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White Plains Welcomes New Autism Research Center

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Dozens of autism advocates hacked away at a gym on New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s Westchester campus, breaking ground on an 11,000-square-foot autism research, education and service headquarters.

Once the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain opens in early 2013, the collaboration between New York-Presbyterian Hospital , two affiliated medical schools and the New York Center for Autism will grow into “a beacon” for those on the autism spectrum, said hospital CEO Steven Corwin.

“When the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) tells you that there’s an epidemic of autism in our country, you know that you’re dealing with something of serious proportions,” said Corwin, who grew up in White Plains. “We intend for this center to really be a beacon for the care of children with autism, to help translate scientific discovery into action.”

More than $12 million in private donations will transform the 1894-era gym into a research center initially staffed with 20 employees, but with space to grow. It will include comprehensive services for the one in 88 Americans diagnosed with autism, said  Laura Slatkin, co-founder of the New York Center for Autism.

“We will create housing, employment, recreational and community integration programs and work hard to ensure that this center will address a critical issue at hand: how do we treat and provide services that enable individuals with autism to lead independent and productive and joyful lives?” Slatkin said.

Cathy Lord has been selected as the center’s director. She intends to help families understand the disease better while learning to work through the weaknesses and accentuate the strengths of those with autism.

The open, well-lit center will be organized around a “village” and feature rooms that can be identified by their color and noise-prevention technology.

White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach said the city “couldn’t wait until this facility is up and running.”

“The idea that within our city we’re going to have a state-of-the-art, cutting-edge research center for people who have this, is a wonderful thing,” Roach said. “We’re happy to be a part of it.”

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