A Brief Biography:
Rick Solomon is the Medical Director of The Ann Arbor Center for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, and founder of The P.L.A.Y. Project. He has been diagnosing and treating children with autism spectrum disorders for more than 25 years. He has worked professionally with Ivar Lovaas, Stanley Greenspan, and Mr. Rogers. He is board certified in Pediatrics and Developmental/Behavioral Pediatrics. In 2001, Dr. Solomon created The P.L.A.Y. Project as a response to the lack of services for young children with autism in his community and across the country. The P.L.A.Y. Project’s mission is to train a national network of pediatric professionals to deliver an evidence-based, low-cost, intensive, developmental intervention to families of young children with autism spectrum disorders. To that end, Dr. Solomon has trained more than 500 pediatric professionals in nearly 30 states and 7 countries to become P.L.A.Y. Project Home Consultants.
Early Experiences with Autism and DIR®
Dr. Solomon’s interest in young children with autism and their families began even before he went to medical school in 1977. In 1975, he worked with elementary school age children, many of whom were on the autism spectrum, in a small special education program in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The type of intervention was play-based and, as a ‘mental health worker’ he spent 8 hours per day, 5 days per week for two years interacting with the children. Subsequently, in 1983 as a fellow in the National Center for Clinical Infants Program, he met Stanley Greenspan, MD, the nationally known child psychiatrist. As Dr. Solomon became familiar with Dr. Greenspan’s Developmental Individualized, Relationship-based (DIR) model, he recognized the similarities between DIR (at that time called ‘Floortime’) and what he had been doing in the Ann Arbor elementary school.
I’ve known Rick Solomon for many years and he’s not only a pioneer and a leader in Michigan, but also one of a small group of clinicians and researchers who are transforming the way we care for infants, young children and families with various challenges throughout the world.
—Stanley Greenspan M.D.
Setting the Stage for Services that Work
From 1989 to 1998 Dr. Solomon was the director of developmental and behavioral services at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1990, several parents from the greater Pittsburgh area approached him to help them develop intensive and comprehensive treatment services for their children. Because of state Medicaid law in Pennsylvania, all children diagnosed with ASDs, regardless of parental income, could receive as much intervention as the physician ordered—commonly between 20-40 hours per week—FREE! This was typically in the form of one-on-one intensive therapy, either behavioral (ABA) or developmental (DIR) or some combination, delivered in the home by bachelor’s level support staff.
The staff was hired by three or four large mental health agencies in the greater Pittsburgh area. Thus, financially, legally, medically, and institutionally the stage was set for children with ASD to receive intensive interventions.
Dr. Solomon, along with avid parent support, a dedicated staff, close working relations with the early intervention, and educational systems and large mental health agencies played a central role in organizing community-based training programs and services for young children with autism.
Within two years, intensive and comprehensive services were available to many children with autism in the greater Pittsburgh community and Allegheny County. By 1998, when Dr. Solomon left Pennsylvania, most children with ASD were receiving these types of services. He received the ‘Professional of the Year’ award from the Pennsylvania State ARC (Association for Retarded Citizens) in 1998 for his work with young children with autism and their families.
The P.L.A.Y. Project’s Beginnings
Upon arriving at the University of Michigan in 1999, Dr. Solomon was eager to translate his Pennsylvania experience to Michigan. He discovered, however, that there was no Medicaid reimbursement for the intensive treatment of young children with autism in Michigan. In fact, there were very few intensive and comprehensive services of any kind in Michigan. It was this lack of intensive services that led to the development of The P.L.A.Y. Project and Home Consultation Program. After following hundreds of children in the Home Consultation Program, it has been Dr. Solomon’s clinical impression that intensive services delivered by parents are an effective way to supplement the school system’s early intervention and preschool services.
Current Research and Training
Dr. Solomon has published a research article “Pilot study of a parent training program for young children with autism” evaluating the ability of parents to successfully use play-based approaches, and his results indicate that parents CAN learn the play-based methods and that nearly 50% of the children make good to excellent progress, with 25% making fair progress, using The P.L.A.Y. Project Home Consultation model.
To date, thousands of parents and professionals have attended Dr. Solomon’s community workshops and autism and developmental methods. To date, thousands of parents and professionals have attended Dr. Solomon’s community workshops and autism and developmental methods. Over 100 agencies in 27 states and 7 countries outside of the U.S. have been trained in The P.L.A.Y. Project model, including non-profit organizations such as Easter Seals, state government Early Intervention systems, Community Mental Health agencies, and private therapy institutions.
Dr. Rick lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his wife Linda. He has two adult children, and three grandchildren. In what little spare time he has, Dr. Solomon writes poetry and plays blues harmonica.