MT. PLEASANT (WJRT) - (08/08/17) - During his time in office, Lt. Governor Brian Calley has raised awareness about the need for better care and services for children with autism.
One need he has highlighted has been finding enough properly licensed therapists.
At the Central Autism Treatment Center in Mt. Pleasant, Central Michigan University faculty are educating students so they can become Board Certified Assistant Behavioral Analysts.
The need in our state is great. Last school year, nearly 20,000 Michigan students met eligibility as a student with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Calley recently said Michigan needs between 1,500 to 2,000 certified service providers for children with autism.
"I think the increased need for services is because people are seeing the results of ABA," said Brian Davis, a CMU graduate student who is earning his degree in experimental psychology.
Currently, our state only has 603 of the needed service providers with the BCaBA designation.
Davis is one of them and said the wait lists at treatment centers highlights the need for more.
"Just about every center has a pretty substantial waiting list," Davis said.
At CAT, 17 kids are in therapy right now, but the wait list is at 22.
While treatment is tailored to each child, staff members have one common focus.
"To get them to have a better life is our ultimate goal," Davis said.
Davis' favorite breakthrough over the last three years of work at the CAT involved a student who had never replied to his father when spoken to.
"He was like, 'Hey, dad'. And it was the first time he ever, you know, said, 'Hey dad' after his dad said hi to him. And that was just like a huge moment for them, and you know, like, 'Hey, you did that, you impacted their lives,'" Davis said.
Davis said that moment came after months of repetition, but autism in another child may require a different set of skills, requiring more behavioral analysts.
"If you know one child with autism, you know one child with autism. And everybody, everybody's different and everyone has different needs," Davis said.
There are other similar treatment centers in our area, including one in Midland, but north of Mid-Michigan, the nearest center is in Traverse City.