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A rendering of the new Siskin Center for Developmental Pediatrics - Nashville office in the Medical Plaza at 2201 Murphy Ave. / Contributed photo from Siskin Children's Institute

More Tennessee children with developmental disabilities will have access to needed services through a new Siskin Children's Institute office in Nashville, which is set to open in January 2020.

Derek Bullard, president and CEO of Siskin Children's Institute, said "expanding services outside of the Chattanooga region is key" to the nonprofit's goal of increasing access to assessment, diagnosis and early intervention for children with developmental disorders — such as autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and genetic disorders — and their families.

"We're excited about this. Our mission is to serve children with special needs, and Chattanooga is where our roots are, and this is an extension of what we do. This will help us to scale and share resources," Bullard said. "This is really the first big expansion that we've ever done, so we want to go in and be smart with how we do it, but we feel really confident that we're well positioned to do this."

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Staff photo by Tim Barber/ Derek Bullard is CEO of the Siskin Children's Institute.

There are only about 1,000 developmental pediatricians — the doctors who specialize in treating children with developmental disorders — in the United States, and demand for their services far outpaces the supply of doctors. The national average wait time to see one of these doctors in 2017 was 5.4 months, according to a study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

In the last three years, Bullard said, more than 160 children have traveled from Nashville to the Chattanooga region for care at Siskin.

"Historically, when children with special needs need to see a developmental pediatrician, they get on a long waitlist and drive for hours and hours," he said.

More Info

For more information about the Siskin Center for Developmental Pediatrics-Nashville, visit siskin.org/nashville or call 615-730-8095.

The new facility will offer medical services such as developmental assessments and treatment as well as applied behavior analysis therapy for children with special needs.

Another challenge for Siskin has been recruiting doctors to Chattanooga. Bullard said the Nashville location will help recruitment by giving Siskin greater visibility in a major health care city.

One of Bullard's main goals since taking the helm at Siskin Children's Institute in 2018 has been to hire more providers in order to shorten the waiting list for an appointment at the medical clinic.

A few months ago, Bullard said, Siskin had 600 kids on the waitlist and it has been whittled down to a little less than 300. Now, new appointments happen in two or three months as opposed to six months.

The Nashville clinic will be led by Dr. James Van Decar, a developmental pediatrician with more than 30 years of experience. While it's unfortunate that waitlists to see developmental pediatricians are long, he said, parents can also get help for their kids through the school system.

"There's still a lot they can do," Van Decar said. "I can't tell you the number of parents who come in to see me with 4- and 5-year-olds who have no idea that the schools are there to serve them, as well."

Schools don't provide medical diagnoses, but they can evaluate kids to determine an educational need. For example, if a kid isn't talking, schools want to catch that and intervene early to start helping them get ready for kindergarten, Van Decar said.

The new Nashville office is located in the Medical Plaza at 2201 Murphy Ave., Suite 306, and will host an open house on Jan. 29.

The Center for Developmental Pediatrics at Siskin Children's Institute-Chattanooga offers early identification and intervention services for neurodevelopmental concerns. The team consists of specialists in the areas of developmental pediatrics, speech pathology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, behavior psychology and applied behavior analysis.

Contact Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.

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