Sue Kabot, Ed.D.
Director of Clinical Programs
Mailman Segal Center
Lighting the way in Autism Treatment
Not all parents have access to proper diagnoses and treatment for their autistic children, which is why NSU has taken a pioneering role to dramatically expand the university’s presence in the autism community. The NSU Interdisciplinary Council for the Study of Autism brought together more than 40 people from an array of disciplines at NSU, all working towards the same goal of creating a multidisciplinary, collaborative group that can centralize programs, services, research, and expertise in all areas of autism treatment. In addition to the Mailman Segal Center for Human Development (MSC), other NSU schools and programs participating include allied health and nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, psychology, humanities and social sciences, speech-language pathology, law, special education, and medicine, as well as NSU’s University School.
The council is headed by Sue Kabot, Ed.D., CCC-SLP, director of the clinical programs for MSI. One of the first objectives of the council was to take a look at the programs and services already being offered by the individual academic disciplines and begin a process of sharing the information to create a more collaborative approach.
“We had a lot of information from departments that we just hadn’t realized we had, in addition to the number of people interested and involved in autism,” Kabot said.
The second part of the plan is to look at future initiatives that can take the group’s work to the next level. These plans include linking together on one comprehensive Web site where parents and professionals in the community can find exactly what type of autism-related help they are looking for from NSU. The current list of topics includes programs for early diagnosis, on-site campus and school programs, therapeutic programs, research, and educational programs—all easily accessed with one click at a computer.
As a result of one of the council’s first initiatives, parents will be able to find help early on through the Unicorn Child Development Clinic at MSI. The clinic was established through a gift from the Unicorn Children’s Foundation, a $1 million endowed chair in autism and learning communication disorders shared by both MSI and NSU’s Center for Psychological Studies (CPS). The clinic now offers a state-of-the-art, multidisciplinary autism diagnostic assessment center for children from birth to age five at MSI. It provides parents with a centralized location to have their child evaluated simultaneously by a team of experts.
“The benefit is that the children will be seen by all team members, including those from psychology, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and family therapy,” said Kristen Cunningham, Psy.D., the lead psychologist at the Unicorn Clinic.
According to Cunningham, another unique aspect of the Unicorn Clinic at NSU is the additional family therapy support patients will receive. Counselors will work with the families through the entire screening process, preparing them for what to expect, answering any questions, and helping them access recommended services and interventions.
“Parents are getting reports and recommendations, but they need to know how to proceed from there. We are trying to provide them with extra support so they can access what they need,” Cunningham said.
In addition, because more students are taking an interest, the council will also pave the way for placing better-educated professionals out in the community. In its quest to provide even wider curricular opportunities for students, the council has held discussions to pave the way for collaboration with the Fischler School to write a new grant that will allow teachers in Broward County to access master’s degree-level courses in autism that will eventually be needed to obtain an autism endorsement for special education teaching certificates.