As a new CDC report finds one in 88 American children are being diagnosed with autism, a Queens institute is leading the way in education and research of the disorder. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.
Behind the walls of a former Catholic school in College Point, Queens, miracles often happen for children who have autism. The New York Child Learning Institute is the only program in New York State that is modeled after Princeton's renowned Children Development Intervention Program.
"A proportion of our children transition out of special ed and are in regular ed programs. We have a number of children who are no longer in this program and they are in programs for children with a learning disability," said New York Child Learning Institute Director Susan Vener.
Instructors who work with the 25 children record and graph their performance every day. And in effect the children become the teachers, providing invaluable input on how to modify educational strategies.
A record number of American children have been diagnosed with autism, which according to the Center for Disease Control's latest figures now affects one in 88 American children. That's up 23 percent from just two years ago. It's five times more common in boys than girls and affects more white children than blacks and Hispanics. The complex disorder is characterized by verbal delays and other development disabilities. But after all of these years, experts still don't know what causes it -- something that's very frustrating for parents and teachers.
"I think there is probably an increase in the prevalence of the disorder. I also think there is more awareness of autism and better diagnosis," Vener said.
Because more children are being diagnosed, the waiting list is long at The New York Child Learning Institute. Due to state budget cuts, officials are also struggling to keep the center open. Still, they manage to maintain a warm and intimate environment with a high ratio of teachers to students.
"They do research right along with the educational process so they constantly have their instant feedback in terms of how they approach the child," said New York Child Learning Institute Executive Director Thomas McAlvanah.
The CDC also finds that more children are being diagnosed by age three, and the center's pre-school program has discovered that the sooner treatment begins, the better because early intervention is critical for the autistic population.
For more information about the program, visit nycli.org.