Media contacts:
Alicia Sands Lurry, 404/616-6389,
September 3, 2002


New Autism Clinic at Hughes Spalding Children's Hospital To Benefit Children and Their Families

Leslie Rubin, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics with the Emory University School of Medicine and developmental pediatrician at Grady Health System's Hughes Spalding Children's Hospital, in collaboration with the leadership of Grady Memorial Hospital and its rehabilitation department, has developed an autism clinic at Hughes Spalding for Atlanta youngsters who have features of autism. The clinic will serve six to 12 toddlers, preschoolers and elementary-age children per month.

The clinic is scheduled to officially open at Hughes Spalding in November, and will employ various specialists, including a speech and occupational therapist, nutritionist, nurse coordinator, behavior and therapeutic recreation specialists, social worker, developmental pediatrician, audiologist, and a psychologist.

Dr. Rubin said the autism clinic at Hughes Spalding will serve as a complement to the Emory Autism Resource Center (EARC), which offers the most experienced professional team of autism experts in Georgia. The EARC is the only Georgia resource that provides a comprehensive continuum of services specifically designed to meet the needs of children and adults with autism and their families. The Hughes Spalding autism clinic will specifically address the children in inner-city Atlanta, where autism services have been sparse. Dr. Rubin said he expects the clinic to see up to 100 children in the first year.

"We respect and admire the Emory Autism Resource Center because it has pioneered research and services in the area of autism in Atlanta and all of Georgia," Dr. Rubin said. "As a developmental pediatrician, I have worked and continue to work closely with experts in the Emory autism center, and this program is meant to complement what they do."

The Hughes Spalding clinic will educate parents about the associated medical conditions of autism, the needs of their children, and provide resources and education on becoming advocates for children who have autism. There are also plans to work with the local school system.

"With this specialized, interdisciplinary autism clinic, we want to develop a place where the children of Atlanta can come if there is any question of communication, socialization and any aberrant behavior that are associated with the diagnosis of autism," Dr. Rubin said. "We will provide children with speech and occupational therapy, family support, and behavior management that will enable them to make good progress and become integrated into the mainstream of society."

Autism is one of the most common developmental disabilities in the United States, affecting more than 500,000 Americans. By definition, autism is a complex brain order dysfunction that typically appears during the first three years of life. Children with autism have problems with social interaction, communication, imagination and behavior problems that can persist well into adulthood. The condition makes it difficult for children and adults to communicate with others and relate to the outside world. In some cases, they may have aggressive and/or self-injurious behavior related to their inability to communicate.

Dr. Rubin has also been successful in developing a Cerebral Palsy program at Hughes Spalding. The clinic opened in 1998, and has serviced nearly 300 new patients and their families. Held twice each month, the clinic is an offshoot of the Children's Medical Services, which closed its doors on July 1, 1999. The Cerebral Palsy clinic now sees between 20 and 30 children in an interdisciplinary setting each month and serves children and their families across the state of Georgia and surrounding region.

The success of the Cerebral Palsy program has resulted in the establishment of two other interdisciplinary programs that Dr. Rubin has helped develop with colleagues at Morehouse School of Medicine. The STARS program in collaboration with Dr. Beatrice Gee serves children with sickle cell disease who have had strokes. The Prader-Willi Program with Dr. Randy Alexander serves children with the syndrome.

These programs help establish Hughes Spalding Children's Hospital in a leadership role in serving children with developmental disabilities and other chronic conditions in an interdisciplinary, comprehensive, coordinated manner, that is family-center and community-based, and provides education to the community and training for professionals.

For more information on the Hughes Spalding autism clinic, call Regina Johnson, nurse coordinator, at (404) 616-2172.

*This revised release, posted September 20, 2002, contains important supplementary information about the Emory Autism Resource Center.

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