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Worcester, MA: Autism center to profit from ASD epidemic; cause of autism unknown

Oct 28, 2019, Worcester (MA) Business Journal: New England Center for Children now a major international player https://www.wbjournal.com/article/new-england-center-for-children-now-a-major-international-player Vincent Strully has soaring ambitions for his autism care center founded in 1975. He wants the New England Center for Children to be for autism care and research as the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota is the sought-after place for general medicine, or the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston for oncology. With a presence in 18 countries, the New England Center for Children may be on its way, even if it doesn’t yet have the name recognition or reach of those other institutions. In September, the center said it was opening a school in Lebanon, expanding its Middle Eastern operations already including long-running programs in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. A total of 7,000 students now use its software, called the Autism Curriculum Encyclopedia, which helps teach those with autism and for instructors to gauge their progress. “The mission over the last 45 years has evolved consistently over time to develop solutions that could be scaled beyond just the students that the center serves,” said Strully, the Southborough center’s founder, president and CEO. Expansion follows rising prevalence NECC's growth has followed an increasing prevalence of autism. In 2000, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimated 1 in 150 children to have autism. Now, it's 1 in 59. There’s no consensus on exactly what causes autism, and no cure for it. Research indicates genetics are involved in the vast majority of cases, and children born to older parents are at a higher risk for having autism, according to the national advocacy group Autism Speaks. Early intervention can help children develop the right learning, communication and social skills. Wider prevalence has meant a growing need to help those with a disorder with social, communication or developmental challenges, or unusual interests or behaviors. For school districts, those unique obstacles can require more teachers in a classroom, and for those teachers to have specialized training. NECC developed a teaching model for public schools, growing from one classroom to more than 63 across Mass., Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. … Today, NECC has nearly 300 employees working abroad, and the center says its workers account for more than half of all board-certified behavior analysts in the Persian Gulf region. “This global demand began to find us as our reputation and success began to spread,” Strully said. Where the center doesn’t have employees, it has schools using its software, which helps educators and behavior analysts best work with students and track their progress. Around 7,000 students are now being taught with the software, but the center expects that number to eventually rise to 40,000, Strully said. …