New CMU center to provide autism assessment, treatment and training
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 significant 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.