michelle hartley-mcandrew.

Michelle Hartley-McAndrew, MD, helped launch Buffalo’s comprehensive autism center, where more than 450 children can now be evaluated each year at two sites.

Buffalo Autism Center One of Nation’s Most Comprehensive

Published July 23, 2013

The Children’s Guild Foundation Autism Spectrum Disorder Center at Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo has expanded services to become a full-scale resource for children on the autism spectrum and their families.

“The idea was to make the whole process—from diagnosis to treatment plan—faster, more efficient and less difficult for the family and the patient.”
Michelle Hartley-McAndrew, MD
Clinical assistant professor of neurology and medical director, The Children’s Guild Foundation Autism Spectrum Disorder Center at Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo

Efficient, Comprehensive, Family-Focused Care

The center is among the first in the United States to diagnose and treat children using a family-focused, multidisciplinary approach.

Bringing various specialists together in one place, the center now operates two weekly evaluation clinics. This allows for the diagnosis of more than 450 children annually, up from 275 prior to March.

“The idea was to make the whole process—from diagnosis to treatment plan—faster, more efficient and less difficult for the family and the patient,” says Michelle Hartley-McAndrew, MD, clinical assistant professor of pediatric neurology and medical director of the center.

Multiple Specialists, Parent Input Aid Diagnosis

Diagnosing this complex and increasingly prevalent disorder is difficult—and time-consuming—yet early diagnosis and intervention can make a tremendous difference in the life of the child and the family.

Proper diagnosis often requires evaluations by multiple specialists, including a pediatric neurologist, a psychologist and a developmental pediatrician.

At the Buffalo center, a diagnosis also is based on thorough information from the child’s parents and daycare or school teachers.

A team of specialists discusses each patient and makes a collective diagnosis.

Multidisciplinary Center Speeds Diagnosis

The Buffalo center’s centralized approach has significantly decreased the amount of time it takes to diagnose a child.

In many places, the process takes seven to nine months, largely because “there aren’t enough specialists to provide efficient diagnoses,” notes Hartley-McAndrew.

While each case varies, the typical wait for a first appointment in Buffalo is now three months, with follow-up diagnosis one to three months afterward, depending on the need for further testing.

Best Practices Implemented

Hartley-McAndrew, who helped launch the Buffalo center in 2009, says the vision was “to be there in as many ways as possible for our families.”

“Parents have no idea how to navigate what’s out there,” she says.

In planning the center, “we visited as many other centers as we could, to see what works and what’s needed,” says Hartley-McAndrew.

As a result, Buffalo-area families can take advantage of an array of multidisciplinary resources provided at, or through the center, including:

  • multiple, convenient appointment scheduling for children awaiting diagnoses
  • a monthly Autism Spectrum Disorders Parent Group
  • “Au-Some Evenings,” free playtime for families in an understanding, supportive environment at Explore & More Children’s Museum in East Aurora, N.Y.
  • online resources, services and helpful tips for parents and teachers who care for children with special needs

The center is operated jointly by Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo and the University at Buffalo. Clinic sites are located in Buffalo (140 Hodge St.) and Amherst (4955 North Bailey Ave.).