By Tim Zwart, EdD
The number of children diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has increased over the past decade to as many as one in 100 children. Autism is a neurodevelopmetal disorder characterized, by varying degrees of difficulties in communication (verbal and nonverbal), social interaction, and repetitive behaviors. ASD can also be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination, attention and physical health issues.
Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services has been providing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) assessments for a number of years. These ASD services have been strengthened in response to legislation in Michigan that mandated insurance providers to cover treatment of ASD.
Pine Rest staff have worked with several insurance providers to develop additional assessment and treatment services. Pine Rest was approved by Priority Health several months ago as an Autism Spectrum Disorder Center of Excellence and the Pine Rest Psychological Consultation Center (PCC) recently named an Approved Autism Evaluation Center (AAEC) by Blue Cross Blue Shield, Blue Care Network of Michigan (BCBS/BCN).
The only other approved BCBS/BCN AAEC on the west side of the state is Spectrum Health. The Psychological Consultation Center is located at the main Pine Rest Campus, and administrators are currently putting the elements in place to have the Pine Rest Traverse City Clinic receive this designation as well.
With the growing attention being paid to ASD, comprehensive assessment is crucial to accurate diagnosis. ASD assessments include interviews, rating scales, review of school and medical records, and various standardized assessment tools, including the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-2. To qualify as an AAEC a multidisciplinary team needs to be involved in the assessment. Pine Rest’s team includes a physician, psychologists and a speech-language pathologist.
It is now recognized that early identification and intervention can have a significant impact on the child’s adaptive functioning. Once diagnosis is confirmed, treatment recommendations are provided for the client and family, and the child or adolescent may be referred for Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA).
ABA focuses on the principles that explain how learning takes place. It is the design, implementation, and evaluation of environmental modifications to produce improvements in human behavior. ABA uses scientific tools to help people learn to more effectively and consistently do things they should be doing and stop the things they should not be doing.
Pine Rest is fortunate to have Greg Worthington, PsyD, BCBA-D, on its staff. Dr. Worthington is a doctoral level board-certified behavior analyst who practices at the Pine Rest Traverse City Clinic. There are plans for the expansion of ABA services into the Pine Rest Grand Rapids clinics.
Tim Zwart, EdD, licensed psychologist, works at the Pine Rest Psychological Consultation Center which offers a variety of services for individuals, organizations, and professionals seeking psychological, neuropsychological and forensic assessments. PCC staff use their extensive experience and expertise as well as the most current and proven resources to tailor assessments to each individual's particular need. See more at: http://www.pinerest.org/psychological-consultation-center.