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The Knights of Columbus Developmental Center team celebrates their new space with Knights of Columbus and therapy dog Higgins.

SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center opened the St. Louis region’s largest pediatric developmental center, an 11,000-square-foot facility dedicated to helping children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. This $1.4 million space enables experts to see children with special needs in a health care setting developed just for them.
“The physicians and team members at the Knights of Columbus Developmental Center are leading the health care community in not only diagnosis and care of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, but in being advocates for children who are often unable to use their own voice,” said Sherlyn Hailstone, president of SSM Cardinal Glennon. “This new space will enable us to increase the world-class services and care we offer to children who need us and continue our understanding and treatment of autism.”

The new center was made possible through the generosity of the community and an exceptional partnership with the Knights of Columbus Columbian Charities Missouri State Council, who established the first developmental center in the region for kids with special needs in 1981. The Knights have continued to support the center each year through their fundraising activities and generously supported the expansion as well. In 2007, the Knights of Columbus Developmental Center was designated a Missouri Center for Autism by the Department of Mental Health.

 “We are so grateful that the Knights of Columbus had the foresight three decades ago to support a center dedicated just to children with developmental issues and with autism,” said Dan Buck, executive director of the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation. “We have been blessed with the support of so many wonderful organizations that have worked hard and given generously to support treatment and research to help children with a complex and increasingly prevalent diagnosis.”

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals of Greater St. Louis was an integral part of raising funds for the new dedicated center. The Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation and St. Louis Archdiocese also supported the new center though the Glennon Sunday campaign, an annual fundraiser that encourages parishioners of Catholic churches to provide a donation to the nation’s only free-standing Catholic pediatric hospital in the country each year. Many other funding sources contributed to the new Knights of Columbus Developmental Center. The new space includes the departments of Psychology and Psychiatry as well.

Children with autism often have difficulty with too much stimulation and crowds. The new center, located just a block from the hospital’s main campus, is designed to be a soothing and comforting space for families. The dedicated space allows children to see a medical team without the excessive stimulation that a busy hospital setting would bring.

As the medical community increases its understanding of autism spectrum disorders, the Knights of Columbus Developmental Center has created innovative and unique approaches to treating patients with autism, such as a dog intervention clinic. A developmental pediatrician and psychologist work in conjunction with facility dog Higgins to help address each patients individualized needs such as their anxiety with getting their blood pressure taken, poor social interaction with others, or fear of getting a haircut. In addition, PEERS (Program for the Evaluation and Enrichment of Relational Skills) is a clinical program that teaches teens with high-functioning autism how to make and keep friends.

“Children with autism spectrum disorders don’t see the world in the same way that others do,” said Dr. Rolanda Maxim, medical director of Knights of Columbus Developmental Center and associate professor of Pediatrics at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. “Each child with autism is unique. Some children with autism are unable to communicate in a way we can easily understand. We are constantly striving to be innovative and find the best ways to treat autism. One approach will not work with every child, but by offering a multitude of treatment options, we are able to find something that works for every child.”

The Knights of Columbus Developmental Center includes a team of experts in developmental pediatrics, neurology, genetics, psychiatry, psychology, clinical nurses, speech-language pathology occupational therapy, family resource specialist, education coordinator, research team and support staff.

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