MURRAY, Ky. — Murray State University’s Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders (CASD) has launched its new service, the Early Childhood program. A ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating its opening was held on September 10.
The Early Childhood program was created to meet the developmental needs of young children who are experiencing a significant delay in development with specialized support for children with autism. Through collaboration with families, the Early Childhood program provides an enriched, stimulating environment that supports all areas of early childhood development for children ages 2 to 6 years old.
The Early Childhood program is up and running, located in John W. Carr Hall on Murray State’s campus in Murray. Children accepted into the program will receive individualized instruction in a classroom environment from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays through Thursdays during the academic year. The classroom will be supervised by Dr. Sean Simons, a licensed psychologist and behavior analyst; Dr. Jessica Branch, an early childhood professional; and a team of school psychology graduate students from the University’s College of Education and Human Services.
Dr. Simons added in regard to graduate students working in the CASD, “This is really important to me. We care equally about helping our clients while, simultaneously, training future educators in best practices.”
All children are staffed 1:1 and provided individualized programming that is customized to their unique needs.
Participating children will receive customized support to address all areas of early childhood development including social skills, language, pre-academic skills, self-help skills, toilet training and feeding. While the center specializes in children with autism, services are available for any child who meets the criteria for developmental delay.
Early Childhood program tuition costs $15 per day for each child, and all tuition fees directly fund the day-to-day operations of the classroom. Simons and Branch, however, are hoping to provide scholarship opportunities to local families needing help with covering this expense.
“With a classroom capacity of approximately five children, a $75 donation would fund an entire classroom for a day, or a donation of $60 would fund one week of therapy for a single child in need,” Simons said.
“We know there are people in our community who want to help but aren’t sure where to begin,” added Branch. “This is an easy way to make a difference in the life of a child and their family.”
In addition to the new Early Childhood Program, the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders offers individual consultations and community workshops, conducts training sessions for regional schools, and partners with the University’s Counseling and Assessment Center to provide diagnostic testing services for children (ages birth through 18 years) suspected of having autism or related concerns.
The CASD was created in 2019 to help meet the unique needs of children with developmental disorders, including autism, and their families. The CASD is designed as a student training clinic that mentors Murray State students in human service professions with expert, interdisciplinary faculty.
Visit murraystate.edu/autism for more information about programs, ways to support the CASD and a list of additional resources available to families in need of support. Questions may also be directed to the College of Education and Human Services Dean’s Office at 270-809-3885.