(CHICAGO) — The Chicago region’s first comprehensive center serving patients from childhood into young adulthood with autism spectrum disorders has been established at Rush University Medical Center. The Autism Assessment, Research, Treatment and Services (AARTS) Program is building assessment, treatment, residential care and research programs to serve families across the lifespan of an individual with autism. A gift from the Boler family’s foundation provided funding for the center to be established. The program will be integrated with the existing Autism Resource Center at Rush in order to provide families with long-term coordinated care, and a comprehensive clearinghouse of resources.
“Research has demonstrated the power of targeted interventions to improve educational performance, socialization, language skills and sensory integration issues in people with autism,” said Dr. Louis Kraus, Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center. “In Chicago, no single site offers this full range of services, creating financial and time-related burdens on families as well as limiting the degree of coordination and communication among care providers.”
The recognized prevalence of children with autism has increased from one in 1,000 in 1978 to one in 88 today, according to federal estimates.
“We hope that in addition to improving the quality of life of adults with autism and helping their families better understand their needs and strengths, we will also show the community benefit of helping them find appropriate types of work and assistance so that other organizations will support this need as well,” Kraus said.
Under the direction of Kraus, Rush’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatry program currently offers psychological evaluations, cognitive-behavioral outpatient therapy, and specialized programs for those who need more support. The Rush Day School offers education and treatment to children ages five to 14, and the Rush Educational and Emotional Health Evaluation Program helps children reach their full potential in the school setting. Additionally, Rush’s Autism Resource Center links families to reputable resources across the Chicago metropolitan area.
“This project will build off of the existing services at Rush and is part of Dr. Kraus' broader vision to support these kids,” said Judy McCormack, a member of the Boler family. “We also liked the fact that this program will help not only kids who are first being diagnosed, but also older kids and young adults who really need services.”
Rush has begun recruiting and welcoming new experts to its research and clinical teams including Latha Soorya, PhD, from the Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, and Dr. Tom Owley, from the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois — Chicago. The AARTS team will work together to evaluate the clinical care and service needs of the Chicago area autism community and develop an integrated program of research, clinical care, service and resources to support individuals with autism and their families.