UNLV, the University of Nevada School of Medicine and a local nonprofit are partnering to bring more services to autistic children, in the form of a two-story center across from UNLV’s main campus.
The plan, which was announced at a Tuesday fundraiser, is to create a place where a child can get a diagnosis and continued care.
Autism spectrum disorder is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in 68 children have been identified as on the spectrum, according to the CDC.
“Now instead of saying good luck we’ll be able to say come back tomorrow!” said Shannon Crozier, director of the UNLV Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders, which will be folded into the new space. Crozier’s clinic at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas is part-time and only does assessments. The partnership with the school of medicine and the Grant a Gift Autism Foundation will make the clinic full-time and allow her clinic to guide parents directly to the resources and care they will need for their child.
The center will weave together each of its partners’ specialties. The Grant a Gift Autism Foundation will offer support services such as one-on-one social work, counseling, various therapies and life skills programs. The University of Nevada School of Medicine will provide general and developmental pediatric care. UNLV, via its existing center, will provide screening and assessment services.
All of that in one space is huge for parents who have an autistic child, said Mindy Rice, whose 12-year-old son has autism. Simply coordinating appointments and making sure all of the doctors are on the same page is a full-time job, said Rice. She and her husband, UNLV’s head coach for men’s basketball Dave Rice, founded The Dave Rice Foundation, which supports initiatives to help those with developmental disorders.
Las Vegas is so short on providers, with children often placed on months-long wait lists for services, that parents are forced to drive all over the valley multiple times a week for appointments, Mindy Rice said. A center like the one in the works would be life changing for those families, she said.
The goal is to reduce those waiting lists, Crozier said. The center also will provide care for disorders such as fetal alcohol syndrome.
It will take a $3 million capital campaign to make the dream a reality. The effort will need $1 million before January, said Gary Ackerman, who is on the board of Grant a Gift. The aim is to lease the 15,000-square-foot center in the Promenade Center at 4440 S. Maryland Parkway in January, Ackerman said.
Private donors have given about $500,000 already, Ackerman said.
The project is seen as ideal infrastructure for a future UNLV medical school, which is in the planning stages, said Barbara Atkinson, planning dean for the UNLV School of Medicine.
Atkinson said autism is an area she would like to see a UNLV medical school focus on because there is a huge need and it affects so many children. Atkinson said one possibility would be to have UNLV’s prospective medical school conduct research by working with families at the center.
“This is a very cool deal,” said UNLV acting president Don Snyder, “This is part of what universities are all about.”
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