Inspira will soon open the region’s first Autism Diagnostic Center. Targeted to open this fall and located in Woodbury, it will address South Jersey’s critical need for autism spectrum diagnostic services.
"New Jersey has one of the highest rates of autism diagnoses in the country," said Susan Speranza, administrative director of Behavioral Health Services at Inspira Health Center Woodbury. "And many people on the autism spectrum remain undiagnosed, which prevents them from obtaining the therapy and services that would help them learn to adjust and regulate their behaviors and moods."
Prior to diagnosis, many people on the autism spectrum are referred to behavioral health specialists. “But autism is a neurological disorder. Patients often have nuanced needs that are not necessarily addressed in a behavioral health setting,” said Beverly Lynch, LCSW, program manager of the Child and Adolescent Partial Hospitalization Program at Inspira Medical Center Woodbury.
The center will use a multidisciplinary approach to diagnose and serve as a resource to patients and families. It will also provide diagnostic services for children ages 4 and over, as well as adolescents and adults.
Using the autism diagnostic observation schedule (ADOS), the gold standard of diagnosis, the center will focus primarily on testing, but staff will also conduct social assessments, work with patients on social skills and develop emotional regulation support groups.
“Another one of our goals is to provide a safe space to help children get comfortable with doctor's office visits,” said Lynch. “We will help children become desensitized to the process of a regular visit and build skills in regulating emotions during routine checkups, vaccines and bloodwork.”
The center will also rely on a referral network to further support families across the spectrum of care. With open lines of communication across disciplines, physicians can collaborate to discuss symptoms, testing or relay more information on referrals. And staff at the center can also offer logistical support for obtaining Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coverage. The Autism Diagnostic Center accepts the same participating insurance plans as Inspira Health.
Primary care physicians (PCPs) are often the first line of care for child behavior and health concerns. These providers should be prepared to speak frankly with parents, explaining that Inspira offers a service that can give families the answers they might not get during their child’s regular checkup.
Providers and patients can contact the Autism Diagnostic Center via phone at (856) 575-4111, selecting option 3. If you have questions about the new center, please contact Beverly Lynch at LynchB@ihn.org.