by Pamela Young, Published July 16, 2009
YPSILANTI — When a child is diagnosed with autism, the diagnosis affects the entire family. And finding help with appropriate facilities can be difficult.
Eastern Michigan University is moving forward with the purchase of the former Fletcher Elementary School in Ypsilanti. This will allow the University to expand services for its Autism Collaborative Center and relocate its Children’s Institute.
The Ypsilanti school board recently approved the sale of the former elementary school to Eastern Michigan for $2.2 million. Built in 1963, the 40,000 square-foot building will house both the Autism Collaborative Center and EMU’s Children’s Institute. It is expected to open in mid-to-late fall 2009.
“I’m elated over this entire endeavor. This is the concrete beginning of what we hope will be a lifetime of support to families with autism,” said Pamela Lemerand, assistant professor of occupational therapy and project director. “The center will have faculty and students from occupational, speech and music therapy, nursing, psychology, social work, dietetics, special education and recreation therapy. We’ll start working with children and young adults and grow from there.”
The Autism Center, in partnership with Easter Seals of Michigan, currently provides services for 40 families in the Bright Horizons building located at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor. The center’s goals are to provide comprehensive services to persons with autism and their families; train Eastern Michigan students in areas of national shortages; continue research in the effectiveness of various interventions and be a community research center. When fully operational, the program will be the only one in the state and one of the only university-based autism programs in the country with a comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach to assessment and the provision of a full range of interventions. Lemerand said the goal is to reach 2,000 people in the first year or two. Services will be provided on a sliding scale.
The EMU Children’s Institute offers early childhood education for the children of EMU students, faculty, staff and surrounding communities. Currently located in the Rackham Building on Eastern’s main campus, the institute serves approximately 150 children, ages 18 months old to six years, according to Ellen Gold, executive director, university health services.
“We’re excited about the move to Fletcher School. It is a true design for young people,” said Gold. “It will be a good partnership because there are areas where we can collaborate with the Autism Collaborative Center. It also will improve on the quality of safety, security, access and programs. “
According to Gold, it will take approximately 90 days to complete the process to get a new license for the Fletcher School site and the institute’s relocation should be finalized by the end of fall semester 2009.