Upstate News

May 31, 2005
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

SUNY Upstate will open Autism Spectrum Disorders clinic in August

Increase in number of children with autism diagnosis puts demands on community for new services, officials say. Funding by Friend in Deed and Children’s Miracle Network make clinic a reality.

SYRACUSE, N.Y.- SUNY Upstate Medical University will open an Autism Spectrum Disorders Clinic by August that is designed to serve young children-birth through 7 years-through evaluation, intervention and consultation services.

Margaret L. Williams Developmental Evaluation Center (MLW/DEC), located at 215 Bassett Street in Syracuse, has been providing comprehensive diagnostic evaluation services since 1982. The center, part of SUNY Upstate’s Department of Pediatrics, served over 500 children last year.

Over the years, the center has seen a growth in the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. This disorder includes children with classic autism, Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disabilities. The opening of the clinic will help support families by providing needed consultation and therapeutic support once their child is diagnosed.

The Autism Spectrum Disorders Clinic will be created by renovating existing space in the center’s current location, the former Sumner Elementary School. The renovation is being made possible by $44,699 in grant money from SUNY Upstate’s Friend in Deed annual fund ($36,500) and the Children’s Miracle Network ($8,199).

“These grants from Friend in Deed and the Children’s Miracle Network are vital to our ability to meet the growing community need for services to this special population,” said the center’s director, Carroll Grant, Ph.D.

The renovation project will provide the MLW/DEC with additional clinic space where specialists can meet with parents and assess the child’s abilities and identify areas of need.

The center conducts their assessment through an interdisciplinary team process, including psychology, occupational and physical therapy, speech/language pathology and medicine.

“Autism is a behavioral diagnosis; there is not a sole biological feature that identifies autism,” said Grant, noting that the evaluation can be complex and time consuming. “We look at a myriad of developmental features that include how a child uses language, relates to others, plays, and entertains him or herself to better understand how the child’s perceives, makes sense of and interacts with his or her world.”

Grant says that not only is diagnosing the disorder complex but providing appropriate intervention services is also challenging. “Finding professionals who understand the nature of the disorder and how to treat it successfully is not always easy,” she said. “As more and more children are diagnosed with autism, there is a heightened need for more trained community professionals serving children at all ages to have these skills.”

To that end, Grant said the new clinic will provide child-oriented consultation services to children and families and some on site training in the area of autism spectrum disorders for community professionals.

There is still much that is unknown about the disorder. Currently, there is no known cause for autism, nor is there a cure. However, early identification which leads to intensive individualized intervention is the major undisputed strategy that supports developmental growth in children on the autism spectrum.

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