TWU, UNT partner to expand autism assessment access

TWU, UNT partner to expand autism assessment access
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July 15, 2020 — DENTON — The Texas Woman’s University Woodcock Institute and Department of Psychology and Philosophy are partnering with the University of North Texas Kristin Farmer Autism Center to create a new joint clinic that will increase access to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) assessment services across the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

“There is a real need in the community for autism assessments. Private practice psychologists often have a waitlist at least six months out, and many families can’t afford to wait that long for a diagnosis,” said Wendi Leigh Bauman Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor of school psychology and interim director of the Woodcock Interdisciplinary Assessment Clinic at TWU.

The current TWU assessment clinic typically serves between six and eight families each semester. Through the combined resources of both universities and the Woodcock Institute, the new Woodcock Autism Assessment Clinic (WAAC) at the Kristin Farmer Autism Center aims to increase capacity and provide a broader range of assessment services. “We’ll start small, seeing one or two additional families per month for initial or re-evaluation ASD assessments, and grow from there, eventually providing more comprehensive assessments along with access to speech and occupational therapy resources,” said Johnson.

The collaboration, which is slated to begin in Fall 2020, will provide TWU school psychology, speech, hearing and occupational therapy doctoral students with practical training and hands-on experience serving families of children and adolescents with autism. The development of an assessment results database will allow students and faculty to examine research questions related to individual autism tests and their efficacy within specific populations.

The idea for the partnership came about when Johnson visited the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center while teaching a graduate practicum course in Spring 2019. “I learned that they had a full test library of assessment kits available, and just needed to hire a psychologist to perform the diagnosis and evaluation side of services,” said Johnson, who happened to be in the process of exploring options for growing the TWU clinic to meet community needs. She pitched the idea to Dan Miller, Ph.D., executive director of the Woodcock Institute, and reached out to Kevin Callahan, Ph.D., and Susan Nichols, Ph.D., the recently retired executive director and interim executive director, respectively, of UNT’s autism center, to propose a partnership. All parties were enthusiastic about the prospect of collaboration, and the universities proceeded to develop and sign a memorandum of understanding.

Assessment and evaluation services provided by the WAAC will be covered by insurance if applicable. Due to COVID-19 closures and phased university re-openings, initial interviews and rating scales may be conducted via telehealth appointments. Primary testing measures will take place at the Kristin Farmer Autism Center with intensive safety precautions in place including health screenings, disinfecting procedures, and the use of personal protective equipment.

About the Woodcock Interdisciplinary Assessment Clinic

TWU’s Interdisciplinary Assessment Clinic is part of Richard Woodcock’s vision for the Woodcock Institute, which was created in 2015 through his generous gift to the university. Since its inception, the institute has awarded 32 grants resulting in more than $400,000 of funding for research in the areas of cognitive function, autism, education and dementia, among many others.

The clinic provides comprehensive assessments evaluating learning disabilities, ADHD, autism, depression and anxiety for families in the metroplex. Collaboration with the TWU Speech and Hearing Center and the TWU Occupational Therapy Program began in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

About the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center

The Kristin Farmer Autism Center offers comprehensive, one-on-one behavior analytic treatment programs for children with autism. Services include focused and comprehensive individualized intervention, behavioral therapy, social skills training for individuals and groups, and counseling.

The center was founded by UNT alumna Kristin Farmer in 2012 with the goal of improving the functional skills of autistic children through evidence-based research, training and direct services.

Page last updated 4:49 PM, July 14, 2020 

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Source: TWU