Stephen Keleher / The Collegian
Not many on campus know that there is a facility in the Kremen School of Education that provides critical services to the local community while at the same time providing training and certification for students that will lead to plentiful, local jobs.
The Central California Autism Center has been at the atrium level of the Kremen building for five years. It’s a non-profit organization funded by the Central Valley Regional Center, but is unique in that it is affiliated with Fresno State. This means that it can function both as a training center for undergrads and graduate students while also functioning as a walk-in center that parents of children with autism can get treatment for their kids.
The exact cause or causes of autism are still not known, but the problem is growing. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported an increase over the past several years from one diagnosis per 150 children to one in 70.
“We hope to get them by the age of 3 or before,” said director of the Center Dr. Amanda Adams. “That’s where we get the best outcomes. So similarly to a brain injury, the younger the better the treatment works.”
The center provides early intervention services to children ranging in ages 18 months to 7 years who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Children with autism are treated at the center using Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) methods. ABA is a sub-field of psychology that focuses on objective behavioral techniques.
“I started three years ago as a volunteer here,” said Katie Turner, a master’s student in the ABA, program and clinical supervisor at the center. “Once I saw the progress that the kids made with ABA which operates on principles of behavior reinforcement, I became hooked.”
When Turner, who interned as part of her psychology class, saw how effective the ABA methods were on children with autism she got into the ABA field.
“It is so rewarding to see kids that have like no language and then they acquire language, acquire skills,” Turner said.
Government funding for the treatment of children with autism only lasts until age 7 at which time the children must transition into the world. For about 40 percent that transition can mean they have improved so much that they simply lose their diagnosis of autism entirely.
“If you have the ideal circumstances, which are early diagnosis, an involved family and no other kinds of medical issues going on,” Adams said. “then about 40 percent of the kids can reach that preferred outcome by 5 or 6, so they get a regular placement in regular school and they don’t need us anymore.”
That still leaves a majority, 60 percent, that will have special education needs. However, there is little or no funding for pre-teens and teen children with autism. Once a child reaches 18 he or she is eligible once again for government-funded programs. To help those children who still need services after 7 years of age, the center has developed a transition program. It consists of an after-school program. The center has been holding events and doing grant writing in order to fund it.
“In April, which was Autism Awareness Month, we had a carnival,” said Turner. “We also have a parent boosters club which boosts our outreach and our fund raising.”
There are more events planned for the fall, but today at 1 p.m. the center will have an open house during which the public at large and any students who might be interested in its work and this field can see first-hand what happens at the facility.
“We’ll be doing tours all day,” Turner said. “It will start at 1 p.m., and it will be in room 54 at Kremen and there’ll be snacks.”
Parents in need of the center’s services can go to it’s Facebook account (www.facebook.com/#!/CCACFresno) or check the CCAC parents’ blog at ccacparents.blogspot.com.