WMU School of Medicine opens Pediatric Autism Center

WMU School of Medicine opens Pediatric Autism Center. (WWMT/Zack Lawler)

A pediatric autism center has opened its doors on the campus of Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine (WMed).

WMed said the center provides children and families in southwest Michigan with access to a full range of comprehensive assessment for autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

As rates of autism among children among the rise, doctors said the autism center will help guide family toward effective treatment and intervention.

The center is one of the first of its kind in West Michigan, dedicated solely to identifying and evaluating children with autism.

"It's a huge game changer. There's so many kids in need of evaluations across the country," WMed Pediatric Autism Center Director Dr. Roger Apple said.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of autism is now estimated at one in 59 children.

Doctors said without access to a comprehensive assessment, those children could remain unidentified.

Apple, a physiologist, assembled a team of doctors, physiologists and other medical professionals, responsible for evaluating patients.

"We have a full staff including a developmental behavioral pediatrician, a fully licensed physiologist, a Master's-level psychologist, speech therapist and a whole range of ad-hoc specialists, including geneticists, occupational therapists, neuropsycologists, etc," said Apple.

Katie White is a Master's-level physiologist who works with patents. She says the evaluation sessions can last up to a full day.

"We're used to do doing assessments primarily with learning disorders, cognitive impairments, things like that, so autism is definitely a different patient we haven't typically worked with," said White.

Apple said the WMed Pediatric Autism Center accepts almost all insurances.

According to a WMed press release, The WMed Pediatric Autism Center has been designated as an Approved Autism Evaluation Center by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) and Blue Care Network (BCS), which means the team of professionals at the center can provide evaluations for ASD to patients with both BCBSM and BCN, a prerequisite to access Applied Behavior Analysis therapy.

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