Autism Center Brings Free Treatment, Awareness to South Plains
It’s not uncommon for a child with autism to experience extreme difficulty in relating to others and understanding the world around them. Those with autism typically exhibit markedly abnormal social interaction, communication difficulties and varying patterns of interests and behavior. For some children, symptoms can be subtle and behaviors are often misdiagnosed or undetected by both parents and teachers. For others, symptoms are easily recognizable.
The Texas Tech College of Education was well aware of these realities when officials formed The Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research, which offers training and consultations for individuals affected by autism and their families and educators.
“We want to improve quality of life issues for people who appear on the autism spectrum, their families and their educators,” says Robin Lock, co-director of the center. “Parents and teachers often have so many questions and are confused about how to manage or learn more about autism, and that’s what this center is here to assist them with.”
The center also specializes in improving the transition from school to the adult world for persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders, which can be characterized by severe impairments in several areas of development, including social interaction and communication skills.
The center is open to people of all ages, and its services are provided free of charge. Clients have available to them a lending library and are invited to attend regular lectures given by professionals throughout the community.
“Autism wasn’t aggressively studied until about 15 years ago, so those with loved ones on the autism spectrum often need as much support and as many resources as they can get,” says Carol Ann Layton, co-director of the center.
Stacy Poteet, the parent of a child with autism and a member the center's Parent Board, says the facility provides a unique resource.
“As a parent of a child with autism, my goal was to help those families who think nothing is available to them in this area,” she says. “Parents often feel like they’re alone and they want to meet with other parents. They want to know how to help their children, and that’s exactly what we’re helping them with.”
Research conducted at the center includes three major aspects: developing strategies for the preparation of teachers to meet the needs of students; examining methods for developing parent support networks; and preparing individuals with ASD as they transition from school-based to adult services.
The center also holds its monthly "Sibshop" meeting, designed as a resource for siblings of autistic children.
“Siblings often have a hard time in their situation and they feel left out,” Poteet says. “The center provides an outlet for them where they can express their feelings and learn how to talk about their situation with others.”
Those interested in consultations and support services should contact Burkhart Center at (806) 742-1998, ext. 458.
- Michael Castellon