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Comprehensive Autism Treatment Center Coming to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, along with its affiliated medical schools Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Weill Cornell Medical College, announced its collaboration with the New York Center for Autism to establish the Institute for Brain Development, a comprehensive, state-of-the-art institute dedicated to addressing the pressing clinical needs of individuals living with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disorders of the brain, across their lifespan.

The institute, situated on the hospital’s 214-acre campus in White Plains, N.Y., will be a center of excellence for best-practice evaluations and treatments. It is expected to open in 2012 and will be a resource for community-based providers and families.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism spectrum disorders affect one in 110 children and one in 70 boys. An estimated 1 million to 1.5 million American adults and children live with an autism spectrum disorder.

Through an integrated clinical program and affiliations with other organizations, the Institute for Brain Development will create a fertile environment for the development of innovative diagnostic and treatment services, training of health care professionals from diverse disciplines, and the rapid integration of findings from clinical and translational research into practice.

The New York Center for Autism, led by Laura Slatkin and Ilene Lainer, and with a generous contribution from Marilyn and James Simons of the Simons Foundation, has provided essential guidance and support in the formation of the Institute for Brain Development. Additional support for the institute is provided by Autism Speaks, North America’s largest autism research and advocacy organization, founded by Hospital Trustee Bob Wright and his wife, Suzanne.

“We are sincerely grateful for the support of the autism community, especially New York Center for Autism’s contribution and leadership as well as the seed money from Marilyn and James Simons, which make the Institute for Brain Development possible,” says Dr. Herbert Pardes, president and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. “Their dedication to improving health care resources for patients with autism spectrum disorders will change the lives of countless individuals and their families.”

“As parents of an autistic child, my husband, Harry, and I are especially gratified that the New York Center for Autism could play such an important role in making this Institute a reality,” says Laura Slatkin. “We are honored to be working with three outstanding institutions to bring this important initiative to fruition.”

The Institute for Brain Development will care for patients at all life stages, from infancy through adulthood, with the whole spectrum of developmental disorders including autism and those with Asperger’s syndrome and high-functioning autism.

For children with autism, the institute will take a unique approach that works closely with parents to guide them as they arrange for care in their home community. These innovative “gap services” are crucial for the child and family as they plan for the child’s development and future treatment, says Dr. John Walkup, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and vice chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.

“In the current care system, families often have the burden of finding and coordinating care for their child,” Dr. Walkup says. “The institute will serve as a bridge, linking children and their families to a full spectrum of interventions.” A comprehensive array of evaluation and diagnostic services will help identify the issue early, which, Dr. Walkup notes, will improve the child’s chances for optimal development and socialization.

The institute’s multidisciplinary clinical team comprises physician-faculty from Columbia University Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medical College in pediatrics, psychology, neurology, psychiatry and other disciplines, as well as specialists in speech and language, physical, occupational and behavioral therapies.

“Our coordinated and integrative care approach will facilitate collaboration among experts from each discipline, improving patient care across the board,” says Dr. Jack Barchas, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and psychiatrist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “In addition to ensuring the development of best practices, it will minimize stress on patients and their families and provide the most sophisticated care under one roof.”

Alongside its mission of comprehensive care, the institute will support work to advance effective new treatments and train the next generation of brain development specialists. “Cutting-edge research and innovative clinical techniques allow us to provide the most advanced care for children and adults with autism,” says Dr. Bradley Peterson, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and director of MRI Research at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. “For example, one of the more unique treatment methods that is currently being developed here at NewYork-Presbyterian is the use of computer-based techniques to teach non-verbal children with autism how to read. By using written language and mathematics, which operate on different neural systems than spoken words, we’re taking a back-door approach to engage thoughtful communication in these children.”

“Autism treatment and research is a top priority at NewYork-Presbyterian, Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University Medical Center,” says Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and psychiatrist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. “The establishment of the Institute for Brain Development is a critical component of a major initiative to understand the nature of this devastating illness, to develop treatments to limit its effects, and ultimately to prevent its occurrence.” #



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