A new state-of-the-art clinic in Dunwoody is the first of its kind in metro Atlanta to offer behavioral treatment for children on the autism spectrum.

The clinic at 5500 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, in the Shops of Dunwoody, is the Early Autism Project’s first Atlanta clinic and fifth in Georgia. Project team members along with Sen. John Albers, R-District 56, and other community members came together Nov. 30 to celebrate the clinic’s grand opening.

The clinic will provide children between 20 months and 21-years-old with high-quality intensive, research based treatment for those with autism or with related disorders, according to a press release.

The new facility includes a large therapeutic play area with a trampoline, slide and other items used during therapy as well as smaller therapy rooms with skill-building games, books and computers.

“This will be life changing for families who work or for whom it is not viable to have someone come to their home,” said Anna Bullard with the Early Autism Project “This [clinic] symbolizes all the progress Georgia has made.”

Bullard’s daughter, Ava, was diagnosed with autism as an infant, at a time when Bullard said the options in Georgia were simply not there for those on the autistic spectrum.

“We were told to leave Georgia because there was no access to meaningful treatment,” Bullard said. “But for me, my family is in Georgia, and if Ava needed her family here, so did many other kids across the state.”

In 2015, Sen. Albers helped to pass Ava’s law, making Georgia the 41st state to mandate insurance for children six years and younger with autism.

“Providing therapy to children with autism is an important investment in their futures and the future of our community because early intervention helps children become more independent and and dramatically reduces the cost of lifelong care,” Albers said.

Bullard said early intervention helped Ava progress from a two-year old who they were told would never speak to being in a seventh grader in a general education classroom this year.

Albers said he hopes to see a larger network of clinics like the one in Dunwoody open across the state, giving easy access to families living all over.

“There is a lot of work left to do,” he said. “We need to continue to go back and enhance this law until we get it fully optimized. I want to see Georgia become a place not where people are told to go elsewhere for treatment, but one people are being told they should come to instead.”

. One in 68 children nationally are estimated to be identified as being on the autism spectrum, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That number is higher in Georgia, with one in 64 kids estimated, according to Dr. Michael Morrier, program director of screening and assessment at the Emory Autism Center.

Though Bullard said it is important to keep pushing forward for the cause, she said the clinic is a great first step for the area.

“For kids with autism today, there is so much hope,” Bullard said.

The Early Autism Project, which began in South Carolina in 1998 and is a leading provider of applied behavior analysis therapy, or ABA, now has clinics in seven states. ABA is endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General as the treatment of choice for autism.

The project’s other Georgia clinics are located in Augusta, Byron, Macon and Pooler.