October 14, 2010

Weill Co-Sponsors Creation of Autism Treatment Center

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Faculty at Weill Cornell Medical College are playing a role in planning the Institute for Brain Development, a comprehensive treatment center for autism spectrum disorders, which will open in 2012 outside New York City. The institute represents a collaborative effort between Cornell, Columbia University, New York-Presbyterian Hospital and the New York Center for Autism. When completed, the center will not only aid in diagnosing and treating these developmental disorders, but also contribute research that may eventually improve treatment for those afflicted. Prof. John Walkup, psychiatry, and director of child and adolescent psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, said that the large capacity of this new institute will help doctors to make an earlier diagnosis for children from across the tri-state area. The institute will be built in a 11,000 square foot gymnasium currently located on New York-Presbyterian’s White Plains, N.Y. campus. “Kids keep having needs, and the centers around New York are few and can’t handle a large capacity,” Walkup said. “The problem with long waiting lists is that there is reason to believe that the earlier we catch these diseases, the better. Time is critically important.” Autism is a neural developmental disorder which leads to impaired social interaction and communication. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism spectrum disorders, the group of autistic disorders with similar features, affect one in 110 children. An estimated one million to 1.5 million American adults and children live with ASD.Once the institute makes a positive diagnosis, the institute will provide “gap-services” before families find a local physician to provide long-term care. Without these services, Walkup said, children might go untreated for a longer span of time, decreasing their chances of a more normal development and socialization process.  When the institute opens in 2012, it will be an outpatient facility only. The research component will be developed over time, with faculty from both Cornell and Columbia working on the site. There will be opportunities for undergraduates and graduate students from the Ithaca campus to work in the institute, Walkup said. According to Walkup, the project is being funded by insurance collected from patients and gifts from private donors.

Original Author: Juan Forrer