Eastern Michigan's Autism Collaborative Center Gets Grant to Implement Innovative Telehealth Model Program

YPSILANTI, Mich., May 31, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Children with autism often have a difficult time being properly diagnosed or receiving therapy. Those problems are compounded for disadvantaged families or families living in rural areas, such as Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

The Autism Collaborative Center (ACC) at Eastern Michigan University soon will be able to bridge that gap thanks to a $500,000 state grant that will allow the staff to use the latest technology - a live video stream - to evaluate and treat clients.

"The grant will allow our staff to develop innovative programs such as using the web for support groups for adults with autism, or lending computers, cameras or flip cams to families," said Pamela Lemerand, ACC director and professor of occupational therapy. "They can tape their child or family member demonstrating some of the difficulties the person is having at home or in the community, then return the equipment to the center. Then staff can consult with the family about possible interventions."

Autism is a complex and costly disorder that results in significant difficulties in communication, socialization, learning and behavior. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports autism cases in Michigan have skyrocketed from 4,700 in 2002 to 16,000 in 2010. Treatment for children and young adults with autism has an average cost of $50,000 per year.

There are numerous rural communities in Michigan where there is no money or available transportation for consultations, diagnosis or parent support, said Pamela Lemerand. In addition, health care professionals dealing with autism may not have the availability to increase their skills through professional development opportunities.

Eastern's center, which is non-profit, offers a team of professionals and well-trained students from various departments and services ranging from music therapy and occupational therapy to speech therapy and dietetics. Sibling support groups and summer camps are also available.

"The need for a cost-effective program in Michigan, given the unemployment rate and economic downturn, is clear," Lemerand said. "This initiative can be a national model of innovative practices."

For information about EMU's Autism Collaboration Center, call 734.485.2892.