By COURTNEY MORRISON, Staff Reporter

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one-in-68 American children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Statistics like this one and the growing need for specialized care is what prompted the University of Michigan-Dearborn to utilize its already-existing partnership with Beaumont Health to create the new autism center.

“We nationally recognized the demand. The prevalence [of autism] is increasing. Which is the basis for the center,” Professor David Hill, an integral person in the center’s development, said.

Professor Hill holds a Phd in Special Education and has over 11 years of experience as an administrator and National Board Certified Teacher for children with disabilities. Hill plays a role in the educational aspects of the new center.

Expected to be open in the Fall of 2016, the center will be located at the Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC). The ECEC is also a collaboration between UM-Dearborn and Beaumont Health.

Hill explained that there are two sides to the center.

“The first one is the medical side,” Hill said. “They [medical personnel] diagnose and treat disorders. The second side is the educational side. We in education do not diagnosis children with autism. Medical personnel are the only ones allowed to diagnose.”

Two specialized doctors, nutritionists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech pathologists will all have a space within the medical portion of the center.

“The center will start with three classrooms. Each classroom will hold approximately thirty children and each child will have one RBT (registered behavior technician) assigned to them,” said Professor LaShorage Shaffer, who also holds a doctorate in Special Education and currently serves as a Special Education Consultant to the ECEC.

Having this two-fold care initiative in the same facility allows children affected by ADS and their families to be better taken care of, Shaffer said.

“If a lead teacher at the ECEC feels a child may need to go through the screening process, they have the ability to send them to the appropriate people for that,” Shaffer said.

New degree opportunities also come with the center. UM-Dearborn will now have a certificate program where students can become a Registered Behavior Technician within ninety days.

College of Education, Health, and Human Services, Dean Janine Janosky explained what that means for students.

“This program allows people with a high school degree to become certified and get a well paying job within 90 days,” Janosky said.” “It also allows people the opportunity to work while getting a degree. RBA students can then go on to get an undergraduate degree known as a BCBA.”

In addition to the certificate program, UM-Dearborn will be offering a Board Certified Behavior Analyst degree that will allow students to teach others with behavioral issues.

The center is made possible by a grant of $750,000 given to the university by the state to be spread out over three years.

The new center will not only benefit those in the new programs but it will provide opportunities for a variety of majors.

“Psychology, pre-med, pre-physical therapy, social work and even business majors can all benefit from the center,” Janosky said. “It will be providing hands-on training, and with so many different personnel working there, it offers students lots of shadowing and learning experiences.”

The cost to families utilizing the center’s programs will be relatively low. Any medical aspects will be billed towards the appropriate medical insurances. Once patients become eligible for K-12 schooling, they can move into the classroom depending on need, for free.

“This is a great opportunity and we would like to get the word out,” Hill said. “It’s also a career path for some students that may not feel as though they have a career path at this point. We look forward to getting a great group of students.”

Professor Hill is available for questions at: drhill@umich.edu.