Legislation will help MU Thompson Center grow

Tuesday, July 1, 2008 | 8:44 p.m. CDT; updated 11:55 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Correction: This story was updated at 10:20 a.m. on July 2 to correct the name of the benefactors to the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

With continually growing numbers of children diagnosed with autism, officials at MU’s Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders look to expand the facilities.

They should find a little help doing so after Gov. Matt Blunt on Monday signed legislation to allocate $5 million in funding to the center.

The Thompson Center opened in 2005 after Bill and Nancy Thompson made a donation to MU. Since then, the center has faced an increasing number of visits. Between 2005 and 2007, services provided more than tripled, Thompson Center Spokesman Scott Rowson said. He said that in the past year alone, the center has provided service to 2,000 children.

The $5 million provided will go into planning, design, renovation, construction and the possible purchase of another facility.

“The Thompson Center is kind of unique because we do treatment, research and training,” Rowson said. “It’s pretty tough to do that all under one building. This $5 million puts us much further down the road for expansion.”

Rowson said plans are still in the beginning stages, but that he doesn’t anticipate any delays with services provided.

Rowson said cooperation has been instrumental in providing more funding for autism research and treatment.

“The governor has been a steadfast supporter of the Thompson Center and autism treatment in general,” Rowson said. “I think there’s a growing awareness in the General Assembly as well that this is something Missouri families are concerned with.”

Blunt signed the legislation Monday at the Thompson Center.

“Autism has a profound impact on Missouri families, and this critical funding will help raise awareness about autism and provide greater treatment options to better the lives of Missouri children,” Blunt said in a news release. “Most of us know someone with an autistic child, and these parents can tell you how important a place such as the Thompson Center is and how important this funding can be in the fight against Autism.”

Autism is a developmental disorder in which communication and sensory problems make processing information difficult. According to the release, Autism Spectrum Disorder is the sixth most prevalent disability and the second most common developmental disability in the United States. Missouri currently provides services to more than 4,200 young Missourians with an ASD diagnosis.

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