MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Finding resources for children with autism or other behavioral and development needs can be time consuming, overwhelming and exhausting.
So earlier this year, the University of Minnesota started a clinic to bring experts from six treatment areas under one roof.
The Voyager Clinic houses specialists for Autism Spectrum Disorder, Fragile X Syndrome, adolescent psychology, developmental and behavioral pediatrics, neuropsychology and the Birth to Three program. Now families have one phone number to call for help.
“Early diagnosis is the key,” says Dr. Amy Esler, a U of M Health Psychologist who specializes in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). “The earlier we can provide intervention, the better off the kids are going to be,” she adds.
“We are one of the few clinics that can coordinate that care and network with patients with all the care they need,” says Dr. Esler.
The other benefit for patients with the university and the Voyager Clinic is being part of research projects that give patients even more attention from specialists.
“We are part of one of the largest national studies of autism ever attempted looking at the genetic contributions to autism,” says Dr. Suma Jacob, a researcher with the University of Minnesota.
There are thousands of families in our region who have signed up for the genetic research and 800 have already completed the study. Dr. Jacob says it’s difficult to get to the source of ASD, but believes we will start to find answers.
“Autism is very heterogeneous, meaning there’s a lot of variation in how it presents so there will be hundreds of thousands of things that contribute to causing it,” says Jacob.
Andrea Manthei has three sons with autism and, because of the family history, her youngest son was able to get a diagnosis by 17 months. She says all three of her boys are doing very well after the behavioral therapy they received at the University of Minnesota, but agrees early intervention makes a difference. “[the U of M] are very good at working with kids, they make things fun for the kids and it doesn’t seem like work,” says Manthei.
If you’d like to learn more about the Voyager Clinic, visit their website.
To learn about a range of regional ASD opportunities, go to http://find.umn.edu.
To be a part of the largest genetics ASD study, go to http://sparkforautism.org/UMinnesota. Use the UMN page for SPARK to gain assess to our local resources as well as national ones.