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Posted on Tue, May 31, 2011 : 5:44 p.m.

Eastern Michigan University stands to gain $500,000 from one-time state appropriation to expand autism treatment services

By Juliana Keeping

Thumbnail image for EMU-autism-collaborative-center.jpg

Occupational therapist Jenny Neuhalfen helps 4-year-old Max Glynn, who has autism, climb up a mat earlier this month in the occupational therapy room at the Autism Collaborative Center at Eastern Michigan University.

Angela J. Cesere |

Eastern Michigan University is bracing for an $11 million cut in funding next school year, but budget news out of Lansing last week wasn’t all bad.

A one-time $500,000 appropriation within the higher education budget — finalized by lawmakers last week — means the school will be able to create a tele-health program for its nonprofit Autism Collaborative Center, said Leigh Greden, the executive director of government and community relations for EMU.

The state budget awaits Gov. Rick Snyder's signature.

The school hopes the new program would allow its health care professionals to expand care to rural or disadvantaged families of autistic individuals at a lower cost throughout the state, such as diagnostic services for autism, as well as support groups.

"The grant will allow our staff to develop innovative programs such as using the web for support groups for adults with autism, or lending computers, cameras or Flip cams to families," the center’s interim director, Pamela Lemerand, said in a statement. "They can tape their child or family member demonstrating some of the difficulties the person is having at home or in the community, then return the equipment to the center. Then staff can consult with the family about possible interventions."

The appropriation would be a huge financial boost to the center, which has a yearly budget of about $600,000. The center has already expanded in recent months with a growing number of referrals from the University of Michigan Autism and Communication Disorders Center.

UMACC is winding down its service offerings and will close in September with the departure of its director, Catherine Lord.

Autism spectrum disorders affect 1 in every 110 children and 1 in every 70 boys, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s estimated that 1 million to 1.5 million American adults and children live with an autism spectrum disorder, a condition marked by social, communication and behavioral challenges.

At the EMU center, nine staff members at the center and five or six faculty members from EMU collaborate to help clients, drawing from the disciplines of occupational, speech/language, music and recreation therapies; social work; psychology; nursing; and dietetics, Lemerand said. Thirty EMU students from those programs provide supervised services. Overall, about 100 families use the center. Its youngest client is 18 months old and its oldest is 48.

Greden said his office approached Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, Lt. Governor Brian Calley and others about two months ago about the one-time appropriation for the center. The appropriation will be taken from the state's general fund, Greden said.

Juliana Keeping covers general assignment and health and the environment for Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter.



Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 12:20 a.m.

This autism center is badly needed in Washtenaw County. Now if we can just get legislation preventing insurance companies from discriminating against individuals with autism by refusing to cover them, we'd really be helping a lot of people.

Dog Guy

Wed, Jun 1, 2011 : 3:46 p.m.

How much of the $500k will be available after administrative costs?


Wed, Jun 1, 2011 : 1:13 p.m.

Every little bit helps. And in this case helps a lot. This facility is way more valuable to patients in Washtenaw county than the UM center that is about to close. The EMU operation is more treatment and education oriented rather than a guinea-pig lab for grad students doing research for their degrees or for medical journal articles like the UM center. A much better emphasis in my opinion.