The Appalachian Valley Autism (AVA) Center at Pikeville Medical Center (PMC) is the recipient of the Marathon Community Giving Investment Program Grant for Thriving Communities. PMC will use the funds to purchase outdoor multi-sensory stimulation equipment at the AVA Center’s satellite campus in Prestonsburg. Opened in 2020, the AVA Center is the first comprehensive certified autism facility of its kind in the region. It serves children 2-12 years of age diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and utilizes the fundamental principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy to assist children and their families in Eastern Kentucky.

By adding ABA Therapy and Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) in conjunction with existing speech, occupational and physical therapy, children on the autism spectrum can receive the specialized therapies they need and deserve close to home. In addition to elevating the therapeutic sessions and broadening therapeutic techniques, the new area is expected to increase learner and family satisfaction, improve learner transitions and promote self-regulation techniques while expanding their attention span. It will also serve as an additional avenue to address, assess and evaluate their progress through natural play.

At the AVA Center, each learner has a dedicated therapist who provides ongoing progress assessments and evaluations; the therapist is also responsible for administering the child’s individualized program.  The AVA Center also offers the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule™ (ADOS™ -2). During an ADOS assessment, a specialist interacts directly with the child in social and play activities to accurately assess and diagnose autism spectrum disorder across age, developmental level and language skills. The comprehensive, multi-disciplinary teams at the AVA Center can identify autism spectrum disorder with early detection techniques to provide quality integrated care for children and support the best possible quality of life for children with ASD and their families.

“In recent years, PMC has made major advances and greatly improved the quality of pediatric services offered in Eastern Kentucky, but the biggest difference, especially for parents and grandparents of children with Autism, is when the silence is finally broken due to these life-changing therapies offered at the AVA Center,” said PMC Chairman, President and CEO Donovan Blackburn. “With over 500 children on the AVA Center waiting list, we must continue working to meet those needs.  Together, we can and are creating a tremendous difference in communities across Eastern Kentucky.”