Monthly Milestones | April 2018

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Monthly Milestones | August 2017

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Milestones 2017 Honoree Nicole Gerami – Community Innovator

Speech-language pathologist Nicole Gerami has served children in public schools, clinical settings and private practice for more than two decades. A Milestones 2017 honoree of the Community Innovator Award, Nicole is the founder of Friendship in Teams (FIT™), a groundbreaking program for children with autism. In its 10th year, FIT is Northeast Ohio’s only social skills program where children learn valuable social thinking, conversation and self-regulation tools in a fun, movement-based environment. FIT has branched out to include a Cleveland east and west side operation, as well as a Middle Tennessee branch. Together, these programs serve hundreds of children with autism and other disabilities.

Nicole is also founder and owner of Nicole Gerami, LLC, where she and her staff treat children with autism in individual and small group therapy. She is a member of the adjunct faculty in the Department of Communication Sciences at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State University where she trains graduate students in communication sciences so that they can learn her methodologies and help children on the autism spectrum.

Fully licensed by both the Ohio Board of Speech Pathology and Audiology and the Ohio Department of Education, Gerami is also a certified member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and a frequent lecturer for the Ohio Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Milestones, Northern Speech Services, and the University Hospitals of Zürich in Switzerland.

Gerami is in the process of publishing her next book in Switzerland about helping children with autism learn to engage in conversation and narratives.

How do you feel your efforts have impacted the autism and special needs community?

I have dedicated my career to helping children on the autism spectrum. Through my publications in the US and Switzerland, lectures, and the development of both my private practice and the FIT Program, I have created a broad range of therapy services for children with autism. This has allowed me to reach approximately 200 children and families per week. My passion for helping children to communicate effectively and to maximize their ability to improve their social skills has spurred my creativity in designing new and exciting programs where children can thrive among their peers.
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Milestones 2017 Honoree Dr. Stephen L. Ruedrich – Research & Medicine

Dr. Stephen L. Ruedrich, Milestones 2017 honoree of the Research & Medicine Award, was profoundly impacted by his first encounter with patients with autism and intellectual disabilities. Inspired by the courage of the individuals he met, Ruedrich decided to dedicate his career to making life better for persons with developmental disabilities and behavioral disorders.

More than 40 years after that first experience, Dr. Ruedrich, who serves as the L. Douglas Lenkoski Professor of Psychiatry at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, continues to positively impact the region by helping to demystify the process of seeking and receiving psychiatric care for patients and families.

In addition to his role at Case, Dr. Ruedrich serves as Vice-Chair, Chief of the Division of Adult Psychiatry and Chief Quality Officer in the Department of Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland. At University Hospitals, he has continued and expanded a focused clinical practice serving adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities with co-morbid psychiatric or behavioral disorders.

How do you feel your efforts have impacted the autism and special needs community?

I hope that our work has made it easier for persons in Northeast Ohio with autism and special needs, who also have psychiatric or behavioral disorders, to seek and receive psychiatric care, and for their families to participate in their assessment and treatment. Our goal has been to normalize and demystify this process for patients and families, so that their level of comfort and confidence in seeking psychiatric care makes our office visit just one more pleasant community outing.
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Milestones 2017 Honoree Dr. Thomas Frazier – Research & Medicine

Dr. Thomas Frazier, Milestones 2017 honoree of the Research & Medicine Award, has spent his career making a difference in the lives of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. “Helping people with autism provides meaning to my life,” he says. “It’s what gets me up in the morning.”

A licensed clinical psychologist who received his PhD from Case Western Reserve University, Dr. Frazier’s clinical contributions include adoption of electronic data collection systems and publication of outcomes for the Lerner School Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program; development of outpatient ABA programs to serve young, underserved children; overseeing growth of the social SPIES outpatient program providing social skills training and peer integration for children with high functioning autism.

His research contributions include the publication of more than 100 research articles in peer-reviewed journals and more than 150 scientific abstracts and invited talks at national and international research conferences. In addition, Dr. Frazier is renowned for his studies validating the DSM-5 criteria for autism and investigations describing structural brain abnormalities in children and adolescents with autism.

Dr. Frazier has served in many roles at Cleveland Clinic, including as staff psychologist and director of the Center for Autism, as well as assistant professor of pediatrics in the Lerner College of Medicine. In April 2017, Dr. Frazier joined Autism Speaks as Chief Science Officer where he continues to advance research that will increase understanding of autism’s causes, improve screening and diagnosis, and develop effective interventions.

How do you feel your efforts have impacted the autism and special needs community?

In clinical practice, I believe my biggest impacts have been in developing services that provide outpatient Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) treatment to young children with autism who are not able to access intensive intervention services, parent groups to provide support and initial training in behavioral methods, and in increasing the availability of diagnostic and care coordinator services.

In research, the most impactful projects I have participated in have been studies that clarified the organization of autism symptoms and clarified differences in symptom patterns across males and females, investigations that identified specific patterns of brain abnormalities in autism, and the characterization of a unique genetic-subgroup of autism associated with mutations in the PTEN gene.
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