Fresno State Autism Center satellite location now open

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Services for autistic children have been expanded in the Valley. It's estimated one in every 68 kids now fall somewhere within the autism spectrum. A new, early intervention center will serve kids between 18 months and 5 years.

Playtime mixes in naturally with learning time at the Autism Center on the Fresno State campus. Kids learn letters in a setting that also encourages group interaction.

"They make your day when you're having a bad day, and we have opportunities to make their days, and the job we do can also make and change their lives," said Paola Nieto with the Autism Center.

It is a difficult but rewarding job. "On a daily basis, our staff can get scratched, bit, hit, thrown things at, but also you get to hear a child's first words. You get to see parents' lives change," said Tim Yeager, executive director of the Behavioral Science Institute.

A partnership with Valley Children's Hospital has resulted in a new Fresno State Autism Center satellite location.

"Nationwide, autism rates are rising, and together our two organizations can help more families that need our support," said Todd Suntrapak, CEO of Valley Children's Hospital.

The ribbon cutting brought together more than just mascots George and Timeout. Two rooms at the therapy center will be used to serve 16 kids on the autism spectrum. Fresno State students will also get hands-on experience there.

"This gives them an incredible opportunity to work with the top professionals in the region on such an important health issue," said Dr. Joseph Castro, president of Fresno State.

Thirty-five kids are served on the Fresno State campus. This new facility has recent grads like Camille Williams excited for the future. She said, "It gives lots of parents who do not have very much information about the diagnosis and how to receive services," and improve their children's quality of life.

Kids must be referred for the center's services through a pediatrician or through the Central Valley Regional Center.
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