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December 08, 2016
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Center for Discovery expansion plans; High risk assessment clinic

Dollard said that one of the things that makes the center unique among places of its kind, is that he brought nurses into the center of the operation 30 years ago. He said, “Nurses came to us with a holistic notion of the whole person.” Today, he said, “We have the brightest medical division of any place in the country run by nurses. They tell the neurologists what to do.”

Tools for assessment

Theresa Hamlin, associate executive director of the organization, gave an example of the work that will be done at the assessment center. She said that kids that come to the center with autism have severe behavioral problems that are caused by even more severe medical problems. She said there is still not a good understanding about autism, although it is known that there is a genetic component involving multiple genes and “there is certainly an environmental component,” which is one reason that the center has been a champion of green buildings.

She said some of the children that come to the center can’t be handled by their parents, the schools or doctors because, “they’re literally tearing the physician’s office apart.”

She said, “We have two classrooms and an observation space that are wired with very sensitive camera technology, audio sensing and bio sensors, which measures your autonomic nervous system; in particular we’re looking at electrodermal activity, which is a measure of stress. So we can actually see the internal stress state of the child through this technology.”

Hamlin said with the technology they have, which is brand new, she can tell a computer to gather all of the incidents in which a child has, for instance, hit his head, and “within 20 minutes I will have the 160 episodes where that behavior happened.”

She displayed a chart in which stress heart rates and specific behaviors are measured, and explained the information. At one point the heart rate jumped significantly, and the child lost control of himself. Just before that, the teacher gave the child a task to solve, a problem which he could not do. People in the room would assume that the task was the reason for the blowup. But a look at the chart shows that the child’s stress level started to skyrocket three minutes previous to the blow-up, so the trigger was something else.