Parents of children with autism have a new resource in San Diego. A $1 million autism center at Rady Children's Hospital celebrated its opening Thursday. It's the only center of its kind in California and one of only two in the United States.
The center houses a school along with space for research, diagnosis and treatment of patients.
Parents will be able to watch their children interact with other kids through one-way mirrors or cameras set up in each room.
"We have found because we have a higher teacher to child ratio, because of the specialty teachers, the parents really feel their typically-developing kids as well as their children with autism are getting more intensive and more engaged services," said Aubyn Stahmer who is the research coordinator of the Autism Discovery Center.
Researchers with San Diego State University as well as University of California San Diego will work with pediatricians, speech therapists and psychiatrists from Rady Children's at the center.
The center has a school called Alexa's Place that serves close to 100 children. It's a preschool program for children 18 months to 5 years old. The teachers have special training to facilitate language and interaction so children with autism can learn the skills they need to learn in a natural environment.
"We think kids' brains are still developing when they are toddlers and preschoolers," Stahmer said. "Learning to interact with one another at this age is going to set them up to be able to be more socially engaged and to be better in elementary school and beyond."
A week ago, the center opened a program with San Diego Unified School District for 3 to 5-year old children offering afternoon care.
On the clinic side, there is a gym available for specialty motor activities, diagnostic speech and occupational therapy, behavior modification and social skills groups that kids with all ages with autism and related disorderes can participate in.
The Centers for Disease Control says one in 110 children is afflicted with autism.
There is an autism services coordinator to help parents who are interested in the services offered. For more information, check the hospital's website.