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Grants support institute’s autism-related initiatives

By : Gail Glover

Autism services and support offered through the Institute for Child Development (ICD) have received a major boost from three grants totaling more than a million dollars.

The ICD will use the new funding to expand its resources in three areas:

• To develop community living models to serve adolescents and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD.
• To evaluate the impact of early-intervention services.
• To establish a Center for Autism Spectrum Disorder that will partner the institute with school districts in 11 counties to provide education, training and technical assistance.

“For the last three decades, there has been an ever-increasing prevalence of ASD,” said Ray Romanczyk, director of the ICD. “This has presented extreme challenges to families and communities as the educational and service systems struggle to meet the diverse and intensive needs of individuals with ASD. So we are very excited that in addition to the continuing expansion of our core service programs, these grants will allow us to develop several partnerships that will allow us to more effectively address the needs of individuals with ASD across the lifespan — from newly diagnosed through to young adult.”

A grant of $880,000 from the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, in collaboration with the New York State Institute for Basic Research, will fund the Broome Developmental Disabilities Services Office-ICD Autism Initiative.

This three-year partnership will provide for the design of various community living environments for young adults and include a series of staff training programs. The initiative will also incorporate an evaluation process, which will be used to measure the impact of the program on families, staff, community and the residents themselves. The outcome of the Binghamton initiative could result in broader state-wide implementation.

A state Department of Health grant of $135,000 will fund the New York State Department of Health Early Intervention-ICD Evaluation of Child and Family Outcomes in Early Intervention project. The grant will be renewed annually for five years.

This partnership will evaluate and track the impact early-intervention services have for participating children and families in New York. It is a collaborative project of the ICD, the state Department of Health and the School of Public Health and Health Professions at the University at Buffalo.

By providing training and technical materials to each county health department in New York, this partnership will provide a systematic evaluation of services provided to families and children from birth to age 3. Using several formats and drawing content from users, including parents, service providers and county officials, the project will develop appropriate outcome measures to tap into the changes that take place at the family level when a child receives early-intervention services.

Funding of $75,000 from the New York State Legislature will establish the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders, or CASD, a community education and outreach program.

The CASD will provide services and resources to families and school-age children in 11 counties across south-central New York. Partnering with the school districts in these counties, the center will provide free in-service educational programs to families, educators and administrators. The CASD at Binghamton University will join six other regional autism centers across New York, all of which are coordinated by the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at the University at Albany.

These major new grants will complement the Institute’s existing programs of service, teaching and research, Romanczyk said.

“The combination of these three partnerships will have a substantial long-term impact at the state level in helping families and children with ASD,” he added. “By offering families and children access to a host of new resources, and by facilitating additional training and assistance to those who provide critical services, we will now be able serve an even larger portion of the autism spectrum — across needs, challenges and, most important, age ranges.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08