Autism center set for Fall 2012 opening at UNT

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- The University of North Texas is set to open an autism center this fall, providing families in the North Texas region a resource for comprehensive autism spectrum disorders treatment, research and support.

The center, founded with the help of donor and alumna Kristin Farmer, founder of Autism Comprehensive Educational Services, will provide high quality services designed and implemented by top researchers, professors and professionals in the field of special education, applied behavior analysis, early childhood intervention, speech and language pathology and other fields in autism and disabilities intervention.

"This will be a place where parents and families in the community can receive access to the top, cutting-edge interventions and treatments in autism in one location, and where researchers can conduct innovative research," Kevin Callahan, director of the center, said.

The center will be housed within the ACES Kristin Farmer Education and Research Center building, located near the intersection of Interstate 35-E and Teasley Lane in Denton. Services are planned to include diagnostic testing and evaluation; special education for elementary-aged students with autism spectrum disorders; behavior analysis and therapy; speech and language therapy; play, music and art therapy; psychological counseling for families, parents, siblings and individuals; nutritional services; occupational and physical therapy; and social skills training.

"The opening of the autism center is the realization of a dream of mine for many years as both an alumnus of the UNT Special Education program and as a passionate advocate in the field of autism. Together with UNT, I proudly share in this commitment to developing a cutting-edge, world-renowned center for individuals with autism and their families – a center focused on educating students and professionals in the field of autism while elevating the standards in the treatment of autism spectrum disorders," Farmer said.

The center will serve as a vital resource to parents in North Texas looking for comprehensive services for their children, said Leslie Hollis, a pediatrician whose 5-year-old son has autism.

"In my case, I live in Decatur and when you're in a rural area you have certain challenges. The autism center will be so close to home, and it is going to be wonderful to have an integrated program," Hollis said. "Speech therapists will be able to work with educators who can work with behavior analysts, and that is very important for children, their families and the people working at the center. I'm excited UNT is opening the center, and will be using the best research to find solutions."

Experts from UNT's College of Education, College of Public Affairs and Community Service and College of Arts and Sciences will collaborate on research and programs at the center, which will continue UNT's history of expanding autism research and programs. UNT is home to the first graduate training program accredited by the Association of Behavior Analysis International, and is widely recognized as a pioneer in training behavior analysts. UNT's graduates help thousands of children every year. UNT's College of Education offers concentrations in autism intervention and autism research at the master's and doctoral levels.

"The autism center has great potential to help children in three ways," said College of Education Dean Jerry Thomas. "First, a quality staff will provide a proven intervention program helping children with autism better cope in their homes, communities and schools. Second, ongoing research by UNT faculty and graduate students will advance the field's knowledge and successful results will be published and included in the center's intervention program. Finally, the center's clinical setting will allow the highest quality experiences in preparing special education teachers to work with children with autism."

The autism center will also host the Adventures in Autism Intervention and Research conference July 28 (Saturday) at UNT. The conference will include more than 20 presentations by nationally recognized autism researchers and practitioners, discussions of current research highlighting new developments in autism intervention, and presentations by keynote speakers Linda R. Watson from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and Jennifer Zarcone from the Kennedy Krieger Institute's Neurobehavioral Unit.

For more information about the center or the conference, contact Kevin Callahan at Callahan@unt.edu or 940-369-7426.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

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