One of the great examples of a university and community partnership is Dr. Lorna Catford's Collaborative Autism Training and Support Program (CATS). According to government reports cited by the Autism Speaks organization, autism is on an annual rise from 10% to 17%. In fact, every 20 minutes a child is diagnosed with autism, while the care for these children is not keeping up. Lorna's CATS program was designed to provide that care. Students enrolled in Psychology 490.1 have the opportunity to interact and engage with families and directly help children affected by autism spectrum disorders. The CATS mission statement is "to enrich the lives of children with autism spectrum disorders, as well as helping their families." They accomplish this by giving direct care, respite, resources and family support as well as training students and service providers to implement effective interventions and raising awareness and understanding of autism for families, agency professionals and the community.
CATS is a great program for both families and students. Families get the extra support they need and the students receive a hands- on learning experience. I've learned so much about different interventions and individualized education programs and about the symptoms of autism spectrum disorders. - Marissa Georges, Psychology Student
Students learning about autism get the opportunity to work one on one with kids with autism in their homes. "It's a good way for students to get out of the classroom and try to do what they learn hands on. The program also gives students a different perspective on others." says Carla Jasso, a student in the CATS program. The program started with 18 families and has grown to more than 125, providing care and support to families affected by the disorder.CATS has not only partnered with the University but has also teamed up with Becoming Independent, California Parenting Institute, and all the major autism support agencies. This is an extraordinary program that has made great strides for those affected by autism in Sonoma County.