Colorful balloons were afloat.  Delighted children played with a permanently installed (and pretty awesome) electric train set, roamed the hallways searching for actors portraying Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter, and devoured delicious Popsicles and Italian ice.  All this fun was part of the grand opening festivities for the new Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders on Saturday, May 10.

Jeanne Anne Carriere, director of Chapman’s C.A.P. Program for the Center for Autism, greets kids in the face-painting room during the Center’s grand opening May 10.

Jeanne Anne Carriere, director of Chapman’s C.A.P. Program for the Center for Autism, greets youngsters in the face-painting room during the Center’s grand opening May 10.

The result of a vital partnership between UC Irvine, Chapman University, Children’s Hospital of Orange County, the Thompson Family Foundation and the Children and Families Commission of Orange County, the Center aims to become the nation’s premier facility for evaluation, treatment, education and research for the wide range of autism spectrum disorders, focusing on children and young people up to age 22.

Chapman University’s College of Educational Studies (CES) is taking a leading role in the Center, as principal partner in helping to connect families and schools with the education and other resources they need, and in advocacy. UCI and CHOC, with their vast medical resources, will be involved in evaluation, diagnosis, treatment and research.  The Center’s facilities provide a welcoming setting for families as children are evaluated and treated by a variety of on-site medical experts, including teams in pediatric neurology, developmental-behavioral pediatrics, pediatric nurse practitioners, pediatric gastroenterology, psychiatry, psychology, behavioral intervention, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and social work.

Jared Izumi, CES school psychology student, shows an app he created to Joe Donnelly, M.D. (at left), director of the Center for Autism, and Don Cardinal, Ph.D., incoming director. The app will help families keep connected with autism programs in their local schools.

Jared Izumi, CES school psychology student, shows an app he created to Joe Donnelly, M.D. (at left), director of the Center for Autism, and Don Cardinal, Ph.D., incoming director. The app will help families keep connected with autism programs in their local schools.

Don Cardinal, Ph.D., dean of the College of Educational Studies, was recently appointed the incoming chairman of the Center.

“As the rates of children with autism and neurodevelopmental disorders increase, so does the need for a comprehensive approach to intervention,” he said. “Because children spend so much of their time in school settings, it is important that professionals in all disciplines work collaboratively to provide these youth and their families with much needed intervention and support. In response to this growing need, CES and the Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders have come together with partners, medical researchers, parents, educators, and schools to actively address this issue as a community.”

CES has developed a two-pronged approach in supporting the center, providing family-collaborative and educational opportunities specifically designed to meet the needs of individual students, families and schools.  To this end, the college has launched two cutting-edge programs: Families and Schools Together (F.A.S.T), and the Chapman Ability Project (C.A.P).

Families and Schools Together (F.A.S.T.)

The Families and Schools Together (F.A.S.T) program offers support to families and schools by using a cohesive multi-disciplinary approach to intervention. All professional team members work together to increase communication, develop strong collaborative relationships, and share resources and expertise. This approach allows the team to enhance services in all settings, and ultimately improves outcomes for the youth who are served.

The Chapman Ability Project (C.A.P.)

The Chapman Ability Project (C.A.P.) focuses on high-level education workshops, lectures and certificate programs designed to increase the knowledge and practice of those serving our youth in the schools and in clinical settings. This program provides advanced in-service training for school teachers, administrators and workers, allying with schools and families in creating Individualized Education Plans (IEP) for students with autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders.

“We are incredibly excited to help negotiate this uncertain terrain, to see all viewpoints, promote flexibility, and advocate for the best interests of the child,” said Cardinal. “Our goal is to work together with all team members to create quality outcomes for youth with autism and neurodevelopmental disabilities throughout Southern California.”