Program to Help Families Facing Autism Challenge

June 9, 2009

Reaching out to families touched by autism, the UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders is offering a pilot program to help parents facing a child's new diagnosis.

Strategy Training and Response to Therapy (START) focuses on children 18 months to 5 years old who have been recently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and who have received an autism assessment through Children’s Medical Center of Dallas.

Callier is launching the program in partnership with Children’s and UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“We developed START out of an urgent need to provide families with information about what to do after an autism assessment,” said Suzanne Bonifert, head of speech-language pathology services at the Callier Center. “There is so much information and misinformation surrounding treatment for autism, which can be extremely overwhelming for families.”

At the Callier Center, licensed speech-language pathologists with specialized expertise in working with young children with autism spectrum disorders will help parents by:

  • Talking with them about their children’s strengths and challenges and setting goals.
  • Trying different therapeutic techniques to find the most effective strategies for facilitating communication and play skills.
  • Working with them to facilitate positive communicative interactions with their children.

“We want to help families by providing sound, evidence-based information,” said Bonifert.

At the end of the program, Callier Center clinicians and clinical faculty will work with families and their caseworkers from Children’s to map out therapy programs. The plans will provide the families with the information, referrals and resources needed to access treatment programs that best meet their needs and provide optimum progress for their children.

START will also serve as an important training opportunity for UT Dallas graduate students enrolled in the master’s program in communication disorders.

“Providing opportunities for hands-on learning is critical in developing and training future clinicians,” said Jan Lougeay, program director of clinical education in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. “Under the direct supervision of licensed and certified clinicians, the students will receive valuable experience working with children with autism and counseling families who are dealing with this diagnosis.”

The six–week program begins June 19 and will meet every Friday morning from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Callier Center Dallas. Details are available on the Callier Center Web site.

START is made possible by a grant from Crystal Charity Ball.


Media Contact: Debra Brown, UT Dallas, (214) 905-3049, debra@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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Callier Center at Dallas

As part of the new program, clinicians and clinical faculty at the Callier Center campus in Dallas will help design therapy programs for children with autism.

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