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NE Ind. hospital to open autism center in 2013

Associated Press Modified: November 3, 2012 at 10:01 am •  Published: November 3, 2012

HUNTINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Northeastern Indiana patients with autism will have a new place to receive therapies and support starting next year.

Parkview Huntington Hospital plans to open an autism treatment center that will provide therapeutic and rehabilitation services for children ages 2 to 18, as well as support group meetings for their families.

The Journal Gazette and The News-Sentinel report the facility will open with a capacity of 10 patients and expand to serve up to 40. Parkview officials say the Parkview Huntington Foundation has pledged $45,000 of the money needed for the center's startup, and a fundraising campaign has been launched for the rest.

"This is a very exciting step in the treatment of autism in this area," Darlene Garrett, the hospital's chief operating officer, said in a statement. "There currently is no treatment center for autism north of Indianapolis. Our center will be of tremendous help to local families."

The center will be housed in two buildings, with physical and occupational rehabilitation taking place in the hospital and cognitive and behavioral therapies offered at another site.

About one in every 88 children is affected by autism, and the rate is higher among boys. Disorders on the autism spectrum can affect a child's ability to communicate and interact with others.

Therapies can help children improve their social and communication skills and better function.

Dr. Duane Hougendobler, a Parkview pediatrician, said each child at the center child will have a program tailored to his or her individual needs.

Hougendobler said the Parkview program will fill a need for autistic patients. He told The News Sentinel that the nearest large facility that offers this type of program two hours away at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

Michael GeRue, senior vice president of neuroscience for Parkview Health, said the center hopes to reach children before they enter kindergarten. Being able to provide several years of treatment can help them succeed in a regular kindergarten setting, he said.

The center will use Applied Behavioral Analysis, or ABA. Each child will work one on one with a therapist, which is why the clinic is limiting the number of children it can serve.

"Every child responds differently to ABA, but if you read all the literature right now, it really is the best treatment option for autism," GeRue said.


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