Autism Center celebrates first year

Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Mike Wiles, director of the MC Joint Economic and Community Development Board, Lewisburg Mayor Jim Bingham, State Representative Rick Tillis, CCA Clinical Coordinator Rachel Rudolf, Marshall County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett, and Anita Teague, executive director of the Community Development Center celebrate the first anniversary of the Children’s Center for Autism in Lewisburg.
Tribune Photo by Scott Pearson

The Children’s Center for Autism opened their doors on Friday for more than just an open house.

The center was marking the one-year anniversary of their opening with more of a celebration for they have managed to accomplish during that time.

The CCA is a program of the Child Development Center, part of a regional system focusing on children with developmental delays.

The Lewisburg center is the only location in the system to offer specialized early intervention treatment of children diagnosed with autism.

”We are very blessed in Lewisburg with support” from both individuals and sponsors,” Anita Teague said. Teague is executive director of the Child Development Center, serving 13 counties in south central Tennessee.

The CCA takes a holistic approach to autism issues, serving not only the children but their families as well and supplementing the needs of children on the autism spectrum already in the school system.

Their focal point is the intensive early intervention program designed for preschoolers.

The classroom program is designed for children 18 months to five years old to address developmental delays and prepare the students for a seamless transition to kindergarten in school.

Three teachers as well as Rachel Rudolf, the clinical coordinator, work with each class of four children enabling them to work intensively on acquiring needed skills.

Autistic children often display delays with social skills or speech and the one-on-one classroom work, with 10 to 15 skills to master per week, is designed to erase those delays, moving the children closer to appropriate age-level development.

Studies show that such early intensive interventions with autistic children have a huge impact on their future lives, reducing the overall cost of care by as much as two-thirds.

Rudolf noted one child who had visited a speech therapist for more than a year without progress, who started using words after three weeks in the program.

The center works with the families of students to assist them with the stresses that can be placed on them by an autistic child. The divorce rate for parents of an autistic child is 80 percent, compared to the national average of 50 percent.

The center opened with four students in a morning class, with plans to add an afternoon class within three years.

Instead, the afternoon class of four was added after only six months.

The program has a waiting list and serves families throughout the region. One family drives from Grundy County, a three-hour round trip.

In addition to the early classes, the center serves another 24 children ages five through 12 offering additional support during their school years.

The CDC hopes to open another autism center in Bedford County within the next 18 months, expanding their capacity and reach.