New autism centre built on campus

By Kaleem Khan

Autism is a developmental disorder that on average, 1 in 100 people have. Males are four times as likely to be affected.

Symptoms of Autism include language issues, a lack of social skills and the inability to maintain eye contact. With rates increasing every year,  the University of Calgary’s Child Development Centre and the newly founded Ability Hub aim to aggregate data regarding mental disorders from Canada as well as around the world.

Built in 2007, the CDC has gained the highest rating by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. As the largest LEED healthcare building in Canada, it integrates practical community-based programs with research on autism.

“Say, for example, you’re a medical student and you’re taking a course on early brain development. You can actually come in and observe in that environment or even come in and do a practicum,” said Margaret Clarke, executive director of the Sinneave Foundation, which funds the Ability Hub. The second floor houses child development services such as the autism clinic, a fetal alcohol syndrome clinic, a child abuse program, and a family violence program.

Attached are research and policy arms, including the Alberta Centre for Child, Family and Community Research.

The Ability Hub, newly opened in October 2011, is focused on services and programs for people with autism. The goal of the new centre is to follow kids with autism past the early years and teach independent living skills as they grow. The centre features architecture designed with autism in mind, with sound dampening panels, flickerless lights and curved walls.

“As someone who works here everyday, I can tell you that I do feel much better everyday,” said Clarke about helping kids and adults with autism.

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