By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — More than 100 autism patients will now be able receive an Applied Behavior Analysis treatment approach on a daily basis with a new autism center at Beaumont’s Center for Exceptional Families.
The $2.5 million center celebrated its opening on Oct. 11 after years of planning and collaboration between Beaumont Health and the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
Along with the ABA approach, the center will offer clinical and educational services which include occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, social work and follow-up medical appointments.
“It’s been a dream that has been in the making for 19 years,” Beaumont Center for Exceptional Families Medical Director Susan Youngs said. “The epidemic of autism has changed over the years. In 1998, 1 in 500 children were diagnosed and today that number is 1 in 45 children.”
Beaumont Center for Exceptional Families Assistant Director Michelle O’Connor-Teklinski said families have been asking for autism services since 1999.
“The University of Michigan-Dearborn and the center are now working together to educate and train future teachers at the undergraduate and graduate levels,” she said. “Last year, we helped University of Michigan-Dearborn write a grant which we were awarded $750,000 by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.”
UM-D College of Education, Health and Human Services interim associate dean Stein Brunvand said the new center is prime example of what the university envisioned when the College of Education, Health and Human Services was created.
“We are able to provide real life experience for students at the center so they understand what is like to encounter students with autism in classrooms,” Brunvand said. “The collaboration felt a logical step to take partnership to the next level and we are excited about the additional services our region can provide.”
The 13,000-square-foot newly renovated center includes 11 treatment rooms, classrooms, an independent apartment, gross motor sensory gym, conference rooms and updated technology throughout.
The classrooms allow for therapists to have children in a normal classroom setting with other children, conference rooms will serve as a meeting space where parents, children and therapists can review a child’s progress.
The apartment has a kitchen, living room, bedroom bathroom, washer and dryer to teach children with autism how to be independent.
As for technology, Promethean boards are included in the classrooms similar to classrooms at local schools, cameras in each room where parents can observe their children in therapy at a remote location.
Garden City resident Alicia Dockter said she would not know where her 3-year-old daughter Eva Mackie would be without CEF.
“I have learned so much about how to interact with my daughter including waiting until she makes a gesture when she wants something verses just giving her what she needs before she makes the gesture,” Dockter said. ”I would tell any family with a child with a disability to look into coming here because of the wonderful staff, therapy and services they provide.”
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])