In July of 2019, the lower level of Fitzgerald Hall opened its doors to the public as the Interdisciplinary Center for Autism Services. The center is designed to be a safe, reliable space where children can be tested for autism or any type of autism spectrum disorder. Families then will receive consultation from various experts in their fields to make a plan for the future.
“It’s a place where families can come and get a very thorough and in depth evaluation” says Diane Richter, Ph.D., a Director for the Center.
The Center for Autism Services at SLU first got its start with inspiration from counterparts like the Knights of Columbus Developmental Center at Cardinal Glennon. Directors of the program also noticed a need for more centers.
“When we look at families besides the [ones] in the St. Louis metropolitan area, we’re getting referrals from Illinois. There seems to be a lack of services right across the river,” Richter stated about the decision to adopt a center at SLU. Various departments stepped in to make the center a reality and to offer more advice and expertise for clients. “We’ve had a lot of support from different Chairs, our Dean, the School of Education, Travis Threats, Ph.D.”
In order to provide efficient and accurate diagnostics for their patients, the center has their patients go through various tests with different disciplines. All patients will go through the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule , which is a play-based assessment. Patients will then go through a cognitive assessment, a language assessment, sensory processing and occupational therapy assessments and academic achievement tests if they are of school age.
Richter adds to the depth of testing saying, “We also take a look at adding if there’s a need that shows that there are concerns or challenges in motor [development] and we’ll bring in our physical therapist.” The Center will also bring in students that are studying applied behavior analysis under their respective faculty members in order to take notes on their actions.
The Center for Autism Services not only offers families a diagnosis on if their child has autism or an autism spectrum disorder, but they also offer steps on what to do to help the child further. “What we provide to the clients is a very in-depth, thorough summary and report, and recommendations,” explains Richter.
A report from SLU’s center includes something unique that makes it stand out from other centers: a medical diagnosis of autism. Families can then reach out to schools and inform them of the diagnosis. However, this doesn’t always automatically get a student the services that they need. Often times, the center will help clients by attending meetings with the schools and families, showing summaries of autism or autism spectrum disorders diagnosis in order to receive services. “Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, we’re trying to help our clients in the schools with the referral process,” said Richter.
The mission of the Interdisciplinary Center for Autism Services is to help families in every aspect of their life, even potential financial issues. “[We want] to be able to serve anyone in the community that needs to be able to have some support through this process. We really want to be able to meet the needs of families,” spoke Richter on the mission.
Many clients will not be paying for the services and the Center does not want to turn anyone away. Families can call and request information on the signs and symptoms their child is experiencing and how to start and finish the process of diagnosis. “What we’re trying to do is connect families to resources in the community,” added Richter.
To call for information or to schedule an appointment at the Interdisciplinary Center for Autism Services, dial 314-977-5377, or email [email protected]