Second Early Learning Institute to open for children with autism

July 21, 2016

Plavnick with a student at the Early Learning InstituteMichigan State University will launch the second branch of an educational program designed to help young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

The Early Learning Institute (ELI) will open its second location in Lansing in late August 2016 and plans to serve eight children ages 2-5 with ASD and their families. This is in addition to the eight children and families currently working with the original institute, in the Child Development Laboratories Central School near MSU’s East Lansing campus. The second branch of the institute will continue to reflect the values and the programming, which features one-on-one training sessions and classroom experiences with peers.

It’s an approach that’s working, according to Joshua Plavnick, executive director of ELI and associate professor of special education.

“Based on our behavioral observation data, we have seen great improvement in children,” he said. “They talk more, interact more with others and are able to complete many more tasks independently than compared to the beginning of the year (August 2015).”

In addition, Plavnick and others at the institute are pursuing other possible locations through MSU Extension programs and public school districts.

“I believe we are just starting to make a community impact, as local school districts have been in contact with us about collaborating on an expansion of the ELI model to support ASD programming in school settings,” Plavnick added. “We have also gotten excellent feedback from families and community partners about the quality of our program. The goal is for community impact to be an area that grows substantially in the coming year.”

The new ELI will be located at the Grand River Elementary School Head Start program at 1107 E. Grand River Ave. in Lansing. Both locations are looking to hire behavior technicians (bachelor’s level) and behavior analysts (master’s level). More information about the program and the positions can be found at

The second branch of the Early Learning Institute is partnered with Capital Area Community Services, Inc. Head Start, in addition to continuing previous partnerships with the MSU College of Education, the MSU College of Social Science and the Community Mental Health Authority of Clinton, Eaton and Ingham Counties. Funding for the programs has come through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, MSU’s program for Research in Autism, Intellectual and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (RAIND) and Kathryn and Michael Bosco.


On the web

Learn more about how Plavnick’s work with the Early Learning Institutes is helping more kids with autism: