Autism is diagnosed in one out of 88 children in Indiana, including one out of 54 boys.
In response to those numbers, and due to lack of services in northern Indiana, Parkview Hospital Huntington will be opening an autism center. They will provide therapeutic and rehabilitation services for children ages 2 to 18 and support groups for their families.
The new center, at 2806 Theater Ave., will provide clients within the autism spectrum therapy using the ABA system. ABA stands for Applied Behavioral Analysis and has been around since 1987. It is based on behavioral theories. Each child will work one on one with a therapist, which is why the clinic is capping the number of children that it can serve to 40.
According to Dr. Duane Hougendobler, a Parkview pediatrician, each child will have a program tailored to his or her individual needs. Some children might need less treatment than others.
Michael GeRue, senior vice president of neuroscience for Parkview Health, said the hope is to get them before they are kindergartners so they have several years of treatment and can go right into a regular kindergarten setting. Older children might have different needs, and depending on the child, they might spend half a day at the autism center and a half-day in school.
GeRue said the project started when an outside group, Indiana Applied Behavioral Analysis Group, sought out Parkview Health. The group was willing to provide the intense ABA therapy, and Parkview will provide the resources and infrastructure.
Hougendobler is thrilled about the opportunity. He said he has had very few options to give to his autistic patients. The nearest large facility that offers this type of program is Riley Hospital for Children, which is two hours away in Indianapolis.
GeRue said they really wanted to provide a one-stop shop for parents, from diet to behavior to therapy. Occupational, physical, and speech therapies will be done at the Parkview Huntington Hospital, but the intensive therapy, up to 40 hours a week, will be done at the new clinic.
“Every child responds differently to ABA, but if you read all the literature right now it really is the best treatment option for autism,” GeRue said.
Although the center is in Huntington Parkview is expecting children from other counties to come as well.
The Parkview Huntington Foundation has pledged $45,000 toward the start-up costs for the center and has launched a fund raising campaign for the remaining $80,000 needed. Renovations will start at both the hospital and the new autism center in the first quarter of 2013, and are expected to be completed no later than April 1.