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In 1966, the Sparks Center for Developmental and Learning Disorders was founded to support services for persons with intellectual disability and to train professional personnel in the field of intellectual disability. Specifically, the Center's objectives were to establish a clinical facility which offered a full array of services to persons with intellectual disability, for the purposes of: (1) providing an interdisciplinary setting for various academic and clinical experiences; (2) offering highly technical training which "merges skills of several disciplines to train interdisciplinary specialists in intellectual disability not currently available;" and (3) to test, in a practical setting, the validity and efficiency of various techniques and patterns of diagnosis, care, treatment, education, and rehabilitation. There was a strong commitment to the social and behavioral sciences (including sociology and anthropology) and a clear appreciation for nursing, social work, dentistry, foods and nutrition, and education. Pediatrics, psychiatry, pediatric neurology, medical genetics, radiology, and virology were included from the medical school. Finally, the prevalence of intellectual disability in this region of the country was recognized in the first University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) application, along with a commitment to meet the needs of unserved and underserved poverty level and minority families.

As one of the charter programs, the Alabama University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities has been able to contribute to a remarkable expansion in the knowledge base; an evolution in philosophy and values; the discovery of highly effective treatment and prevention strategies; the emergence of a new community-based service delivery system for social, health, and educational programs; and enhancement of the service delivery systems through pre- and in-service preparation of professionals (many of whom have become leaders in the state and country) and direct care personnel to meet the needs of persons with developmental disabilities and their families.

Over the years, the UAB Civitan-Sparks Clinics has increasingly formed alliances with local and state service providers and advocacy groups. Many of our trainees have assumed important positions of leadership within the state and country, and the once novel "interdisciplinary approach" to diagnosis and treatment has become the accepted standard for comprehensive and effective service delivery.

The UAB Department of Psychiatry assumed oversight of the Civitan-Sparks Clinics from July 15, 2008 until May 1, 2016 when the Civitan-Sparks Clinics joined the Department of Pediatrics.This move aligned these clinical and training efforts within the Department of Pediatrics and specifically with the new Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics (DDBP). The team focuses on enhancing the clinical and research opportunities while maintaining and growing the educational and collaborative care models that make the clinics unique.

The Civitan-Sparks Clinics has continued to evolve over the first 50 years of its existence, but what remains consistent is our dedication to clinical service, training and research in the field of developmental disabilities.