As communities around the globe recognize World Autism Day on April 2 and Autism Awareness Month in April, the Behavioral Health Division of UHS is working hard to meet the special needs of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families. ASD is a neuro-developmental disability that includes a range of conditions that can cause serious social, communication and behavioral challenges. People with ASD often look the same as other people, but they may communicate, interact, behave and learn differently.
An estimated one in 68 school-aged children have been identified with ASD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Communities are looking to UHS to help build integrated service delivery systems covering the entire ASD continuum. "While there are varying theories as to why, most would agree we have seen a steady and dramatic rise in ASD cases over the last several decades," says Taylor Davis, CEO, Liberty Point Behavioral Healthcare, a UHS facility. "This is a life-long disorder that increasingly challenges families, healthcare providers, community services and educational systems across the country. While parity, funding and resources have lagged behind the rapid demand, it is important that we, as the behavioral health experts in our communities, provide information, effective services and solutions to meet the growing needs across the nation."
Empowering people with ASD and their families
When confronted by a diagnosis of ASD, a person's or loved one's first question is likely to be, "Where do I turn for help?" Fortunately, UHS operates a number of specialty programs, including several for ASD. Our programs are designed to meet the individual needs of each person and may involve a number of treatment options, including:
- Outpatient/In-home services
- Day schools
- Summer camps
- Partial hospitalization
- Residential treatment services
- Acute inpatient treatment services
Each program is also designed to educate, empower and support parents and families of people who have been diagnosed with ASD. This enables them to move forward and take the best course of action for their loved one.
Autism Spectrum Disorder Center for Excellence
Foundations Behavioral Health in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, is one UHS organization that provides innovative behavioral health treatment and academic services to children, adolescents and young adults diagnosed with ASD. Its Autism Center for Excellence delivers programs with a consistent and integrated approach that draws on the latest evidence-based practices.
Foundations has partnered with Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine to provide individualized applied behavior analysis (ABA) training for five staff members each year, which culminates in an ABA certificate. This provides staff with the latest and most comprehensive training and a wealth of knowledge that is consistently applied across programs.
Foundations' ASD continuum of programs include:
- LifeWorks Autism Academy
- Behavioral Health Rehabilitative Services
- Acute Inpatient Autism Spectrum Disorders Program
- Clinical Assessment Center
In only a few weeks, my son's attitude towards school is much better, his behavior has improved tremendously and we look forward to his continued academic success.
— Kelly Jozefowski, mother of a LifeWorks student
LifeWorks Academy has provided students with the skills needed to be successful in life. "We are so grateful we made the decision to have our son Joseph attend LifeWorks Academy," says Beth and Joseph Cataldi, parents of Joseph Cataldi, LifeWorks student. "His teachers, counselors and support staff have helped him overcome many life obstacles and manage his behaviors on his own by giving him the coping tools to do so. The staff at LifeWorks is more than just a group of people who have a job to do, they are more like friends that genuinely care about his wellbeing and want him to be successful."
Behavioral Educational Services
Since 2001, Behavioral Educational Services has been serving children and adolescents with ASD at its two separate day schools in Brevard County, Florida. Riverdale Country School in Palm Bay and Fieldston Preparatory School
in Titusville both provide educational and behavioral services to students who are in need of a specialized day school setting. By working with families and community partners, the individualized education plan (IEP) team develops and implements a personalized program that nourishes academic, vocational, emotional, physical, social and intellectual growth.
"We found our way to Fieldston Prep in October 2015 and little did I know this would be the best decision I would make for Tj on every level socially and educationally," says Linda DiTaranto, mother of TJ, student at Fieldston Preparatory School. "I can honestly say without hesitation it has been life changing! Thank you to all the staff members at Fieldston Prep for all you do for our very special kids."
"Mitchell has progressed more in his first year at Riverdale than he has during his entire academic life," says David Chappel, father of Mitchell Chappel, Riverdale student. "We still have a long way to go, but my wife and I feel more confident that Mitchell will have a future with a purpose."
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