Awareness Is First Step to Understanding Autism

People with autism spectrum disorder need community support

Mental & Behavioral Health August 24, 2021
Dr. Latha Soorya, PhD

Latha Soorya, PhD, director of the Autism Assessment, Research, Treatment and Services Center, discusses what children and adults with autism need.

Rush University Medical Center has partnered with Marquee Sports Network, television home of the Chicago Cubs, to produce a series of videos and promotions to increase awareness of the needs of children and adults with autism spectrum disorder.

The videos feature interviews with experts from the Autism Assessment, Research, Treatment and Services (AARTS) Center at Rush, who explain the condition, the need for early diagnosis and intervention, and how the community can support people with autism.

The videos are shared on a special web page, marqueesportsnetwork.com/autism

“Autism awareness is the first step in understanding and the first step in acceptance,” says Latha Soorya, PhD, director of the AARTS Center. 

Soorya is a clinical psychologist and behavior analyst who provides clinical care to people with autism spectrum disorder and related neurodevelopmental conditions. Her research seeks to develop evidence-informed therapies for the social and mental health needs of individuals with ASD across the lifespan.

Joining Soorya in the video interviews are four AARTS Center colleagues:

  • Cynthia Pierre, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist who has extensive experience with behavioral intervention for individuals with ASD as well as anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and disruptive behaviors. 
  • Holly Lechniak, LCSW, the center’s outreach director and coordinator for the SPARK autism research study at Rush. A licensed social worker, she provides direct services and autism consultation for individuals and programs across the Chicago area in school and clinical settings.
  • Lisette Martinez, LCSW, has experience working with children, adolescents and adults with autism in school, community and hospital settings. She conducts individual and group therapy services and provides clinical services in English and Spanish. 
  • Nick Brown, research assistant. He started as an intern and then joined the AARTS staff in 2020.

“Autism is a lifelong condition, meaning kids with autism grow to be adults with autism, so the better job we can do to create an environment and community that is accepting and supporting of differences in kids and adults, the better those individuals will be able to integrate and contribute to the communities in which they live,” Lechniak says. 

Clinical services at the AARTS Center include comprehensive assessment and treatment of children, adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder, bridging gaps to create a seamless continuum of evidence-based care.

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