My name is Angela Scarpa – I am in the Psychology department at Virginia Tech and I direct the VT Autism Clinic in Psychology as well as the Center for Autism Research in the College of Science.

My colleague, Jen Scott, is our rural outreach coordinator for the Mobile Autism Clinic and part-time grants specialist for the autism center. She received her undergraduate degree in Psychology right here at VT, and her MPH from Tulane University.

For a little background, the Autism Clinic opened in 2005 as a direct result of my son being diagnosed with autism one week before his 2nd birthday. We quickly found out that services were limited in our area. The clinic, which is where we train psychology doctoral students, was established to fill this need. The Center for Autism Research opened in 2012, with the goal of merging science with service, through multi-disciplinary research. We now want to expand our reach to medically under-served rural communities, starting with our own backyard. Because of the many barriers faced by rural residents in Central Appalachia (economic hardship, geographic isolation, lack of specialty providers), they have difficulty accessing appropriate care for their children with autism. At the same time, there is a strong sense of community and family ties. We want to be part of the solution that builds on these strengths to empower families to learn the skills that are scientifically known to work for children with autism. So, we will start with areas covered by the Mount Rogers Community Services Board, to provide families with evidence-based skills.  We hope to expand to other programs and areas as we grow.   

This project is funded by several sources. We received a grant from the Malone Family Foundation to hire a rural coordinator and purchase the used RV (which we found at Chances Creek RV in Fancy Gap, VA, and who renovated the inside for us). We are also funded by the university’s Policy-SGA stakeholders through ISCE to conduct focus groups in the Mount Rogers CSB areas that will help us to better understand their perspectives and discover ways to improve policy on access to care.

Lastly, you see the beautiful wrap on the outside of the RV that was overseen by SignSpot, and Fleet Services provided indoor space for the wrapping process. The wrapping itself was funded by the tremendous generosity of Jerry Hulick, who is an alumnus of VT and has been very helpful in supporting our work through the years.

We have one year left on our grant funding, and so I ask the community for help. If you would like to see our services continue and grow beyond the next year, we would welcome your financial support. Please contact us if you are interested in donating any amount.