The Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research (MAIER), a partnership of the Maine Department of Education (DOE) and the University of Maine's College of Education and Human Development, will open on January 1 at the UMaine campus. MAIER will be the state's primary resource for training professionals to work with children with autism and to provide support for their families. The two organizations will contribute a total of $288,000 to fund the first 18 months of the new collaborative. Deborah Rooks-Ellis, an assistant professor of Special Education at UMaine, will serve as the institute's full-time director.

Plans include developing roadmaps to navigate services from birth to adulthood, providing family-to-family mentoring, hosting a clearinghouse of information including an events calendar, putting on professional development workshops and webinars, and strengthening existing regional collaboratives. According to Maine DOE Director of Special Services Jan Breton, MAIER will provide support to Maine's K-12 public schools, which currently enroll about 2,600 students with autism.

Autism is a developmental disability that affects a person's ability to communicate, to reason and to interact with others, with varying degrees of severity. It is the third most common developmental disability, occurring in approximately one out of every 88 births, according to the Autism Society of Maine. For more information, visit or call 581-2352.