One of the more challenging aspects of being the parent of a child with autism is finding the right services and professionals to help your child. The surge in autism has taxed the services available. Long wait times, difficulty obtaining appointments and little coverage of services is the norm. However, with the constant advocacy of parents and organizations focused on autism, services for autism in Birmingham are improving over time.
The following list is not meant to be an exhaustive list of every single resource available in Birmingham. However, these are programs, services and providers that are recognized as being particularly focused on autism spectrum issues.
The first step in most parent’s journey is getting a correct diagnosis. Getting a good quality diagnosis that will be recognized by the school system typically means finding a psychologist that works with those on autism spectrum regularly. This step is also necessary to receive the proper supports in school settings as well. Psychologists can also work with the family to address behavioral strategies and emotional issues.
- Vulcan Psychology Group This group includes the top psychologists for autism and Asperger’s in Birmingham, including Dr. Matthew Remick who was one of the founders of Mitchells’s Place. All of the practitioners here are very experienced with the autism spectrum.
- Pitts and Associates
- Bair, Peacock, McDonald and McMullan, P.C. Dr. Stephen Bell has experience in working with Asperger’s and ADHD.
- Ackerson and Associates This group focuses on neuropsychology. Some school systems like this approach for diagnosis.
Once you have a diagnosis, identifying the service providers for various therapies is next on the list.
Located in Cahaba Heights, Puzzle Piece offers a variety of therapies in a fun, child centered environment for therapies ranging from social skills to speech and language skills. Owner Renee Plata has personal experience as an autism parent that brings a special level of care to their services.
One of the first autism specific service providers in the state, Mitchell’s Place has a large number of service providers and treatment options. Everything from ABA to develop verbal skills to after school social skills groups for kids with Asperger’s.
This group is not autism only, but does have a number of therapists and therapies that are useful to children on the spectrum, ranging from occupation and physical therapy to speech therapy.
The Medical Autism Clinic (MAC) is located in The Children's Hospital of Alabama at Birmingham and serves children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). This group provides assessments, evaluations and referrals for issues from eating to hearing to motor skills and more. Note that this group is focused on assessments and will likely refer to other service providers. However, proper assessment is a key to getting the right services for your child.
Devoted to providing treatment, education, and research in the area of children’s mental health, including autism, Glenwood provides inpatient, outpatient and summer services for children with all types of mental health issues. The campus includes the Cott School, a program for children with autism.
The Alabama Autism and Asperger Info and Support Network was designed and implemented by an autism parent. It is worth reviewing past discussion threads to find information about providers, school systems and resources.
The Autism Society of Alabama is a major resource for those with autism. In addition, ASA maintains a website that provides up to date information and provides direct links to other important informational sites. Not only are there treatment resources listed, but also fun, autism specific activities, such as reduced sensory movie times and early entry to events like the recent Lego convention at the BJCC.
The Resources page for Autism Society of Alabama has big list of services and service providers across the state and deserves a bookmark on any autism parent’s computer.
Wrights Law Started by parents that needed then hard to find information for the IEP process, Wrights Law is the most comprehensive location for information as you go into the IEP or 504 process with your school system. Over the years, this site has gone beyond basic IEP law information to positive strategies in the IEP process.
There are no autism specific schools (other than Alan Cott at Glenwood) for children on the spectrum in Birmingham.
Most children on the spectrum in Birmingham receive schooling through the public school systems which means working with school to develop and implement an appropriate IEP. A large number are homeschooled.
However, a few of the private schools have situations that make them uniquely suited for some children on the spectrum.
This private school focuses on students with learning differences. The structured setting coupled with inclusion of child specific interventions (for example, most students type their work instead of writing since many of the students have dyspraxia) may be a good fit for some children with ADHD and Asperger’s.
This school has no autism specific programs. However, the Waldorf approach – with its focus on natural materials and lights, very clear routines and calm teaching style – may work well for some children on the spectrum that are comfortable learning in a group setting. Classes range from preschool programs to middle school. The Waldorf community, including the parents and other students, are kind and accepting. The school is in the process of building a new, updated campus.
The Horizon School provides a residential, college like setting for mildly disabled students with learning issues aged 18-26.
SPECIAL EDUCATION ATTORNEYS
When parents find they are in disagreement with the program or services offered by the public school in an IEP, and cannot reach an acceptable compromise, a parent should consider consulting with a special education lawyer. There are very few attorneys in Alabama that focus on special education litigation. Here are the two that specialize in special education issues in Birmingham.
Deborah Mattison, J.D., Wiggins and Childs
AUTISM SUPPORT IN THE ALABAMA LEGISLATURE
Cam Ward is an autism parent and has been the Alabama State Representative for District 14 since 2010.
Ward is chairman of the Autism Task Force of Alabama and recently announced the launch of Autism Alabama, "an on-line library providing distance learning for teachers who have children on the autism spectrum. He often supports autism specific legislation in the Alabama legislature.
Contact information for Cam Ward can be found here.
Note: Hanson Watkins is the parent of a child with autism and has been a client or used many of the services listed.