About one in 68 children has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring. Many parents don’t know what to do or where to begin once their child is diagnosed with ASD. In response, the Lurie Center for Autism has emerged as a vital resource for families caring for a child on the autism spectrum.

As a part of MassGeneral Hospital for Children for more than 20 years, the Lurie Center is an integrated and multidisciplinary clinical, research, and advocacy program dedicated to treating individuals with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disorders. Family support specialists are key components of the Lurie Center model. They help families and patients circumnavigate what can be a complex medical world after the doctor’s appointment. These experts help patients and their families overcome barriers to treatment, provide support, and serve as key members of the patient care team.

On World Autism Awareness Day, the Lurie Center celebrates the many advances in the care of patients on the spectrum. In particular, the Autism Care Collaborative (ACC), a hospital-wide initiative, was created to build awareness of the needs of children and adults with autism.  The ACC created education materials for clinical, service and administrative staff and developed protocols to facilitate the movement of patients with autism throughout the hospital.

Perhaps most importantly though is that at the Lurie Center, multiple medical disciplines work together. They come together here to provide a unique continuity of care in one location for autistic patients that was previously not standard practice. Another exceptional feature of the Lurie Center is that nearly one-third of their patients are adult, while most autism healthcare programs focus solely on pediatrics. 

“We currently treat more than 3,000 children, adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) annually. Our adult patient population has more than tripled since 2009, and we expect it to continue to grow, as we are one of the few adult autism healthcare providers,” explains Ann Neumeyer, MD, medical director of the Lurie Center. “The Lurie Center is proud to support World Autism Awareness Day as part of our year-round commitment to serving individuals on the spectrum and their families. Raising awareness about autism isn’t a one day occasion here, though,” says Christopher J. McDougle, MD, director of the Lurie Center. “Early intervention and ongoing support are vital in paving the way for individuals with autism to be able to reach their full potential. We work every day to offer cutting edge care in this field as well as offering even just a few minutes’ respite from the pressures of caregiving for families with a child on the spectrum.”