EMU offers autism education and services

The Autism Collaborative Center, a place for individuals and families struggling with autism, is opening its doors on Eastern Michigan University’s campus this fall with an open house on Wednesday. The center will offer services to the community as well as interdisciplinary learning for students at EMU.

The center inhabits the empty Fletcher school behind Cornell Courts and brings together university faculty and departments along with outside organizations, such as St. Joseph Mercy Hospital.

“Everyone in the field of autism knows that treatment and intervention can be enormously expensive and stressful for families,” said Pamela Lemerand, an assistant professor in the School of Health Sciences and the center’s project director. “We really have this community commitment to creating this system of care for families that feels seamless to them.”

Currently, autism is estimated to affect one in 91 children nationally and is, internationally, four times more prevalent in boys than girls, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Autism Society of America. Autism can range from mild and manageable, to more severe forms where an individual may not be able to communicate verbally or must have constant care.

“The area of autism is a very unusual subject,” said Jim Lyddy, the executive director at the center. “It’s a large problem and prevalence of autism is on the rise.”

The Autism Collaborative Center at EMU plans on being a community center for families with autistic children or family members. The center will offer diagnosis and intervention as well as therapy, group support and a venue for individuals to play and meet one another.

“We would like to be known throughout Southeast Michigan as a center of excellence,” Lemerand said. “That is, if a diagnosis needs to be made about autism, we are a place that can be counted upon to make a good comprehensive evaluation and diagnosis.”

EMU students will also get a chance to study and learn in an interdisciplinary environment with the center. EMU plans on having some classes taught at the center, and some students studying psychology, music therapy or nutrition and dietics may have a chance to work one-on-one with individuals.

“They’re going to get a broad interdisciplinary training and specializing in autism,” Lyddy said of the students.

It is the center’s hope EMU will be seen in the future as a regional center for autism research and work. Lemerand would particularly like to see more students coming to EMU with an interest in studying autism.

“If their interest is autism, they’re going to say, ‘Eastern Michigan University is the place I need to come to,’” Lemerand said.

The Autism Collaborative Center will be holding open houses from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, as well as 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday and from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 28, all at 1055 Cornell St.

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