The UNLV Medicine Ackerman Center for Autism and Neurodevelopment Solutions celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning. A partnership between UNLV School of Medicine and the Grant a Gift Autism Foundation, the center is the first in Nevada – and one of only a handful in the United States — to offer a full complement of autism and neurodevelopmental care including diagnostics, treatment, behavioral support and transition planning – all in one place.
“To correctly diagnose and treat the disorder, you need a neuropsychologist, development pediatrician and in some cases, you need a geneticist — the research component to help discover why your child’s brain operates the way it does,” said Gary Ackerman, Grant a Gift board member, UNLV Foundation Board of Trustee and the center’s namesake.
The UNLV Medicine Ackerman Autism Center provides families with the gamut of specialists needed for autism care: from developmental pediatrics to behavioral health, developmental psychology, neurology, genetics, social and vocation training. The Center also provides parenting and sibling classes on dealing with spectrum disorders since often the entire family is affected when a child is diagnosed with autism.
“It’s the first time this scope of services has been all together under one roof,” said Dr. Barbara Atkinson, Founding Dean of the UNLV School of Medicine. “The center specializes in full diagnostic and treatment services for the youngest children, continuing up until age 22 and including a vocational piece that transitions into adulthood.”
Autism, the fastest-growing developmental disorder in the U.S., affects one in every 68 children, including more than 4,750 young Clark County residents.
“You have all these hopes and dreams for your children — that they’re going to go to the prom, college, get married,” said Grant a Gift founder and President/CEO Lynda Tache, whose son, Grant, was diagnosed autistic at age 5.
“The diagnosis was hard to take,” Tache said. “I went through a grieving process — denial, anger, and guilt. The important thing people need to know – and what I know now — is that there is hope. My son’s a living example.”
Grant, Tache’s son, is now 15 and mainstreamed in school.
“He’s made friends, he’s reaching out, having conversations and having people come over,” Tache said. “There’s no cure for autism. It’s a lifelong journey as a parent to ensure your child receives every opportunity to reach his or her full potential.”