ProMedica’s Autism Center provides solutions for area families

The diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, covers a range of behavioral, social and communication challenges. Now local parents with children on the spectrum can turn to the ProMedica Autism Center as a place to meet a variety of needs.

Community collaboration

The Center, located at ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital, was developed through the cooperation of “neighbors”, said Melissa Schlotterer, Autism Early Learning Program manager. It’s a “community collaboration” comprised of several area organizations, including the Autism Early Learning Program, Great Lakes Collaborative for Autism (GLCA), Harbor, iTaalk Autism Foundation, and Special Kids Therapy. These organizations offer a range of support and resources from providing diagnoses to therapy to scholarship support.
GLCA connects parents with local agencies and works to enhance services for autism care in the community; Harbor provides behavioral health services such as diagnosis, counseling and training; iTaalk helps provide families with assistive technology devices, such as tablets, that benefit children with autism; and Special Kids Therapy provides scholarship support to families to help cover costs not covered by insurance for therapy and medical equipment. The Center also has a multi-sensory play space for kids with special needs.

Setting up for success

ProMedica’s Autism Early Learning Program offers intensive applied behavioral analysis (ABA) intervention for children up to 6 years old. The program is similar to school, but with intervention and therapy included. Schlotterer said kids can begin the program once they’ve been diagnosed with autism. In the program, children learn life skills including communication, behavioral and social skills.

“We want to prepare them for a more successful future,” Schlotterer said.

A child’s therapy begins with a one-on-one behavioral therapist followed up in small groups of kids with similar skill levels. Using ABA intervention, the staff of behavioral therapists, special educators, speech and language pathologists and behavior analysts help the children by reinforcing appropriate behaviors while eliminating unwanted behaviors through positive reinforcement and repetition.

Schlotterer said there is a lot of play and fun involved. The center has age-appropriate toys, an outdoor play area, computers and iPads, and plenty of books. Younger children also learn potty training, she said.

A place for parents

Parental involvement is vital. The program has a monthly observation session where parents can watch a live video of their child and speak with a therapist who can teach them how to implement similar methods at home and to handle issues that arise.

Consistency is important for each child’s success so the program runs year-round, five days a week. Children can attend either a full-day or a half-day program. Schlotterer explained, there are only about two weeks off total during the year to help prevent regression of the child’s progress.

The center celebrated its fifth anniversary earlier this year and has seen immense growth from its first child participant in January 2012 to 27 kids enrolled this year.

Several activities are lined up for the month of April in honor of Autism Awareness Month.
Parents can contact the Autism Center at 419-291-7080.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in every 68 children has a form of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Parents seeing red flags should speak with their child’s pediatrician and have them properly screened for autism.

Common signs include:
• No eye contact
• No smiling or gesturing
by 6 months old
• No response to their
name by 10 months old
• Not imitating simple
words by 15 months
• Inability to follow
simple directions
• Prefers to play alone
• Doesn’t point or
respond to pointing
Source: ProMedica Autism Center