SHARE 5 COMMENTMORE

MINNETONKA, Minn. -St. David's Center in Minnetonka celebrated a grand opening on a new campus project on Thursday. The effort will renovate its Children's Mental Health Clinic and Autism Day Treatment Center.

Staff unveiled autism treatment suites designed to accommodate more kids and their specific struggles.

The project also relieves a year long waiting list for the autism day treatment program, where some children age out of the program before they ever have the chance to enroll.

The renovation allows parents, like Krista Mullin, a closer look into her little boy's world. Through an observation window in a new autism treatment suite, she sees how her 5-year-old, Evan, has embraced his new environment.

"He is your typical little boy, just with some challenges most kids don't have," said Mullin. "Things like paint color and calming colors are huge. We don't think about that, but the calming colors, lower lighting really helps the kids with their sensory sensitivities."

Program Director Sarah Rehman said her students need area to both soothe and stimulate the senses. Before the construction, her students would have to travel throughout the building for occupational therapy and speech therapy. Now, their services are in one place, eliminating difficult transitions.

"We have more opportunity for more treatment during day rather than making those transitions back and forth," she said.

Rehman points out a calming room. She says before renovation, students causing disruption would be settled down in a hallway.

"Whether it is a weighted blanket or pressure vest or something they can chew on, whatever they might need," she said. "If they can request those things and get themselves to a spot where they are ready to learn."

The suites also connect kids to a therapy gym.

"This is a great place for the kids to just jump and crash and swing and do all those things they need to do to get their sensory needs met," said Rehman.

Krista Mullin knows these little things are big things, for her son. They are providing a window into his future.

"The calming environment is a huge piece. He has really come a long way," she said.

The Centers for Disease Control says 1 in 88 children nationally now have autism, and St. David's staff says more concerning, state research shows around 1 in 8 kids in the local Somali community are affected.

Part of the St. David's expansion will include outreach to the area's Somali community.

The renovation is part of an $11 million dollar campaign to reach 90 percent more kids in their early years.

For more information, go towww.stdavidscenter.org/renovation.

SHARE 5 COMMENTMORE