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‘Positive Strides’

Inspira Health’s new Autism Diagnostic Center fills critical need in region.

Amelia Holmes is pictured with her equine friend Rip, who helps many with health and wellness therapies at Hit the Stars Learning with Horses, located in Leesburg.
Amelia Holmes is pictured with her equine friend Rip, who helps many with health and wellness therapies at Hit the Stars Learning with Horses, located in Leesburg.

Inspira Health recently opened its Autism Diagnostic Center (ADC) to address a critical need in southern New Jersey. The ADC is designed to offer early testing, diagnosis, and comprehensive resources to children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), New Jersey now has the third highest rate of autism in the U.S.—1 in 35, or 2.8 percent of eight-year-old children and 1 in 51, or 2.0 percent of four-year-old children have autism spectrum disorder. However, other than the newly established diagnostic center, few options and availability exist in South Jersey.

“There have been positive strides taken within the community to better educate and inform an understanding of ASD; however, there is still a critical need for an assessment and diagnostic center to initiate services,” says Megan Zold, LCSW, ASDCS, who works with patients in the center. “Inspira’s new center is dedicated to evaluation and diagnosis of autism in a timely manner. This will streamline the process to appropriate interventions and support across settings.”

Inspira Health’s ADC represents a pivotal step toward nurturing the well-being of children with ASD and their families.” says Kate McMullin LCSW, RPT, ASDCS. “Diagnostic services are also needed for adolescents and adults who have been experiencing challenges within the mental health system and are questioning their current diagnosis or experiencing barriers with current treatment,”

The Autism Diagnostic Center was funded by a $3 million grant from the state of New Jersey and is projected to help countless families receive critically important diagnoses. The ADC utilizes the gold standard autism diagnostic observation schedule (ADOS2).

Additionally, the ADC provides services that extend beyond diagnoses, providing community support services and case management. The center also enhances school-based teams’ ability to identify ASD, potentially reducing unnecessary struggles and misdiagnoses that can fracture family support systems and lead to long-term residential care, if left untreated.

Amelia’s Story: The story of Amelia Holmes and her mother Amy underscores the importance of the new center for the community and the critical need for early intervention and care close to home. Amelia, age 14, was only recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the ADC. After years without a clear diagnosis the New Jersey teen took it upon herself to research autism, find the center and with the help and support of her parents, seek help.

“It wasn’t until Amelia educated herself about autism that our family considered that it could be a possibility,” shared her mother, Amy Holmes. “We were repeatedly told she was hyperactive and anxious, yet something didn’t seem right.”

After visiting the Autism Diagnostic Center, Amy felt reassured. “They gave us an incredibly thorough evaluation and diagnosis that provided us with a clearer understanding of Amelia’s challenges. It was a relief to finally get a better understanding and begin to move our family toward a path of acceptance and support.”

The ADC’s personalized approach to diagnosis and care planning stood out for Amy. “It was the most supportive environment for us and the staff’s holistic approach made me feel like they are truly here for us,” she said. “It’s not just a ‘goodbye, here’s your diagnosis, good luck.’ It’s a long-term relationship where they support you and provide vitally important resources for your journey ahead.”

Accolades Voiced: “The Autism Diagnostic Center represents an important investment in our children’s futures,” says State Senator Nilsa I. Cruz-Perez, who was instrumental in securing the funding Inspira received from the state of New Jersey. “The opening of this center is the right response to a crucial necessity within our community for accurate ASD diagnoses and ongoing resources, ensuring that our families have the support they need close to home.”

“Supporting parents in their lifelong journey of raising their children is critical—even more so when supporting parents of children with autism. Providing tangible solutions to families managing Autism Spectrum Disorder is a smart investment in the future of our State,” says Assembly Majority Leader Louis D. Greenwald, who also was key in helping Inspira secure funding for the new center. “The ADC is more than a building. It represents the promise of early detection, guidance, and enduring community support for our children.”

“I was proud to advocate for the funding for this vitally important project last year in our state budget,” said Assemblyman William F. Moen. “I am thrilled to see this resource come to fruition and serve children and families in need, not only in our district, but across the state. A child without an autism diagnosis does not typically have access to the necessary services and therapies that will help them; and this new autism diagnostic center works to address that issue.” n

The Inspira Health ADC is located at 1038 E. Chestnut Avenue, Suite 140, Vineland. To schedule an early intervention evaluation, call the NJ Intervention Early Statewide Toll Free Referral Number: 1-888-653-4463.