Students from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia are gearing up to provide on the go services to children with autism in the Central Appalachian region. Faculty and graduate students at Virginia Tech transformed a vehicle that was previously used for recreational activities into a traveling clinic.
Beginning in Spring 2018, both students and faculty will travel over 100 miles several times throughout the week. Angela Scarpa is an associate professor of psychology at Virginia Tech and is also leading the mobile clinic project. Scarpa said to the Herald Courier, “Appalachia is one of the most underserved regions in the country, leaving many families with no place to turn”. The traveling clinic will allow the students and faculty to travel to those in need, rather than the families and their children traveling far distances to find resources.
Denis Gracanin, an associate professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Computer Science, will be among the clinic’s members. Gracanin shared with Virginia Tech’s News of his plans to incorporate technology so they can communicate with families when the mobile clinic is not visiting the area. “We want to develop an intervention that targets parent training in rural areas,” said Scarpa to Virginia Tech News. “The idea is to reduce the disparities in access to evidence-based care for autism in these areas.” Scarpa, a licensed psychologist mentions to Virginia Tech News author, Jenny Kincaid Boone, how difficult it is to find qualified individuals to work in the Appalachian regions of Virginia. It is common for children with autism spectrum disorder to be diagnosed later than those not living in the Appalachian region.
The RV, a 2004 Itasca by Winnebago Spirit RV, is still undergoing renovations. The clinic will provide therapy for both families and children with autism spectrum disorder. They also want the vehicle to be equipped with space for meetings and sitting areas.