For the past 35 years, Binghamton University has provided a home to an innovative, compassionate and successful research and treatment facility called the Institute for Child Development (ICD). Since its creation, the Institute has garnered national recognition and has become widely regarded as a leader in both the field of autism spectrum disorder research and the provision of multiple services to special needs children and their families. The Institute focuses on aiding children in developing the academic and life skills they will need to succeed as they grow older.
“My interests were in maximizing services provided to children with extreme needs, and one way to conceptualize that is to have access to and produce research about the disorders,” says Raymond Romanczyk, distinguished service professor of psychology and director of the ICD.
Romancyzk says that the original goal was to have more interaction between Harpur College and the community. So, an after-school program for tutoring in reading was created, but it started receiving questions from parents of children with much more severe needs. Romancyzk then began the process of building the ICD into the leader of autism spectrum disorder research and service facilities it has become today.
“Back then, (autism) wasn’t wellknown,” he says. “We met with local parents and local educators, and we were told that there wasn’t a mechanism, that there wasn’t a way to have this kind of cooperative facility.”
Romanczyk and many others continued to press forward and the state legislature passed a bill ensuring that the ICD would be able to create contracts with local schools and counties to provide educational services to children and parents in the surrounding communities.
The Institute now has more than 30 full-time staff members, and serves families across a radius of more than 85 miles, encompassing more than 30 school districts.
Among the programs and services the Institute offers is an after-school academic skills development program called the CULD tutoring program. CULD provides children experiencing difficulties in reading, math, homework and study skills with extra help and attention. Additionally, the Children’s Unit for Learning Disabilities features an afterschool reading development program dedicated to students with more severe needs. Many of the Institute’s programs offer both one-on-one and small-group instruction.
The Institute also provides open autism screening services to families who are experiencing suspicions or concerns. The screening is offered free of charge, and many families travel from as far as out of state to have their child observed by the ICD.
“One of the side effects of folks being more aware of autism, is that more and more children are being diagnosed each year,” Romanczyk says. “However, children can be placed on a waiting list to be diagnosed, and in that time period parents can really agonize.”
In addition to research, treatment and screenings, the ICD provides an opportunity for Binghamton students in psychology, learning and other developmental disorder studies programs to learn and advance their skills before entering the field full-time.
More than 70 Binghamton University students participate in training programs involved with the Institute each year, and Romanczyk says that in the 35 years since the Institute’s inception, more than 3,000 Binghamton undergraduate students have completed the practicum course it offers.
More than $1.3 million in external funding supports the Institute each year, including generous contributions from many alumni. The Institute has grown and expanded since its creation, and with this funding, Romancyzk is able to set the sails toward even further advancement. One example is an alumni grant called The Paul Fund that has provided the means for students to travel and attend specialized conferences.
Romanczyk hopes that as the Institute continues to grow and expand, its impact will also grow. The future goals of the ICD, he says, are to continue to produce and consume research to further advance treatment, and to continue offering services to children, families and care providers.
— Christie Hackett
Last Updated: 9/9/16