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Autism Center

The Autism Center of The Studer Family Children's Hospital at Sacred Heart offers a range of services for children on the autism spectrum, including:

  • Direct, individualized Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. ABA is a research-based, systematic method for improving socially significant skills and behaviors.
  • Parent instruction and hands-on training
  • Social skills groups for various ages
  • Group training for families and professionals

Focusing on Family-Centered Care

At The Children's Hospital, we understand that each family has unique needs, and we strongly encourage you to be an active participant in your child’s therapy sessions, since family involvement makes an enormous impact on the effectiveness of a child's treatment. You are a valued member of your child’s care team, and your input regarding your child’s goals and treatment is a valued and necessary component of our services.

We also understand families need help and support in order to improve their child’s behavior, communication and social skills. To help your child succeed and to support you along this journey, we offer parent-training classes, individual consultation and hands-on instruction to maximize progress and achieve more significant gains.

Parent Education Classes

Our team offers the following classes to help you along your child's journey with autism. Space is limited, and pre-registration is required for all classes. Classes are open to all families facing autism in the community, no matter where you are receiving treatment. For more information and to see a complete list of class dates, please click on the links below:

  • What to Do While You Wait - If your child has recently been diagnosed with autism – or if you are currently awaiting an evaluation – the future may seem overwhelming! This free class will help connect you with community resources and provide tips for addressing your child’s behaviors. Learn more and register here.
  • ABCs of ABA - This free class is designed to help parents of children with autism learn more about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), how this therapy can benefit your child and what to look for when choosing an ABA-based autism center for your child’s care. Our instructors will provide tips for parenting an autistic child, such as how to handle tantrums and manage mealtime meltdowns. Learn more and register here.
  • Basics of Autism - This one-session class strives to help families understand the diagnostic process, identify a child’s social and communication deficits and learn what to expect in the future if your child has autism. The cost is $20/person or $30/couple. Learn more and register here.
  • Parent Empowerment Program - This three-session series is a hands-on learning opportunity to explore the basics of applied behavior analysis (ABA) and how to apply these techniques in working with children who struggle with problem behaviors, language deficits, and/or social impairments. PEP is taught by a board-certified behavior analyst and costs $120/person or $180/couple. Onsite child care is available during this class series by contacting Autism Pensacola at 850-434-7171. Learn more and register here.

Partnering with Local Resources

Collaboration is important to us. We coordinate with your child’s teachers, physicians, therapists and additional family members in order to help your child achieve maximum progress. We also partner with the University of West Florida, CARD, Autism Pensacola, Inc., Early Steps and the local school districts.

As an official practicum site for interns in the University of West Florida’s Master’s-Level ABA program, we are academically focused and leading our field using the latest research and best practices for our patients. Students conduct research, connect the latest research to practice and gain hands-on feedback from our experienced board-certified Behavior Analysts. Individualized data is monitored regularly by our leaders, and changes and adjustments are made according to specific protocols and feedback.

Setting the Standard for Autism Intervention

Our mission is to be recognized as a center of excellence, so our team sets standards far above those required by both insurance companies and the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.

Our strategies are based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA uses scientifically validated principles, such as motivation, reinforcement and prompting to improve important behaviors. That means increasing skills we want to see while eliminating or decreasing those that interfere with learning and the ability to develop new skills. Every member of our staff receives extensive training on these techniques. We have expertise in Verbal Behavior, a specialized type of ABA that focuses on the use of language and communication skills.

We are constantly reviewing the latest research in order to provide the most effective strategies for your child. To keep on the cutting-edge of autism treatment, members of our staff teach Master’s-level coursework in ABA, collaborate with university professors, consult with expert behavior analysts in the field, attend national conferences and trainings and pursue additional degrees and certifications.

Endorsing ABA Therapy

In June 2012, Dr. Vera Tait, an associate executive director with the American Academy of Pediatrics, publicly endorsed the use of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) treatments:

“The effectiveness of ABA-based interventions in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) has been well-documented through a long history of research in university and community settings,” Tait said. “Children who receive early intensive behavioral treatment have been shown to make substantial gains in cognition, language, academic performance, and adaptive behavior as well as some measures of social behavior, and their outcomes have been significantly better than those of children in control groups.”

“In short, though more research is needed, ABA has both long-term empirical and research data to demonstrate its effectiveness in helping children who are diagnosed with ASD, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed the use of ABA treatments when determined appropriate by physicians within a medical home, in close consultation with families.”

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More Information

For more information on services offered at the Sacred Heart Autism Center or to schedule an appointment, please call our office at 850-416-4681.

A referral from your pediatrician or primary care physician is required. Please ask your child’s physician to fax a referral form and script to 850-416-5223.

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