Johnson Center for Child Health and Development
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The Johnson Center for Child Health and Development (formerly known as Thoughtful House Center for Children or simply Thoughtful House) is a non-profit organization working to advance the understanding of childhood development through clinical care, research, and education. Located in Austin, Texas, the Johnson Center offers diagnostic services, healthcare services, behavioral therapy, educational assessments, community outreach and education. The center continues to have a diverse research program, including clinical research studies and biological research under the direction of Laura Hewitson.
The Center’s research program seeks to answer questions related to developmental disorders. The Center was named for benefactor Betty Wold Johnson.
The Johnson Center's predecessor organization, Thoughtful House, was established in 2004, by a group of parents and professionals, including Troy and Charlie Ball, Kelly Barnhill, Bryan Jepson, Jane Johnson, and many others, to further the work of Andrew Wakefield, who was appointed executive director. Charlie Ball, former Dell executive, and his wife, Troy, donated money to the group as a tribute to their son with autism. Country singer Emily Robison has been a board member and her sister, Martie, acts as an advisor, along with her husband, Gareth. The Dixie Chicks have appeared at benefits, including playing in the Thoughtful House Celebrity Softball Game in November 2005.
The first clinical research study to be published by Thoughtful House examined the effects of hyperbaric oxygen treatment on children with autism. The study found no consistent effect with this treatment. As the organization continued to develop, it added a number of new practices: Applied Behavioral Analyses, Therapeutic Nutrition, Functional Behavioral Assessments, and Therapy.
In 2010 the Wyndham Garden Austin Hotel opened a wing specifically designed for children on the Autism spectrum. The hotel partnered with Thoughtful House to design the hotel rooms and educate the staff about what to expect. According to a National Geographic article, “these rooms have made a huge difference for families that usually have to do so much extra planning to get to a destination.” Peter Bell, executive vice president for Autism Speaks, stated in a USAToday article that he hopes other hotels will catch on, and that he plans to contact national hotel chains about following suit. The center continues to inform and support the developmental disorder community through webinars, classes, and local events, as well has host several free events for children in the community.
One of Thoughtful House’s former collaborating physicians, Arthur Krigsman, was fined $5,000 in 2005 by the Texas Medical board for failing to report a Florida Medical Board action that cited him for failure to document continuing medical education hours. Another former collaborator, Bryan Jepson, was fined $1,000 in 2005 for allowing information to appear on a website that suggested he was entitled to practice medicine in Texas before he received a Texas Medical License. Jepson is known for his theory that “there’s a genetic susceptibility for autism,” and “children who are born with genetic susceptibility for autism have trouble detoxifying.” In his book, Changing the Course of Autism, Jepson included a chapter about chelation therapy, an unproved therapy for autism based on a discredited hypothesis that mercury poisoning leads to autism. In April 2016, Da Capo Lifelong published the memoir of a former Johnson Center patient, detailing the regression of two siblings with autism and their purported treatment and recovery.
Andrew Wakefield, who started with the Thoughtful House in 2004, resigned from the organization in February 2010 after a British medical journal retracted his research on the MMR vaccine, and he was sanctioned by the UK General Medical Council. Wakefield did not conduct his research on the MMR vaccine while collaborating with the Thoughtful House. The Johnson Center no longer collaborates with Wakefield.
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