Congratulations to Susan Hyman, who was recently recognized by the UR Medicine Faculty Group for "Innovation in Autism and IDD Care." This article originally appeared in Dr. Michael Rotondo's year-end report to faculty.
Pediatricians. Neurologists. Psychiatrists. Treating children with autism requires input from many specialists who are often scattered across the area. At URMC’s innovative William and Mildred Levine Autism Clinic, they all work under one roof — and that’s only one part of the groundbreaking approach fostered by Susan Hyman, M.D.
At her behest, the recently opened Clinic was built with a nature theme, soft colors, oblique angles and noise reduction features that meet the unique needs of patients with autism and IDDs (intellectual or developmental disabilities.) The sensory friendly design is literally part of the treatment.
“Many patients with autism have difficulty filtering important information from background noise,” said Hyman, professor of Pediatrics and chief of the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. “The building’s layout and features actually provide filters for our patients, through the use of lighting that eliminates the flicker of fluorescents, exam room layouts that permit uninterrupted eye contact, and specialized areas for feeding therapy, developmental testing and behavior treatments.”
The design and the emphasis on co-location, which was conceived and coordinated by Hyman and her team, also encourages formal and informal collaboration among faculty, who address the needs of children with autism comprehensively instead of looking at each symptom individually. Faculty from different disciplines can easily offer combined patient consultations, and care teams can quickly be brought together for a psychological consult or other urgent service.
Patients and families also benefit in other ways. Instead of making multiple appointments at multiple locations, they receive care in one place from one closely coordinated team, which Hyman hopes will contribute to improved outcomes with this patient population.
Although it sounds simple, the approach is in fact novel. The Levine Autism Clinic is the first standalone center in the region — and perhaps in the nation — to integrate autism care with pediatric neuromedicine and child and adolescent psychiatry services. As a member of the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, it’s also one of 13 sites in the U.S. and Canada that follow a standard protocol for autism diagnosis and treatment.
“By providing the same standard of care, we can better measure outcomes and modify treatments,” Hyman said. “Treating patients with autism comes with many challenges. Many of them have difficulty communicating or require care from many specialties. The Levine Clinic helps overcome those challenges.”