NewYork-Presbyterian Breaks Ground for New Center for Autism and the Developing Brain

Construction Will Begin on the State-of-the-Art Facility Designed for Children, Adults, and Families Dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Apr 4, 2012


NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, along with its affiliated medical schools Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, today celebrated the start of construction on the new Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at the Hospital's Westchester campus in White Plains. Developed in collaboration with the New York Center for Autism, the 11,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility is slated to open in early 2013. The Center's mission is to provide cutting-edge research, education, and comprehensive services to people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) at every stage of life, from infancy through adulthood.

The new Center will arrive on the scene at a time when ASD is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism affects 1–1.5 million American children and adults. That means one in 88 children — the majority of them boys — have been diagnosed with ASD. The cause of this increase is not well understood.

a group of kids playing basketball

Rendering of a main activity room at The Center for Autism and the Developing Brain.
Photo credit: daSILVA Architects

a group of children in a classroom

Rendering of a group activity room at The Center for Autism and the Developing Brain.
Photo credit: daSILVA Architects

a large brick house for the center of autism and the developing brain

Exterior shot of the future Center for Autism and the Developing Brain located in White Plains

The New York Center for Autism, led by Laura Slatkin and Ilene Lainer, and with a generous contribution from Marilyn and James Simons of the Simons Foundation, has provided essential guidance and support for the formation of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain. Autism Speaks, the world's largest autism research and advocacy organization, founded by Hospital Trustee Bob Wright and his wife, Suzanne, provided additional support for the Center.

"For families, receiving an ASD diagnosis for their loved one can be overwhelming and often they don't know where to turn for help," says Dr. Steven J. Corwin, CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. "Thanks to the support of the autism community and the leadership and contribution of the New York Center for Autism, the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain will be an incredible partner for parents and caregivers as they seek the very best care for their child with an autism spectrum disorder."

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

Innovative Approach to Diagnosis and Treatment

"Our focus on the lifespan and interdisciplinary combination of evidence-based approaches to both assessment and treatment is unusual, even among the most highly respected programs in the country," says Dr. Catherine Lord, a leading autism authority and the Center's director. "We're also proud of our innovative approach to diagnosis and treatment, and our core identity is as a hub from which we can connect patients and families to the wealth of programs and services in the community."

The Center will streamline the process from diagnosis to treatment and maximize the usefulness of information gained from multi-level assessments. "Diagnosis is just a start," says 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 while linking patients and their families to existing resources in their communities."

Diagnosis of ASD is still an imprecise science that many experts, including Dr. Lord, hope to improve. Dr. Lord has already pioneered the development of tools that have become the gold standard in autism diagnosis: the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) and the Autism Interview–Revised (ADI-R). She will continue to refine these tools in the rich clinical environment of the new Center.

The Center will provide leading-edge diagnostics and intensive short-term treatment, as well as longer-term follow-up. 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.

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.

Another feature of the new Center is its integrated treatment approach. Patients will 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 will include psychiatrists, psychologists, speech and language therapists, behavior and education specialists, social workers, and occupational therapists, along with consultants from other areas of medicine.

Dr. Lord's vision for the Center is based on a personal desire to help families of children with autism understand the disorder, as well as their child's strengths and weaknesses. The Center will also create a supportive physical environment in which individuals and families can flourish. The design of the new facility supports this purpose, with an open, light-filled space organized around a "village" theme. Rooms can be identified by their color — an autism-friendly approach to design — and soft carpeting and soundproofing prevent noise reverberation. The entire space will communicate openness and flexibility through the use of natural light, architectural flow, and an "open-door policy."

For high resolution renderings of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain visit:

Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell & Columbia

The Center for Autism and the Developing Brain is a comprehensive, state-of-the-art institute dedicated to addressing the pressing clinical needs of individuals living with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disorders of the brain, across their lifespan. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, along with its affiliated medical schools Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Weill Cornell Medical College, has collaborated with the New York Center for Autism ( to establish the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain. Led by Dr. Catherine Lord and located on the Hospital's 214-acre campus in White Plains, the Center will be a resource for community-based providers and families and is expected to open in 2013. For more information, visit NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

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 12,797 deliveries and 195,294 visits to its emergency departments. NewYork-Presbyterian's 6,144 affiliated physicians and 19,376 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. For more information, visit

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, pre-clinical and clinical research, in medical and health sciences education, and in 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 & 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. Established in 1767, Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons was the first institution in the country to grant the M.D. degree and is now among the most selective medical schools in the country. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and state and one of the largest in the United States. For more information, please visit

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