The interdisciplinary ACAR Clinic provides continuity of care to patients of all ages
The Azrieli Centre for Autism Research (ACAR) Clinic fills an urgent need for understanding and caring for autistic individuals at any stage of life, from birth into adulthood.
The challenge of discovering innovative ways to address autism requires a network of committed individuals: patients and their families, researchers, clinicians, philanthropists and the government. We feel it is imperative to support a continuum of communication between research and care, and we are confident that ACAR will do this.
Naomi Azrieli, Chair and CEO
The Azrieli Foundation
Following an integrated clinical-research model, the ACAR Clinic offers expert diagnosis and personalized services, as well as professional development opportunities led by a network of specialized clinicians who practice in clinical psychology, neuropsychology, neurology, and psychiatry.
Transforming autism care – from childhood into adulthood
The ACAR Clinic is an interdisciplinary autism clinic that provides continuity of care to patients of all ages.
“Specialized services for autistic youth and adults are rare to non-existent in Quebec – the ACAR Clinic is helping to bridge this critical gap,” says Julie Scorah, Associate Director of the ACAR Clinic.
“We are partners with our patients on their life journeys – helping to navigate what is often a very difficult system.”
The ACAR Clinic serves youth (16+) and adults at its main location at The Neuro. It also offers specialized care for autistic individuals who have co-occurring neurodevelopmental, behavioural or neurological conditions.
The satellite site at the Montreal Children’s Hospital serves pediatric patients in partnership with the Brain, Development and Behaviour (BDB) program.
Together, this network ensures consistent and reliable access to care by:
- decreasing the need for multiple consultations before receiving diagnoses
- improving patient health and well-being by addressing co-occurring conditions and potentially finding causes that have broader implications
- empowering autistic individuals and families to take part in and access research that directly benefits them
- facilitating seamless transitions from pediatric to adult care systems.
“Our model is collaborative,” adds Mandy Steiman, Clinical Psychologist at the ACAR Clinic. “We see our patients and their families – including other people in their close support networks – as part of our team.”
“Improving their lives drives all aspects of our work, and we aim to do everything in our power to provide the highest quality personalized care, services and supports to those seeking our help.”
Integrating research and care to improve lives
The ACAR Clinic follows an integrated clinical research model.
This means that clinical data helps to advance research, and research informs patient care in a tailored way.
Patients are enrolled in research studies through the Clinic’s network of clinician-researchers using an “opt out” approach (that is, participation in research with the option to drop out at any time without interruption to clinical services).
“Our patients take part in research while simultaneously receiving clinical care that will benefit them, their families and the broader community,” explains Scorah.
“They can learn more about themselves, get further evaluations, and receive extra support and services through this model.”
In addition, research data capture is harmonized with clinical activities ensuring that procedures are only done once (for example, psychometric assessments, blood draws, and imaging).
Patients may also access available trials of behavioural interventions not offered anywhere else in the healthcare system.
“Our goal is to really get to know our patients and their families, so that they can participate in and benefit from a research experience in a comfortable and inviting atmosphere with familiar faces,” adds Scorah.
Improving access to care by building capacity
As a program based out of The Neuro – a McGill University research and teaching institution – the ACAR Clinic trains new and experienced clinicians, researchers and professionals with the aim of making advancements that will benefit autistic people and their families.
“Receiving an autism diagnosis is key to unlocking services and supports that help autistic individuals reach their fullest potential,” says ACAR Clinic Associate Director and neuropsychologist, Julie Scorah.
“Unfortunately, long waitlists for diagnostic evaluations are plugging up the system.”
The ACAR Clinic is taking concrete steps to improve access to care with its Clinical Capacity Building Program – the first of its kind in Quebec – by enhancing the skills of autism professionals and building a community of shared learning, support and expertise.
Growing a community of shared learning
The program offers hands-on training in clinical settings to residents in their areas of interest and professional developmentworkshops and lectures led by expert trainers.
“Our goal is to increase the number of people in the healthcare system that can offer autism diagnoses,” says Scorah.
“Whether it’s a practitioner seeing a patient in a community practice or a specialist in a private clinic, we want to make sure that they have access to training to serve autistic individuals better.”
“Our workshops equip participants with an improved ability to conduct standardized assessments, as well as perform their clinical evaluations with greater confidence,” adds Mandy Steiman, who is also a certified trainer for gold-standard diagnostic tools at the ACAR Clinic.
“Researchers and clinicians alike at every stage of their careers can benefit from our accredited professional development activities and in turn, patients and their families will benefit from informed and high quality assessments founded in solid clinical recommendations and up-to-date research literature.”
Sharing guidance and expertise across the sector
The ACAR Clinic offers case consultations to help streamline assessment and diagnostic processes for other McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) clinicians and departments who offer care and services to autistic individuals and their families, and for those who have co-occurring neurodevelopmental conditions.
“With this support, physicians and allied health professionals can offer care in-house,” says Scorah, “and patients can rely on more efficient, consistent and standardized service.”
The Azrieli Centre for Autism Research (ACAR) at The Neuro transforms research, training and care to improve the quality of life of autistic people and their families.
Established in 2017 thanks to the Azrieli Foundation, ACAR operates in the spirit of Open Science, inclusion and community collaboration. The state-of-the-art research centre is committed to advancing understanding of the mechanisms underlying autism and related conditions, developing new diagnostic tools and effective interventions through translational research and integrated care, and training the next generation of fundamental and clinical autism researchers.