Mobile Autism Clinic wins innovation award from Virginia State Office of Rural Health

Mobile Autism Clinic

At the 4th annual Northern Virginia Autism Research Symposium, held in Falls Church in September 2018, attendees of the conference queued to tour the Virginia Tech Mobile Autism Clinic.

The Virginia Tech Autism Clinic and Center for Autism Research’s Mobile Autism Clinic has won the 2019 Innovative Rural Award from the Virginia State Office of Rural Health (VA-SORH).

The award was presented at a recent annual grantee and partnership meeting hosted by VA-SORH in Roanoke. Part of the Virginia Department of Health, the agency honored the Virginia Tech Autism Clinic and Center for Autism Research for their innovation and leadership in “being one of the only autism specialty clinics in Southwest Virginia.”

Meeting attendees included important players in the realm of rural health, such as the Health Wagon, Carilion Clinic, the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Virginia Rural Health Association, the State Office of Health Equity, and United Way Southwest, among others.

“I am delighted that we’ve received this recognition,  said Jennifer Scott, rural outreach coordinator for the autism clinic, part of the Department of Psychology in the Virginia Tech College of Science. “And our amazing team of student clinicians and dedicated faculty and staff are fortunate that we get to see the appreciation on the faces of families and children when we bring these services close to where they live.”

The Mobile Autism Clinic (MAC for short) — a converted 2004 Itasca Spirit Winnebago — launched in June 2018, in partnership with the Mount Rogers Community Services Board and serves the counties of Bland, Carroll, Grayson, Smyth, and Wythe, and the city of Galax. It provides clinical care, support, and therapy sessions for families and children who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a group of developmental disorders that impacts a person’s ability to communicate and function socially in many areas of life. The clinic recently began offering diagnostic assessments for children suspected of having ASD.

The MAC has logged more than 3,300 miles thus far. The Mobile Autism Clinic was launched by Angela Scarpa, a professor of psychology and director of the Autism Clinic and Center for Autism Research. Scarpa knows the unfulfilled needs of families with autism in rural areas. Before starting the Blacksburg-based clinic in 2005, she drove her son, who has autism, three hours each way to the University of Virginia Child Development and Rehabilitation Center in Charlottesville for evaluations and care.

Scarpa received a $99,800 grant from the nonprofit Malone Family Foundation as part of its atypical development initiative program to buy and renovate the RV and hire Scott, and from Autism Speaks to hire a graduate clinician.

“Virginia Tech looks forward to finding ways to improve access to autism specialty services for rural families who otherwise might not be able to get what they need,” Scarpa said. “The need is strong, as there is a wait list for families seeking assessment and care.”



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