The Murray State University Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders formally opens next week with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception on campus.

The center was created to help meet the needs of children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families. The ceremony is set for 1-2 p.m. Thursday in Alexander Hall.

"We decided to begin the CASD because of the growing need for support in this region," Dr. Sean Simons, school psychology program director, said in a news release. "Families in western Kentucky have limited options for seeking timely, affordable diagnosis and treatment options. We hope to grow in all areas, including therapy and community support. There's an even greater need for getting kids treatment once they're diagnosed, both for the child and families.

"Through the center, Murray State is investing in the next generation of human service providers as well as families affected by autism living in the region."

According to the university, Simons leads the facility and it's designed to alleviate two problems: providing timely, comprehensive and affordable diagnostic evaluations and treatment options for children of all ages who demonstrate at-risk symptoms for ASD and to support families.

Starting this fall, it will offer applied behavior analysis therapy out of Alexander Hall as space permits.

It's part of a university training clinic that employs graduate students in school psychology, who operate under direct supervision of an experienced licensed psychologist. They will work with people with ASD and their families. The model allows it to offer reduced fees to families who may not have a cost-effective option otherwise.

The center is designed to maintain a short waiting list to help families receive a timely appointment. On average, a family seeking evaluation would wait between three to six weeks to be seen.

It also seeks affordability and offers comprehensive ASD evaluations for $250 (insurance is not accepted, but sliding scale fee options are available). Fees are used to buy testing materials and fund assistantships for graduate students learning to conduct the assessments.

Phone 270-809-6305 or email msu.assessmentcenter@murraystate.edu to learn more about its services. Consultations are free.

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