diagnosis portion is very important as a diagnosis is needed for insurance companies to cover treatment,” said Nutkins.

Following diagnosis, patients will be treated at the center through applied behavior analysis. Graduate and undergraduate students will be involved to assist in treatment.

“Intensive intervention makes a difference,” said psychology faculty member and board certified behavioral analyst Deborah Grossett. “We’ll do whatever we can to help children learn their best and teach them to be more independent.”

Autism spectrum disorder can cause significan​t social, communication and behavior challenges. Symptoms often emerge between two and three years of age. The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends children be screened for ASD at the ages of 18 and 36 months. A diagnosis at a young age can improve the opportunities for early interventions.


New behavior analyst certification program to help autism spectrum patients

​January 27, 2014 from CM Life

CMU's new board certified behavior analyst program will train students to provide services for children with autism and other learning disorders. Students with majors and minors in psychology are eligible to apply. "There is a big need with over 15,000 kids with autism in Michigan and less than 200 behavior analysts," says psychology professor Michael Hixson. Read more

State of Michigan Awards $500,000 to CMU psychology faculty for behavior analysis training to treat autism

October 9, 2013

The Michigan Department of Community Health has awarded $500,000 to psychology professors to increase the number of professionals trained to serve individuals in Michigan with autism spectrum disorders.

CMU faculty members Carl Merle Johnson, Sharon Bradley-Johnson, Michael Hixson, Mark Reilly and Katrina Rhymer will train students in applied behavior analysis, which focuses on improving social behaviors of individuals with autism using intervention practices to modify actions and teach new skills.

“Behavior analysis is considered the best treatment of choice for autism because of the results it provides,” said Johnson. “Every individual who receives treatment experiences some improvement. That’s why it’s so important for us to train more people to be able to provide the service. The need is great and growing, particularly here in central and northern Michigan.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports one in 88 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder, a neurological condition that affects normal brain function and impacts communication and interaction skills. The U.S. Department of Education estimates the number of individuals diagnosed with ASD is growing nationally at a rate of 10 to 17 percent a year.

The one-year grant began Oct. 1 and will certify 25 undergraduate students as Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts and eight graduate students as Board Certified Behavior Analysts. The grant is part of a statewide effort to improve services for people with autism. CMU’s program is designed to serve those in central and northern Michigan.

Later this semester, students can submit applications to CMU’s psychology department to participate in the program. Training of the first group of students will begin in January.

The use of applied behavior analysis techniques as treatment for individuals with autism has been effective in reducing inappropriate behavior and improvements in communication, social relationships, play, self-care, school and employment. Studies indicate applied behavior analysis, when implemented intensively and early in life, may produce significant gains in development and a reduction in the need for special services.

“Applied behavior analysis may not decrease the number of cases of autism,” said Bradley-Johnson, “but it can certainly improve the quality of life for individuals with autism and their families.”