By Tony Cabrera
Children’s Hospital of Orange County is preparing to open a one-of-a kind autism center that provides multiple resources and support services under one roof.
“The biggest thing here is the multi-disciplinary approach. The team approach. It’s collaborative care in every sense of the word,” said Dr. Tom Megerian, the clinical director for the Thompson Autism Center, which is just blocks away from CHOC Children’s Hospital.
Until now, if his patients had other conditions in addition to autism, they would come to the hospital or clinic for each separate appointment.
“So you’ve got someone who’s coming in maybe one day for their appointment for their psychiatrist, another day for their therapist, another day for their G.I. doctor. That’s three, four, five days that they have to miss school. That’s three or four or five days that the parents have to miss work. And that may repeat itself two or three times during the year,” he said.
This new clinic is a one-stop-shop, something he says is a big advantage.
“They can’t wait. Every family that I’ve spoken to, when I tell them that we’re moving here, they want to know when. They just cannot wait and they’re so excited,” said Megerian.
The building is designed to create a welcoming atmosphere for kids with autism, so it feels less like a sterile clinic, and more like a fun place to be.
“Everything from the flow, how we set up all the places there was interface, how we move the patient from one area to the other, it was all really thoughtfully designed,” he said.
Eventually the center will provide care for about 2,000 or more kids. And the people who have signed up to work with them are what Megerian says will truly set this place apart.
“To see that passion of people who want to be here because they want to work with these families and kids, it’s something that I’ve never seen before and I’m really thrilled about it,” he said.
The soft opening is this February with current patients. New patients will be accepted sometime in March.