The struggle for access to affordable quality care is well known by families with children with special needs. With rates of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) increasing by 15%, at an estimated 1 in 59 children in 2018 in the US according to the Center for Disease Control, it can feel like a competition for these families to win coveted slots in the few therapy centers, group programs, and educational workshops that cater to ASD.
Luckily for Middle Tennessee, Autism Education & Therapy Center opened a new state-of-the-art autism center with the ability to double the number clients they serve each day.
“This new building is like a dream come true. It has been my hope to have a state of the art, specialized building to meet the needs of children affected by autism. Children of all ages will receive services ranging from basic communication skills to life skills,” explains Karen Blake, Founder and President of AutismETC.
Blake founded the organization in 2008 after moving to Nashville with her husband, Steve, and their son, Matthew, who was diagnosed with Autism at just 18 months old. While Matthew attended a private Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) school and received services in Speech and Occupational and Equine therapy in Atlanta, those same services were lacking in Nashville. So, with a Master’s degree in both Special Education and Speech Language Pathology, over a decade of work experience in the Atlanta school system, and the unparalleled determination of a special needs parent, Blake created The Autism Foundation of Tennessee (now the Autism Education and Therapy Center) to address the unmet needs in the middle Tennessee autism community.
In the eleven years since inception, the nonprofit has opened clinics in Nashville and Clarksville with the mission of “instilling hope through services and support in children and families affected by autism.” The new 8,000+ square foot clinic in Clarksville was designed by architect Mike Manous, who consulted with AutismETC’s behavior analysts to ensure the facility is both aesthetically-pleasing and sensory friendly for the children seeking treatment. Every space, including the numerous therapy rooms, two classrooms, a functional living skills area, a gymnasium/auditorium/lunchroom, and even the entrance and hallways, are an inviting, safe, and secure environment for clients.
Doors to the new clinic opened on February 1st, 2019 with a ceremonial ribbon cutting and grand opening reception of the facility, located at 941 Professional Park Drive in Clarksville, much to the celebration of AutismETC staff.
“Our present building was only able to serve approximately 25 children at any given time. The new facility will allow AutismETC to double the number of clients it serves each day,” said Rhonda Manous, Executive Director of AutismETC.
The last piece of the clinic to be completed is the playground, which will soon be installed behind the building, so clients can learn play skills in a safe environment. The organization is currently accepting donations for the playground, which is being dedicated in memory of long-time supporter Clinton Newton, Jr.
Spaces like AutismETC’s clinic are rare oases of support for the physical, social, and emotional needs of families affected by autism. More clinics mean more children are receiving the specialized therapy they need and more families have a community to turn to during difficult times. Because of AutismETC, children across the spectrum in Middle Tennessee can grow up with an abundance of hope and happiness.
To learn more, visit www.autismetc.org.
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