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Fortville center will offer autism services

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Leah McKenzie, founder of Autism Spectrum Disorder Services, has worked with families coping with autism for several years. (Photo provided)
Leah McKenzie, founder of Autism Spectrum Disorder Services, has worked with families coping with autism for several years. (Photo provided)

FORTVILLE — A company that specializes in helping families coping with autism has opened in Fortville, and advocates say it will fill a longstanding gap in services.

Families seeking treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder historically have had to go to Indianapolis or elsewhere to get help. ASD Services is the first entity in Hancock County to specialize in a key form of therapy for individuals on the Autism Spectrum.

The company’s founder and executive director is Leah McKenzie, a board-certified behavioral analyst who has worked in the field for nearly a decade.

“There’s still definitely a great need for support services for individuals with disabilities,” McKenzie said. “Most of our clients are focused in the Fortville, McCordsville and Greenfield area.”

The company’s headquarters will be at 406 S. Maple St. in Fortville.

Denise Arland, executive director of F.U.S.E. (Families United for Support and Encouragement) in Hancock County, said ASD Services will fill an important role for families dealiing with special needs.

“I do see a big need for services like hers. There’s nothing available in Hancock County for families,” Arland said. “Most of our families are traveling to Marion County or Johnson County or Hamilton County.”

F.U.S.E. works to provide information, resources and support for local families raising children with special needs.

Those families don’t always know where to turn for help. Now, Arland’s organization and others can refer families to McKenzie’s services, which include a specialized type of therapy called Applied Behavior Therapy. It has been recognized by the U.S. Surgeon General as an effective procedure for teaching children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder how to learn and communicate effectively.

McKenzie graduated from Purdue University with a degree in speech pathology and audiology, working with children and adults with developmental disabilities in private and public school as a speech pathologist. She then became a behavioral therapist while pursuing her master’s degree in special education through Indiana University. After graduating, McKenzie worked with ABA therapy providing behavioral intervention, social, life and vocational skills training to promote independence.

ASD Services will offer full-day, half-day, in-home, in-center and evening programming for ABA therapy services. ASD Services also provides Medicaid waiver services; children’s special health-care services and diagnostic assessments; and a preschool program for children ages 3 to 5.

The Fortville facility can serve about 20 clients and will start with about 10 employees. The goal is to expand as the need arises, and McKenzie predicted that another 15 to 20 therapists eventually will be needed.

“Autism services are very much needed in Hancock County, and we are very excited to be opening a center to serve multiple children and families,” McKenzie said. McKenzie had been working in homes of clients; she also saw clients at her own home. Those days are over.

“It’s a great location. We have great access to the community, as far as being able to do community outings,” McKenzie said of the new offices in Fortville. “Everything is within walking distance.”

That kind of access will allow clients to work on community skills and interactions, including making purchases at nearby shops.

ASD Services of Indiana is running two camps this summer. At Precision Teaching camp, clients can focus on math and reading skills. The event is for all kids struggling academically between kindergarten and fourth grade. A Life Skills camp is also in the works that will teach job skills, social skills and life skills. There will also be an open house and a free parent training day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

More information about ASD Services of Indiana is available on the web at www.asdservicesofindiana.org. The company also has a Facebook page.

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