The Scott Center in the News

The Scott Center in the News

Scott Center Hosts Free Tennis Workshop Aug. 23, 2014

Aces for Autism Event Targets Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder

 MELBOURNE, FLA. — Children ages 5 to 10 who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder are invited to a free tennis clinic Aug. 23 hosted by Florida Institute of Technology’s Scott Center for Autism Treatment. Aces for Autism will be held from 9-10 a.m. at the university’s tennis courts on Country Club Road, just north of Wood Hall. Siblings of participating children are also invited to attend.  Rackets, t-shirts and drinks will be provided, though children may bring their own rackets. The clinics are designed to help participants improve their motor and social skills, noted Florida Tech Director of Tennis Bill Macom, while ensuring everyone has a good time.  “Our athletes, along with the Scott Center team, maintain a fun atmosphere at the clinic so the kids not only enjoy the game but gain confidence in their abilities,” Macom said.  Children must be registered to participate. To register, parents or caregivers are asked to send the name and age of the child or children participating to Questions may be addressed to Colleen Middlebrooks at the Scott Center, 321-674-8106.


May 2013

The Scott Center at Florida Tech’s Behavior Basics Boot Camp for Teachers Set For Aug. 2

MELBOURNE, FLA.—The Scott Center for Autism Treatment at Florida Institute of Technology offers Behavior Basics Boot Camp for teachers Aug. 2, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the Scott Center’s Seminar Room. The boot camp offers teachers guidance on managing challenging behaviors in their classroom.

Instructed by Alison Betz, Florida Tech assistant professor, College of Psychology and Liberal Arts, the workshop offers a large group lecture, small group exercises and hands-on training. Betz will review such concepts as identifying why challenging behavior occurs in the classroom; choosing interventions in the classroom; how to take data on behaviors while teaching; determining when outside support is needed; and general prevention strategies.

Brevard County teachers who participate in the boot camp will receive in-service points. Teachers who want to earn in-service points must contact and register with Barbara McFadden at (321) 633-1000, extension 534; or email Those who are not Brevard County employees can register at For more information, call (321) 674-8106, or visit


May 2013

Florida Tech Scott Center Evening of Hope Event Raises $225,000 for Autism Treatment

MELBOURNE, FLA.—Florida Institute of Technology’s The Scott Center for Autism Treatment recently hosted its annual fund-raiser, Evening of Hope V at Revolution Technologies in Revolution Technologies’ new facility in Melbourne. Over 300 people attended the event which raised over $225,000 for The Scott Center.

"The Scott Center is lucky to have an outstanding group of committed community members who work for a good portion of the year gathering support for the center and helping to plan the event," said Colleen Middlebrooks, Scott Center director of community relations.

Two important community members who helped to lead the center to its most successful Evening of Hope to-date were co-chairs Mark Malek and Leasha Flammio-Watson.

One special part of the night were WISH sponsorships. A WISH is a $100 pledge to sponsor one day of services for a child at The Scott Center. Over 470 WISHes, or $47,000, were made the night of the event. Another highlight was the Rolex Raffle donated by Kempf's Jewelers in Indialantic, which raised over $25,000.

"The energy was great, the crowd was diverse, and the funds raised are going to help a lot of families access early intervention services," said Middlebrooks.

Catered by Creative Catering, the event featured a Florida Beer Room, sponsored by the Florida Beer Company, and entertainment by Derek and the Slammers.



 22 February 2012

Marathon Raises Funds for The Scott Center and Inaugurates Running Club

Partial proceeds from the Melbourne and Beaches Music Marathon, Feb. 4-5, were donated to The Scott Center for Autism Treatment. The event and online fundraising campaign with Crowdrise raised $2,000 for the center.

The Scott Center launched a running club for the first time last year and trained for 10 weeks in preparation for the race. While some members were just happy to finish their 5K, 8K, or half marathon race, others were awarded for their top finishes.

In the 8K race were Becky Werle, running club trainer and Florida Tech graduate student in the Applied Behavioral Analysis program, who finished first in her age group; Ali Wiegand, a Scott Center behavior analyst, finished third in the same age group; and Sam Kozaitis, department head, Electrical and Computer Engineering, finished second in his age group. Susan Erickson, clinical operations, The Scott Center, ran in the 5K race and finished third in her age group.

Other running club members include Kristi Van Sickle, Maya Oluseyi, Trina Gorsuch, Erin Minta, Arlene Grant, Shelley Johnson, Colleen Middlebrooks, Jacque Kellner and Ann Munroe. Karen Rhine also ran with the club.

Special thanks go to Florida Today, 107.1 A1A and ESPN 95.9 radio, for marketing support, and the Florida Tech football players who worked the water tables.


Matt Reed: Tackling autism's treatment, myths

Scott Center director explains strategies for children

The Scott Center for Autism Treatment will be the beneficiary of funds raised by the 2012 Melbourne & Beaches Music Marathon, half marathon, and 8k and 5k running races on Feb. 4 and 5.

Some of the world's best research and therapy for autism happens right here on the Space Coast.

To learn more about the mysterious disorder, I interviewed Dr. Ivy Chong, director of behavioral services at the Scott Center for Autism Treatment at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne. Chong is a licensed psychologist and board-certified behavior analyst.

Excerpts from our TV interview, now posted at

 Question:What is autism?

Chong: Autism is a neurological disorder, typically first detected before the age of 3, sometimes as early as 18 months. It primarily affects three core areas in children’s development. You see deficits in communication, deficits in social interaction, as well as repetitive behaviors or routines — body-rocking, hand-flapping, those types of things. You may see speech that is not functional, just scripted or echoing what someone else says.

To date, we don’t know what causes it. There’s no cure for it, either.

Q:Are we close? Does it affect a specific part of the brain or how it works?

 Chong: We do know it has something to do with the brain. And we do know that specific treatments and intensive therapy can really help an autistic child do well. We don’t talk about a “cure.” We do talk about improving their quality of life, and to be integrated into schools. Some kids do as well as their peers.

 Autism is really a spectrum of disorders. So you have some children who are very deeply affected. But you might also have a child who is extremely high functioning or has Asperger’s (syndrome).

There is very effective treatment out there. But it has to be intensive, and it has to be early on.

 Q:What does the Scott Center do?

 Chong: It has had a threefold mission: service, training and research. We research and use the most cutting-edge treatments. We make sure we translate that into everyday practice with the kids we work with. And we train individuals — graduate students, paraprofessionals or even teachers in the area — to disseminate that in our community.

We have faculty looking at effective treatments for Pica, a disorder where children eat things that are inedible. We’re looking at treatments for stereotypy — repetitive, nonfunctional movement. We also have faculty conducting research on how can parents best serve as therapists after they’ve been trained. That may be the most cost-effective approach.

Q:Some parents avoid vaccines, thinking that something in childhood shots may have triggered autism. What do you make of that?

Chong: The latest understanding is that vaccines do not cause autism. Since the one study that did show that, dozens of studies have refuted it. A number of authors from that original study recanted. And I believe the doctor lost his medical license because some of the data was fabricated.

Part of the problem is, we still don’t know what causes autism. We know that the diagnosis comes around the time children are first vaccinated. And with all the things going on with autism, the incidences seem to be increasing. It makes parents susceptible to grab onto something.

Q:How did you get into in this field?

Chong: I actually thought I was going to go into business or

something like that. Then I took my first economics and calculus classes and did not enjoy those. I had taken psychology … and I actually started out working with adults in institutions, doing testing and working with adults who were dually diagnosed — who had some form of developmental disability or autism as well as schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s.


I went to one of my professors and said, “I don’t think I can do this.” As it happened, a family had just called and needed someone to work with a child in a home. So I volunteered to do that, and I really enjoyed it.


Q:What happens to autistic children when they become adults?

Chong: A person with autism can expect to live a very good quality of life. They can hold jobs. There are some very bright individuals who aren’t even diagnosed with Asperger’s until they get to college, and they do very well. Their level of focus is exceptional in certain topics or courses.

 As the children we are working with get integrated and go to school, and we have treatments for social skills and getting jobs, the sky’s the limit.



'Aces for Autism' event to challenge kids on the court

Tennis is the topic next month, when individuals from throughout Brevard County are invited to participate and support the second-annual "Aces for Autism" Tennis Exhibition.

Hosted by Florida Institute of Technology's Scott Center for Autism Treatment, the event is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 10 at the Kiwi Tennis Club in Indian Harbour Beach.

Various tennis-related activities will occur throughout the afternoon, beginning with a free tennis skills class from 3-4 p.m. for children ages 5-15, who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, as well as their siblings.

"We are hoping for an even larger turnout this year because we are opening the class up to the whole community, rather than just children enrolled in programs at the Scott Center," said Colleen Middlebrooks, outreach coordinator for the Scott Center for Autism Treatment.

As opposed to other sports that are more competitive, such as soccer and basketball, tennis can serve as an appropriate social and physical outlet for individuals with autism and similar disorders, Ms. Middlebrooks said.

At the same time as the free children's class, tennis players from throughout the county are invited to participate in a "Skills, Drills and Aces Competition" from 3-5 p.m. on the club's main courts, that offers the chance to make a donation and win prizes for not getting "aced" by members of the Florida Tech tennis team, which means to successfully return an opponent's serve.

Participants can earn pledges based on their performance, and individuals can choose to sponsor a participant to compete in the event.

Lastly, four of Brevard's top tennis players will play an exhibition game from 5-6 p.m. Music, drinks and snacks will also be provided throughout the afternoon.

Last year, the event attracted more than 100 people and raised about $13,000 for the Scott Center for Autism Treatment, Ms. Middlebrooks said.

This money goes directly toward offsetting the cost of social skills programs offered at the center, which range from hands-on skills such as making eye contact and voice volume control to vocational and recreational opportunities throughout the community.

Located on Florida Tech's Melbourne campus, the Scott Center provides treatment, training and applied research to enhance the functioning and improve the quality of life for children with autism and related conditions throughout the Central Florida area, according to

"There are not very many places or events in town that cater to people with this type of spectrum disorder," Ms. Middlebrooks said. "'Aces for Autism' provides a great skills opportunity for children and families, while attracting some of the top tennis enthusiasts in our area."

"Aces for Autism" will be Saturday, Sept. 10 from 3-6 p.m. at the Kiwi Tennis Club, 30 Tradewinds Drive, Indian Harbour Beach.

Sponsorships, which include advertising on the event T-shirt and the ability to hang a company banner, are available for $100 each. Prizes will also be given for individual donations.

The children's tennis skills class will be limited to 50 participants, so advanced registration is recommended.

To register, to become a sponsor or for more information, contact Colleen Middlebrooks at or (321) 674-8106, Ext. 1.

Brevard Zoo takes on autism's barriers

Zoo Quest sponsors hope program eases complex disability


Harvey the tortoise seemed bewildered by the sudden attention as 9-year-old Anthony Cancel tapped his shell with two fingers and the other children quickly followed suit. "This is our special guest today," said Andy Bortzner, part of the Brevard Zoo's educational staff and a child psychology major at Brevard Community College. "Only I can hold him, but you can touch him to see what he feels like."

The children, eight in all, watched Harvey intently before raising their hands and peppering Bortzner with questions: Is Harvey a boy or a girl? Where does he come from? Does he like the land or the sea?

Most, but not all of them, including Anthony, have been diagnosed with autism, a complex developmental disability that interferes with social interactions and communication skills. On this particular day, however, none of that mattered, as these ordinary barriers seemed to ease amid the excitement of a tree house, a cave and the lagoon landing in the kids' section of the Brevard Zoo.

 The zoo setting is part of a new collaborative effort between the zoo's educational staff and Florida Institute of Technology's Scott Center for Autism Treatment to provide a model program for autistic children and their families called Zoo Quest. During three Saturdays this month, zoo quest's goal was to teach children about animals through classroom sessions and hands-on training.

"We're all about getting kids outdoors," said Dawn Hurley, the zoo's school coordinator. "It's an opportunity to see animals up close" and to even touch goats, deer and friendly armadillos in the petting zone.

Fran Warkomski, the Scott Center's executive director, described the collaboration as a pilot program, which, if successful, likely will continue through some type of grant. Right now, the program is free to children enrolled in the Scott Center's after-school social skills group.

 "We'll be looking for the enthusiasm of our students to see if they're ready to do more," Warkomski said. "That's how we'll know if the program's successful."

Exposure to zoo animals also could influence the children's career decisions some day, she said, much as Temple Grandin overcame autism to become a professor at Colorado State University and an expert on animal behavior. A movie about her life aired on HBO early this year.

Only 10 families whose children have been diagnosed with high-functioning autism are participating in the program initially. But those numbers could expand, and the ages, now skewing a bit older, could shift, Warkomski said.

 Mary Cancel, Anthony's mother, already delivered an enthusiastic endorsement on behalf of her son and 5-year-old Lilly, who tagged along for the program's mini-kickoff. Lilly does not have autism.

"I think it's fantastic," the Melbourne mother said in her lilting Scottish brogue. "Any time you offer hands-on learning, that's good for children. We could come to the zoo on our own, but this is much better."

 Not surprisingly, Anthony agreed. "My favorite part of the zoo is seeing the animals," he said. He also said he would like to feed all the tortoises and turtles. "I think they're hungry."

Disorder In Dispute

 Autism impacts about 1 in 100 children in the United States, up from 1 in 150 children five years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows.

Whether that number reflects a true rise in prevalence or occurs because of improved diagnostic capabilities still is debated, but most researchers think it's probably a combination of the two. And what causes the wide range of disabilities in autism spectrum disorders also remains in dispute.

Earlier this year, the British journal The Lancet retracted the findings of a 1998 study that led many parents to stop vaccinating their children against measles, mumps and rubella. The journal also published a second study at the time, refuting the longstanding contention that a preservative, once widely used in children's vaccines, led to autism's development.

Warkomski said she thinks the research focus in autism finally has moved away from vaccines to other possible environmental or genetic triggers. "But, we're no closer to knowing why this occurs," she said.

Still, children are being diagnosed earlier, in general, down from age 4 to age 3, enabling earlier intervention, she said.

At the Scott Center, which opened in Melbourne last fall, the emphasis is on applied behavioral analysis, a highly structured therapy supported by the National Research Council, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Surgeon General. The therapy rewards children for age-appropriate behaviors, establishing competing behaviors for those that are considered undesirable, and also provides evidence-based approaches to learning language and other skills.

"You can see the trickle-down effect from the center to home to school," Cancel said of Anthony's progress in a little more than a year. "And it's not just his social skills."

"We know this works," Warkomski said. However, if parents choose to include alternative therapies, such as restrictive dietary regimens or vitamins, she said, the center staff encourages them to do so after looking at the research behind them.

"We don't know if they're helpful," she said. "But as long as they're not harmful, that's fine."

Animal Immersion

Inside the cool of the zoo's cavelike structure, Liz Walsh, the Scott Center's social skills director, asked the children which animals they expected to see -- other than Harvey -- in the program.

In between the more traditional answers one might expect, such as elephants, giraffes and monkeys, there was one surprising response.

"Chinchillas," said Ali Neuharth, 10, to the puzzlement of his classmates.

Most did not know what these rodents looked like, or that their native habit is South America, but that's the type of information Walsh and others hope they'll learn.

Meanwhile, other children, including 10-year-old Sean O'Brien, tried to guess the animal on the card placed on his forehead by asking questions. In Sean's case, he guessed correctly within a few seconds.

"Am I gray," he asked.

When someone nodded yes, he said, "I'm an elephant, aren't I?"

Contact Jenks at 242-3657 or