By Natalie Simms
An autism center for children will be opening later this summer in Rome to meet a growing community need. Chicago Autism and Behavior Specialists will be opening at 103 Redmond Road in August. They already have two other locations in Chicago and Savannah.
“There really isn’t much in Rome for kids with autism outside of the school system. Some kids need more individualized or specialized services that can be offered at school,” says Julee Dunn, MAT, Clinical Director for the Rome location. “I have worked in autism centers before and saw the amazing progress of children.”
A 15-year veteran, she holds a master’s degree in Special Education and has been working on her board certification in Behavioral Analysis (Applied Behavioral Analysis services).
“I have worked with children as young as 18 months to 18 years. For the past nine years, I have taught in special education classrooms for children with autism or related disorders in both Floyd County Schools and Rome City Schools. The last seven years, I have been at Johnson Elementary School,” she says.
“In these roles, I have provided services for children in a public-school setting, in which I designed and implemented skill acquisition programs and behavior plans using my ABA training.”
She also previously worked with CABS founder Amanda Parker in the Chicago area before moving to Rome in 2010 with her husband, Dr. Jason Dunn, a psychologist with Harbin Clinic.
The Rome center will use ABA, which is “the application of the principles of behavior to make socially significant changes in the lives of our clients and their families.
“To address the deficits of autism, we work on socially significant behavior skills, functional life skills in how they access their community. The social skills they need to interact with other people…the skills important for life,” says Dunn.
“By observing, interacting, and analyzing our kids in their everyday settings, we are able to understand how they learn and what motivates them to behave in certain ways. This allows us to determine which applications of ABA will be most beneficial to them and their family.”
The center will provide one-on-on individualized therapy for clients ages 2 and up.
“Early intervention is important to work on the skills needed to integrate into their natural environment or setting. When they come to us, we help them with social, functional, behavioral and communication skills,” she says.
The average length of care is 25 hours per week per child but it is dependent on the family and circumstances. Clients can come in daily and up 40 hours per week if medically necessary.
“We may do some work in their home if that fits best for the situation. We also offer parent training to help with their child’s needs. So often, parents don’t know how to handle their child’s specific needs,” she says.
Dunn is getting the office set up and beginning to make connections with a network of local physicians who can refer clients for services. Parents can also reach out to the office directly as no referral is needed, but clients are required to have an autism diagnosis. The center will take most major insurance and Medicaid for services.
An informational meeting will be held on Saturday, June 15 at 10 a.m. at Rome First United Methodist Church’s Wilder Center. The free meeting is open to parents and professionals to come and learn more about the center and its services.
Hiring will begin over the next few weeks. They are looking for anyone who has an interest in working with children with autism. Preferably those with a bachelor’s degree in Education, Psychology or related area, but that is not a requirement. Training will be provided. Email Dunn at Jdunn@cabsautism.com about employment opportunities.
In the meantime, interested parents can now go ahead and apply for service and complete assessments. You can call 1-800-844-1232 or visit their website at www.cabsautism.com