Baylor University received a $2.5 million endowment for the construction of a new center dedicated to the research and treatment of autism.
The 11,865-square-foot autism center will be part of the Department of Communication Science and Disorders in the Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences. It will increase the clinic’s capacity to offer specialized services to those suffering from the disorder.
The project is primarily being funded through the donations of Bill and Mary Jo Robbins – after whom the college is named – and additional, unnamed sources.
“The Robbinses are the ones who really have a calling and a sense around children with autism and wanted to help in this area. It’s through their generosity that we’ve been able to create this clinic and create some research space,” college dean Rodney Bowden said.
The Baylor Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic, a professional clinical division of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, mainly serves patients in the Central Texas area. However, families from across the country have also sought treatment there.
The college had discussed the need to expand the clinic, as families who come for treatment generally exceed current capacity. While it will be tough to comfortably “meet the demand,” Bowden knew that the new autism center will increase the department’s capability to provide services.
“It just gives us the ability to expand the number of children in our clinic, expands the ability to serve them, and serve them in ways we know can help them,” he said.
Department of Communication Science and Disorders Chair Diane Loeb shared some innovations to be expected, including six treatment rooms that will be primarily used as research spaces.
The new rooms include an eye-tracking assessment room for early diagnosis, intervention, and detection research, motor sensory rooms for children with autism who self-harm, and reading and eating areas where specialists can work with children on the spectrum who struggle to read, eat, and swallow.
Apart from these additional spaces, the clinic will employ speech and language pathologists, psychologists, audiologists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists to help families receive holistic education on how to deal with autism.