Outpatient Clinical Services
The Chattanooga Autism Center provides outpatient psychological services to people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). These services include Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy, and diagnostic assessment and testing for autism. Some commonly asked questions are answered below.
Our waitlist is currently FULL for autism assessments, ABA therapy, and Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Please call us at 423-531-6961, opt. 2 and we can refer you to other providers and add you to our contact list. You can also email us at for more information.
Our clinic's fax number is 423-521-8094. Please be aware that our waitlist is full (see above) when faxing referrals for clinical services.
Autism Assessments (waitlist full)
Autism assessments are provided by Karen Weigle, PhD. Dr. Weigle uses the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, second edition (ADOS-2) and other diagnostic tools. The ADOS-2 is a standardized observational assessment of an individual’s communication, socialization, and play/creativity along with other behaviors characteristic of Autism Spectrum Disorder. The ADOS-2 has many different modules depending on the client’s verbal ability and age and is appropriate for ages 12 months up to any adult age. The results of the assessment are provided to the client in a detailed report.
What does an autism assessment look like?
The assessment usually takes place over four visits. The first visit is an intake session where the caregiver/s and/or individual being assessed answer questions, complete informational forms, and are established as a client. The client is then scheduled for two assessment sessions on different days to allow for a broader sample of the client’s behavior. Each assessment session usually lasts between 40 and 50 minutes. The psychologist then scores the assessment and writes a detailed clinical diagnostic report. The parents and/or client attend a final follow-up session where the psychologist delivers the report, explains it in detail, answers questions, and discusses relevant referrals and future plans.
Do I need an assessment before getting other types of services?
No! Individuals can seek and receive treatment while they are on the waitlist to be assessed. For example, if a child is demonstrating delays in speech or social skills or is experiencing sensory issues, anxiety, or behavior problems, parents should seek specialized therapeutic treatment immediately. Therapists such as counselors, Speech and Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, and ABA therapists will provide their own specialized evaluations and begin treatment. You DO NOT have to wait until after an autism assessment to seek therapy. The main purpose of the ADOS-2 assessment is to provide a diagnosis as well as a detailed professional report, but is not a prerequisite for services in most cases.
Individuals seeking an autism assessment should contact the CAC at 423-531-6961, opt 2 AND contact other places on this list of local evaluation providers.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (waitlist full)
Karen Weigle, PhD, Amy Rutherford, LPC, and Alyce Benson, LCSW provide Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. This type of therapy has decades of empirical evidence supporting their effectiveness, particularly for teaching skills, decreasing anxiety, and improving mood. Our clinicians specialize in providing therapy for individuals with autism. They recognize how aspects of autism can sometimes contribute to anxiety, depression, social skill deficits, decreased motivation, tantrums, difficulty transitioning, and relationship problems.
What is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)?
CBT is based on the idea that how we feel, think, and behave are naturally intertwined.
CBT helps individuals identify the relationships between thinking patterns, disruptive behavior, and emotional responses in upsetting or impairing situations.
CBT requires active participation by the individual in the form of in-session exercises, as well as homework assignments to be completed between sessions.
Our therapists have adapted the principles and methods of CBT to address the needs of individuals with autism and families.
How can CBT help individuals with ASD?
Teaching coping skills, social skills, emotional identification and regulation, education.
Parent-child interaction and helping parents learn strategies for helping their children.
Dealing with emotions.
Understanding a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Who can receive these therapies at the CAC?
Young children to adults of any age who have autism or suspected autism.
Verbal skills are needed to engage in Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
These therapies are also for parents who learn techniques to use outside of the clinic and to help them better understand their children with autism and their needs.
Individuals seeking CBT should contact the CAC at 423-531-6961, opt 2 AND contact other places on this list of local therapy providers.
ABA Therapy (waitlist full)
The CAC has two Board Certified Behavior Analysts, Anna Straussberger, BCBA and Bailey Gregory, BCBA. Both provide Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy and supervise several Registered Behavior Technicians. The therapists meet with caregivers, provide functional assessments to determine why a child is behaving in a certain way, and then design treatment plans and train caregivers to implement strategies at home. ABA therapy is intensive (several hours per week) and parents are expected to be involved in sessions and to record weekly data. The therapy occurs in the clinic, home and community.
What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy?
ABA is a scientifically validated approach to understanding behavior and how it is affected by the environment.
ABA aims to decrease dangerous or harmful behaviors and increase desirable behaviors and skills.
ABA teaches caregivers to interact differently with their child to attain and maintain desired results after therapy ends.
Since the 1960s, therapists have been applying ABA to help children with autism and related developmental disabilities.
Who benefits most from ABA Therapy?
Children exhibiting behavior problems that significantly impact daily family life.
Individuals with language delays.
Individuals needing to learn specific behaviors and skills.
Who can get ABA Therapy at the CAC?
Children ages 18-months-old to 6-years-old.
Individuals seeking ABA Therapy should contact the CAC at 423-531-6961, opt. 2 AND contact other places on this list of ABA providers.
Insurance / Fees
The CAC is in network with several major insurance providers. Please call 423-531-6961, opt. 1 or opt. 2 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details on insurance and self-pay options.
Karen Weigle, PhD is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with 20 years of experience working with people with autism and other developmental disabilities and their families. She received her masters and doctorate from West Virginia University and completed Residency at Michigan State University. Dr. Weigle has extensive experience working as part of an interdisciplinary team in several medical specialty clinics and wards. She has provided psychological assessment and intervention services in a variety of contexts including in-home, school-based, clinic-based, agency-based, hospital-based, and community crisis response. She has previously directed programs that provided services spanning East Tennessee and had oversight over a large number of service providers. For over a decade, Dr. Weigle has trained family practice and medical specialty residents, special educators, community-based services providers, families, early intervention specialists, and laypersons. Her teaching experience varies from undergraduate psychology courses to special education graduate-level seminars. Dr. Weigle was the Clinical Director at The TEAM Centers from 2008 to 2011. She now provides autism assessments and behavior therapy at the Chattanooga Autism Center. Dr. Weigle is also currently associate director for the Centers for START Services at UNH, a national program designed to develop local crisis prevention and intervention services for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health concerns.
Alyce Benson, LCSW, MS, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 18 years experience working with adults, adolescents, and children with developmental disabilities and co-occurring mental health disorders. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Ms. Benson specializes in working with individuals who present complex behavioral, medical, and psychological issues, and has extensive experience working in numerous community-based settings and with numerous interdisciplinary teams. She has provided seminars at both national and international conferences for NADD and AAMR. She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and National Association for the Dually Diagnosed. In 2014 Ms. Benson was awarded Social Worker of the Year for the state of Tennessee.
Anna Straussberger, M.A., BCBA, interest in the field began suddenly after reading a Newsweek article pointing to elevated incidence of Autism in children. Within two minutes, Anna diverted from her original plan to become a high school English teacher and started pursuing a career in working with individuals affected by an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Since 2008, Anna has used the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis to work in residential, home-based, school, and community settings to foster functional communication, social development, daily living skills, and prevocational readiness in adolescents and young adults with an ASD. Through her work, Anna formed an interest in helping these individuals and their families in transition gain the knowledge and skills to live independently, foster meaningful relationships, and interact with the community through employment or other fulfilling means. Through her work, Anna also developed an interest in helping support parents, siblings, and other caregivers who have a loved one with an ASD. With this aim in mind, Anna returned to school, and she received a MA in Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine from the Boston University School of Medicine in 2014. She then went on to earn her BCBA through the Florida Institute of Technology. Anna’s goal is to continue to help individuals with autism and their families develop the competencies to lead independent, healthy, and happy lives.
Elizabeth Thornburgh, M.Ed, is the Chattanooga Autism Center’s office manager. Elizabeth schedules patients, coordinates billing, verifies insurance, and follows up on claims and secondary insurance. Elizabeth graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a Master’s Degree in Education. She was an elementary grade teacher before moving to Chattanooga. Elizabeth is now a mother to two children on the Autism Spectrum, and can provide a wealth of knowledge in visual supports, education, and other resources related to Autism. She also coordinates sensory-friendly events under the Out ‘n’ Abouts Program.
Bailey is the clinic's in-house pet who frequents the Autism Center when his owner, Alyce is present. Bailey loves to make new friends, greet old ones, and play catch! He's very friendly (and sometimes vocal). His main job is to encourage play, bring smiles to patients and guests, and greet all who walk in our center. He is an avid collector of tennis balls and loves to take walks.
Please only access these forms if you have a scheduled appointment.
Forms for new AUTISM ASSESSMENT or COGNITIVE BEHAVIOR THERAPY (CBT) clients:
Clinical Welcome Packet (Policies and other information): Download and keep for your records.
Assessment and Therapy Initial Intake Form: Complete and bring to intake session.
Patient Information form: Complete and bring to intake session.
Directions to Complete Forms:
Download each set of forms to your computer.
Open "File Explorer" and open your forms using Adobe Reader.
Choose the "fill-in" option and choose that you are completing the form.
Create a text box by clicking on a blank line.
Save the document by "save as" and renaming the document to include your last name or initials.
Return the documents by either: bringing them to your first appointment, faxing them to (423) 521-8094, or emailing to email@example.com.