‘Spring for Hope’ Lifts Support for Autism Care

The Center for Autism located within Rocky River’s Umerley Center is a signature resource for the treatment of autism that serves the entire west side.

Support was strong from the Smith family. Kylie with her parents, Donna and Dr. Neil Smith, and her brother Aidan.

Last Thursday, co-chairs Neil Smith, D.O., President, Fairview Hospital, and Rocky River Mayor Pamela Bobst hosted the third annual ‘Spring for Hope’ Autism Center fundraising event. Community West Foundation was a proud sponsor of the event.

“We raised $55,000 in each of the first two years of the fundraiser, which is all given back to families who apply for scholarships to the Center,” reports Dr. Smith.

At the Center, treatments of autism include early intervention using Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), proven to be most effective. Unfortunately, behavior therapy is not covered by most insurance companies. Therefore, the Center is dedicated to providing these therapy sessions to children by supporting a family assistance program.

“The ‘scholarships’ we award are all applied to insurance co-pays and fees that are not covered by insurance. Everyone who has applied has received a scholarship, so we are 100 percent scholarship-awarding,” reports Dr. Smith.

Rocky River Mayor Pamela Bobst with Mary Ann Dombrowiak and her husband, David T. Dombrowiak, Community West Foundation President and CEO.

“We have had 5,000 patient visits in three years,” explains Dr. Smith. “We started with 1,000 patient visits from April to December of 2017. That grew to 2,500 in 2018 and 1,700 year to date in 2019.”

Proceeds from this year’s event will also support funding for groundbreaking initiatives for early detection of autism in local pediatrician offices.

The Center for Autism-Rocky River is a 20,000 square foot center with several individual rooms for behavior, occupational and speech and language therapy, plus waiting and conference areas. Families also have free access to the Don Umerley Civic Center during and after patient training sessions.

“The unique combination of a positive center at a recreation center provides patients and families an area for satisfying family activities on site,” said Dr. Smith. “These visits last anywhere from an hour to three hours. So families, parents and siblings have an opportunity to use the Kid’s Cove, the pool, the Rec Center. Everyone can take advantage of the time in a positive way while the child is in therapy. It really is cutting edge in terms of community placement because this condition affects the whole family.”

Parent training is also a key component of Center therapy.

Drew Wilson, 13, Center for Autism patient with Chiara Graver, Cleveland Clinic, Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

A dramatic example of the effectiveness of Center for Autism therapy was presented in a question and answer session with a young patient, Drew Wilson, 13, of North Ridgeville.

“I was taught that there is a difference by learning how to think about things as Big Problems or Little Problems,” he reported to the audience of hundreds of guests. “If someone just bumps into you in the hallway at school, it is a Little Problem so you just let it go.

But, if someone shoves you, it is a Big Problem. So you tell the teacher about it.”

The ability he has developed in forming thoughtful responses to rise above gut reactions has allowed Drew to find a life skill that impacts his quality of life.

Dr. Michelle Marks, Medical Director, Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital for Rehabilitation.

“I know it is not life or death,” he said. “But just because it is not covered by insurance doesn’t mean kids like me shouldn’t get the care they need.”

“The attendance at the fundraiser this year was very large,” said Dr. Smith. “The Center is taking on a life of its own and word is getting out to the community. This is really a Western Region facility for the Cleveland Clinic because, for the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, it is the most important footprint on the west side. As far as Autism care is concerned, this is a signature service for the entire west shore area.”

Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism, Rocky River is located at 21016 Hilliard Blvd. in the Don Umerley Civic Center (second floor). Phone (440) 895-2020.

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