Detroit center builds brighter future for autistic youth

Special Education and Behavioral Connections opens door to families in need

DETROIT - About 1 in 68 children are identified with autism spectrum disorder, a disorder that is seen across all races and genders.

"Things that were previously diagnosed as maybe just global mental retardation are now being diagnosed as autism," said Madeline Budzen, behavior analyst at Special Education and Behavioral Connections.

Developmental problems are frequently noticed before a child's first birthday, but many go undiagnosed until the child is between the ages of 3 and 8.

"What happens between 3 and 8?" asked Mitch Albom.

"If the child is not diagnosed, the behavioral issues will increase. They probably aren't developing good communication skills, and then that puts a lot of stress on the families," Budzen said.

Special Education and Behavioral Connections opened its Detroit office in March thanks to Rev. Dr. Jim Holley's donation of the building adjacent to his Little Rock Baptist Church. In its fledgling year, Connections is serving a community that was once out of reach.

"These children are smart," Holley said. "They learn in a different way, and this is why I feel this is so important for Detroit."

Connections runs on the Michigan Child Waiver program. Each child has a program designed especially for him or her that touches on areas like social communication and simple language skills. In just a short time, organizers have seen the children blossom.

"I think the greatest joy is when he comes out of the program, he runs to me with this smile that just brightens up my face," said Bridget S., a grandparent of a child with autism.

Opening a door to families in need, Special Education and Behavioral Connections is building a brighter future for autistic youth in the heart of Detroit.

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