Champaign's Autism Services Group abruptly shuts its doors

Champaign's Autism Services Group abruptly shuts its doors

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story quoted a management employee as saying Nina Bush was an owner of Autism Services Group. She is not. The quote has been removed.

CHAMPAIGN — An autism clinic in Champaign was set to close suddenly at the end of the day Friday.

Parents with children in programs at Autism Services Group at 1501 Interstate Drive were notified about the closing in an email Thursday.

"Unfortunately, our staff has been working without pay for several weeks, and things were not going to turn around," Regional Operations Manager Joy Henderson said in her email.

Autism Services Group, a provider of therapy and support services for children with autism and their families, was the new name given to an autism services company called Skill Sprout after it was sold to Mike Evans last year.

Clinic locations in Peoria, Normal, Lombard and Springfield were also closing Friday, Henderson said. The company employed 17 people in Champaign, she said.

"We are heartbroken to announce that we are closing our clinic in Champaign," Evans said in an email reply to The News-Gazette. "Our mission has been to provide the best possible clinical services to children affected by autism."

University of Illinois employee Kevin Bird, who has a 7-year-old son who has been going to the Champaign clinic for therapy, said it would have been nice for the company to have been more transparent rather than springing the closing on parents the day before.

Bird said his son went to this clinic daily and was undergoing applied behavior analysis, a time-intensive and commonly-used therapy for children with autism.

The Champaign clinic was also the only provider of that therapy in the area for school-age children that would accept his state employee health plan, HealthLink, he said.

Bird said he quickly managed to line up a slot for after-school care for his son, Wylan, through the Champaign-Urbana Special Recreation program.

"It's going to be a place for him to go," he said. "It's not going to be therapeutic."

Henderson, who had worked for Skill Sprout and stayed on after the ownership change, called the closing "a horrific outcome that we never thought would happen." There may be a new option soon for children who have been in Autism Services Group programs.

Warenville-based Behavioral Perspective, a provider of applied behavior analysis therapy to all ages, plans to open in Champaign-Urbana as soon as a location is secured, according to its Director of Operations Denise Bergh.

Behavioral Perspective has been operating in suburban Chicago since 2010 and began in-home services in Springfield last July, she said.

The company will likely begin offering in-home services in Champaign-Urbana, possibly as soon as in a few weeks, and will also continue to make in-home services available after its clinic in this area opens, Bergh said.

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