BALTIMORE, February 1, 2024—Kennedy Krieger Institute announced a new name for its innovative and internationally known autism center: the Center for Autism Services, Science and Innovation, or CASSI™. This name reflects the achievements of the center, which opened in 1995, as well as advancements in the care, research, and community understanding of autistic people since the center’s founding.
Previously known as the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), CASSI was founded by Rebecca Landa, PhD, CCC-SLP, and employs 225 staff members at a total of four sites—two in Baltimore, one in Columbia and one in Odenton, Maryland. CASSI provides clinical services to autistic children and teens, as well as research, training, and community programs.
“As the first interdisciplinary autism center in the world, we started with a mission of providing crucial services to our patients and students,” Dr. Landa said. “Our new name more clearly reflects the scope of our work, yet also emphasizes that our primary mission has not changed—we are here to serve our patients and their families with excellence and the most scientifically supported approaches.”
From its beginnings, CASSI made an impact for the autism community in Maryland and beyond. In 2023, for example, clinicians at CASSI served more than 6,000 different patients, and CASSI researchers published more than 100 articles about their innovative work. Topics included early autism detection using artificial intelligence, understanding autism in girls, the connection between autism and the gut microbiome, early services for autistic children with anxiety, and guidance for bringing evidence-based educational strategies into early childhood classrooms, among others.
In addition, last year CASSI’s team completed more than 950 coaching sessions for teachers, parents and childcare providers, and its staff conducted more than 1,500 training sessions for professionals and community members. CASSI staff also works closely with SPARK, the Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research for Knowledge, which is the largest, long-term study of people with autism and their family members. Through CASSI staff efforts, more than 23,500 people have enrolled in this study.
Since the founding of CASSI nearly three decades ago, knowledge about autism also has greatly increased. Indeed, the observance that was formerly known as “Autism Awareness Month,” celebrated annually in April, has become “Autism Advocacy Month” as efforts are made to improve access for and inclusivity of autistic people. Young children diagnosed with autism participate in programs like CASSI’s Achievements Program, which provides them the social, communication and aspects of early education skills to succeed in school. At the same time, job training and social skills classes are available for young autistic adults. The CASSI team is active in supporting self-advocacy and life-fulfilling access opportunities for autistic individuals.
“The greater understanding of autism that exists today is directly related to the work of innovative centers like CASSI,” said Bradley Schlaggar, MD, PhD, president and CEO of Kennedy Krieger. “The new name reflects and includes critical aspects of the center’s work—using science and innovation to identify new and earlier ways to diagnose, support, treat, educate and prepare autistic individuals to pursue all that’s possible in their lives. We are very grateful for the work of Dr. Landa and our CASSI team.”
About Kennedy Krieger Institute:
Kennedy Krieger Institute, an internationally known nonprofit organization located in the greater Baltimore-Washington, D.C., region, transforms the lives of more than 27,000 individuals a year through inpatient and outpatient medical, behavioral health and wellness therapies; home and community services; school-based programs; training and education for professionals; and advocacy. Kennedy Krieger provides a wide range of services for children, adolescents and adults with diseases, disorders and injuries that impact the nervous system, ranging from mild to severe. The Institute is home to a team of investigators who contribute to the understanding of how disorders develop while at the same time pioneering new interventions and methods of early diagnosis, prevention and treatment. Visit KennedyKrieger.org for more information about Kennedy Krieger.