Unique Institute Opened This Month

September 24, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Michigan's only institute that can deal with difficulties ranging from autism to learning disabilities opened this month in offices on 36th Street.

According to Hope Network Behavioral Health Services, the new entity is the Institute for Neurodevelopmental Differences.

The institute, according to Hope, deals primarily with children — but also adults — afflicted by mental retardation, autistic spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, genetic and metabolic disorders, fetal alcohol syndrome, and multiple/complex disabilities.

Hope indicates that the institute, located at

3333 36th St. SE
, is the only program of its kind in the state providing a "comprehensive continuum of specialized, state-of-the-art behavioral health services."

David Laman, Ph.D., the institute's director, termed the center's approach unique in that it helps people "understand their differences and learn how to take advantage of their strengths to function more effectively and offset problems.

"This approach contrasts," Laman said, "with approaches that focus on what is wrong with a person or (that) just identify disabilities."

Laman said that while many neurodevelopmental disorders are not curable, treatment can make a difference in a child's life.

"For example, many children with autism experience anxiety, which, if left untreated, causes them to withdraw even more and appear as if they're more autistic than they really are."

He said the institute offers comprehensive evaluations, including differential diagnosis of neurodevelopmental conditions and mental health and behavioral issues, personality assessment, guardianship assessment and more complex neuropsychological testing.

He also indicated clinicians at the institute provide consultation to schools and community agencies, and participate in local and national conferences.

According to Hope, the institute also offers individual and family therapy plus brief consultation to help parents and children improve emotional function, behavior regulation, problem solving and coping.

Group treatment is available to children and adolescents, siblings, parents and other adults needed to address issues such as coping, managing anger, interpersonal issues and sexuality.

"The earlier we can start working with children and their families, the better," Laman said.

"The less we have to undo, the faster children can learn to function more effectively.

"They need to learn skills that are taught in very specific, positive and consistent ways," he added. "If they don't establish positive coping skills," he said, "they are much more likely to have significant behavioral and mental health problems."

Late this autumn, the institute also will provide residential treatment for adolescents with neurodevelopmental differences and with mental health and behavior problems that make it impossible for them to live at home.

More information about the institute is available by calling (616) 942-2522.

Hope Network and its affiliate, Hope Network Behavioral Services, provides services for people experiencing mental illness, Alzheimer's disease and other dementia.    

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