Autism program bolstered by $500K telehealth grant

Telehealth may save the day for autistic children in rural Michigan. State officials are hoping a $500,000 grant to Eastern Michigan University's Autism Collaborative Center (ACC) will bridge at least part of the gap caused by the closure of the University of Michigan's Autism and Communications Disorder Center, set for this fall.

The ACC will use the telehealth funds create an online streaming video system that therapists can use to evaluate and treat autistic youngsters online, university officials say.

The center also will purchase computers, cameras and flip cams that it can lend to patients' families as part of treatment. "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," says ACC director Pamela Lemerand.

EMU's program, with 15 staff and a $600,000 annual budget, is hardly the equal of the University of Michigan's system, which had 60 staff, and millions of dollars in federal grants. But the center is prepared to grow and tackle as much of the problem as it can, Lemerand tells

UM's center already had been "heavily referring" patients to EMU, according to; the hope is that telehealth services can help support many of those patients, given EMU's small staff.

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