Diagnosis and Treatment of Autism in Infants and Toddlers Advances at Albert Einstein College of Medicine's Children's Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center

April 22, 2005 -- (BRONX,NY) -- An advanced program for diagnosing and treating infant and toddlers with autism has been established at the Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center (CERC) at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. The program, known as RELATE, provides comprehensive services for to the youngest patients, from birth to age four.

Autism, characterized by impairment of communication skills, social interactions and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, affects an estimated one of every 160 children in the United States. It is the most severe of five pervasive developmental disorders known as autistic spectrum disorders.

“Children who are diagnosed with autism or related disorders at a very early age can respond very well to a very intensive treatment program,” explained Dr. Lisa Shulman, a developmental pediatrician and director of the Infant/Toddler Team at Einstein, under whose auspices the RELATE program falls.

RELATE is an acronym for Rehabilitation, Evaluation and Learning for Autistic Infants and Toddlers at Einstein. The program offers in-depth multidisciplinary diagnostic evaluations and treatment for children, from birth to preschool, with language, social or behavioral difficulties including autism and related disorders. 

“RELATE has allowed us to give a name to a set of services we have been offering to the Bronx community for more than a decade,” said Deborah Meringolo, associate director of the Infant/Toddler Team. Over the last ten years, the number of children referred with symptoms of autism has doubled. “Originally 15 to 18 percent of referrals to our unit were for autism and related disorders; now its about 30 percent,” she explained. 

“A diagnosis of autism opens the door to more intensive therapy services at the local, city and state level than any other developmental disorder, and the children have a better prognosis, “ Dr. Shulman continued. “One of the main services we provide is helping parents obtain an appropriate therapeutic program, either at Einstein’s Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center, in the child’s school district, or in the home,” she said. Families living in the five boroughs of New York City, New Jersey, Westchester, Rockland, Long Island, Connecticut and as far away as South Carolina and Michigan are referred to Einstein’s RELATE program for diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorders. 

Dr. Shulman and the Infant/Toddler Team at Einstein use the “gold standard” of diagnostic tests, known as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, or ADOS, to assess the child’s ability to communicate, to engage, and to interact socially at age appropriate levels. Once the diagnosis is made, be it autism or a less severe disability, a comprehensive intervention plan is recommended. 
Further information about the RELATE program, can be obtained by telephoning Deborah Meringolo at (718) 430-3914. Services are also provided in Spanish. 

The Children's Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center at Einstein is one of the largest and most comprehensive centers of its kind in the United States. Started in 1956, a year after the Albert Einstein College of Medicine opened, it provides a broad range of clinical services to infants, children, adolescents and, despite its name, adults who suffer from severe physical, developmental and emotional disorders, including language and learning disorders. A voluntary, nonsectarian clinical care facility, it provides diagnostic and therapeutic services to more than 7,000 children and their families annually, and provides training to more than 1,000 professionals.