Center for Autism and the Developing Brain Set to Open at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

State-of-the-Art Facility on Hospital's Westchester Campus Serves Children, Adults, and Families Dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Jun 10, 2013


NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, along with its affiliated medical schools, Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, today celebrated the dedication of its new Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, located at the hospital's Westchester campus in White Plains. Developed in collaboration with New York Collaborates for Autism, the 11,000-square-foot facility will provide comprehensive services to people with autism spectrum disorders at every stage of life, from infancy through adulthood.

New York Collaborates for Autism, a nonprofit organization focused on effecting systems change in autism service delivery, led by Laura Slatkin and Ilene Lainer, provided essential guidance and support for the establishment of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain. Additional support was provided by Marilyn and Jim Simons of the Simons Foundation; Autism Speaks, North America's largest autism research and advocacy organization, which was founded by a trustee of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Bob Wright, and his wife, Suzanne; and the Mortimer D. Sackler Foundation.

The new center arrives on the scene at a time when autism spectrum disorders are on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2012 report, one in 88 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder, representing a 23 percent increase since its 2009 report. The cause of this increase is not well understood.

"For families, learning that their child or loved one has been given a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder can be overwhelming, and they often don't know where to turn for help," said Dr. Steven J. Corwin, chief executive officer of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. "Thanks to the support and leadership of New York Collaborates for Autism, as well as Autism Speaks, the Simons Foundation, and the Mortimer D. Sackler Foundation, the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain will be an incredible resource for families and caregivers seeking comprehensive, cutting-edge, and compassionate care for their children or adult family members."

"NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital has made it possible to build the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain," said Laura Slatkin, co-founder of New York Collaborates for Autism. "Our hope is to create state-of-the-art services for individuals across their lifespan that will become a model for the nation."

"We are proud to offer vital and innovative care at the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain that will not only benefit patients with autism and their families here in New York, but also establish a new paradigm for cutting-edge autism research, education, and clinical care," said Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College.

"This tripartite program, as envisioned by Laura Slatkin, Ilene Lainer, and their supporters, and led by Dr. Cathy Lord, a world expert, is already advancing research and clinical care in autism," said Dr. Lee Goldman, dean of the faculties of health sciences and medicine at Columbia University Medical Center.

Innovative Approach to Diagnosis and Treatment

"Our focus on the lifespan and on interdisciplinary, evidence-based assessment and treatment is an innovative approach not commonly found at even the most highly respected programs in the country," said Dr. Catherine Lord, professor of psychology in psychiatry and professor of pediatrics in psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and the center's director.

The center will streamline the process from diagnosis to treatment and maximize the usefulness of information gained from multilevel assessments. "Diagnosis is just a start," said Dr. Lord. "By evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each patient, and by monitoring and measuring that individual's response to a variety of approaches, we will fine-tune our ability to deliver the best possible short-term treatments. We also see our core identity as a hub from which we can connect patients and families to the wealth of programs and services in their own community." As a referral hub, the facility will build on resources and programs that are already available, linking patients and families with the services they need and forging connections among families, schools, and community organizations, in addition to providing longer-term on-site treatment.

Another feature of the new center is its integrated treatment approach. Patients can receive a combination of expanded applied behavior analysis (ABA) and other targeted therapies to improve social communication and motor and adaptive skills. The interdisciplinary staff includes psychiatrists, psychologists, speech and language therapists, behavior and education specialists, social workers, and occupational therapists, along with consultants from other areas of medicine.

Diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders is still an imprecise science that many experts, including Dr. Lord, are working to improve. She codeveloped some of the key diagnostic tools to help clinicians recognize autism in individuals of varying ages. She will continue to refine these tools in the rich clinical environment of the new center.

The center has a vigorous research and training program, conducting collaborative basic and clinical research with the M.I.N.D. Institute at the University of California-Davis, UCLA's Autism Center, Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University Medical Center, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the University of Michigan, Kings College in London, and Florida State University, among others. DNA samples from consented patients are routinely shared with consortia of geneticists in an effort to identify genetic biomarkers of autism.

Thoughtful, Patient-Centered Design

The center creates a supportive physical environment in which individuals with autism spectrum disorders and their families can flourish. The center, which was built in a historic former gymnasium, communicates openness and flexibility through its layout, 30-foot high ceilings, natural lighting, and other design features. The space is organized using a "village" theme: the central area includes a small healing garden and a clock tower-style structure. The assessment and treatment areas are designed to resemble houses along the village street. Each house can be identified by its bright color—an autism-friendly approach to design. To help minimize noise reverberations, which can be distracting to people with autism, soft carpeting, cork flooring, and other soundproofing features have been installed throughout the center. In keeping with the hospital's commitment to environmental sustainability, the center is LEED-registered, with the goal of certification at the Silver level. The Center for Autism and the Developing Brain was designed by daSILVA Architects in collaboration with the hospital's Facilities Design and Construction team.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is the nation's largest not-for-profit, non-sectarian hospital, with 2,409 beds. The Hospital has nearly 2 million inpatient and outpatient visits in a year, including 12,758 deliveries and 215,946 visits to its emergency departments. NewYork-Presbyterian's 6,144 affiliated physicians and 20,154 staff provide state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine at five major centers: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division. One of the most comprehensive health care institutions in the world, the Hospital is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. The Hospital has academic affiliations with two of the nation's leading medical colleges: Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Weill Cornell Medical College

Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University's medical school located in New York City, is committed to excellence in research, teaching, patient care and the advancement of the art and science of medicine, locally, nationally and globally. Physicians and scientists of Weill Cornell Medical College are engaged in cutting-edge research from bench to bedside, aimed at unlocking mysteries of the human body in health and sickness and toward developing new treatments and prevention strategies. In its commitment to global health and education, Weill Cornell has a strong presence in places such as Qatar, Tanzania, Haiti, Brazil, Austria and Turkey. Through the historic Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, the Medical College is the first in the U.S. to offer its M.D. degree overseas. Weill Cornell is the birthplace of many medical advances — including the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer, the synthesis of penicillin, the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S., the first clinical trial of gene therapy for Parkinson's disease, and most recently, the world's first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally conscious brain-injured patient. Weill Cornell Medical College is affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, where its faculty provides comprehensive patient care at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. The Medical College is also affiliated with the Methodist Hospital in Houston. For more information, visit

Columbia University Medical Center

Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, preclinical, and clinical research; medical and health sciences education; and patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and State and one of the largest faculty medical practices in the Northeast. For more information, visit or

New York Collaborates for Autism

New York Collaborates for Autism (NYCA) is a non-profit organization founded in 2003 dedicated to creating innovative replicable programs that address the needs of individuals and families living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) right now. NYCA accelerates change in the way autism services are provided by identifying national leaders to help shape state-of-the-art programs, partnering with leading community-based organizations, providing technical expertise, assisting in early stage management and raising seed money for these initiatives. We help develop comprehensive, evidence-based community services and resources that are nationally recognized. NYCA is responsible for the creation of the NYCA Charter School, Hunter College Autism Center, BOOST! after school programs, Project SEARCH Collaborates for Autism and the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, a collaboration with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and its affiliated medical schools of Columbia and Weill Cornell. NYCA sees the possibilities for people with ASD and creates the path to achieve them. For more information, visit

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