COLUMBIA — Columbia's Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders hosted an event to thank Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., on Wednesday.
Bond secured $750,000 in federal funding to aid construction of an expansion to the facility, along with improvements such as video and audio equipment.
The center, founded in 2005, provides diagnosis, therapy and treatment to more than 2,000 families with children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
Executive Director Jim Poehling said that along with an expanded facility, the funds will allow for more faculty and better training of new therapists. The money will also go to a room that will utilize audio and video equipment so therapists can better observe the children.
"The Thompson Center will not only have an expanded, new facility, but will also be able to continue its leadership role in interdisciplinary clinical services, research, teaching and training," Poehling said.
The new equipment will help the center to better plan treatment, added Janet Farmer, director of academic programs..
The center is the largest facility in Missouri that specializes in autism spectrum disorders. One out of 110 children in the U.S. have an autism spectrum disorder, and more than 23,000 Missouri residents are affected by the disorder, according to the center's Web site.
Bond emphasized how important early detection is for children and said "the earlier you identify the situation, the more success there is in the treatment." He praised the Parents As Teachers program for its screenings for early detection.
Bond also said the new facility will allow the center to serve more children and families.
"The Thompson Center is great, and I'm happy to play a small role," he said.
The center is not just a place for children to receive medical attention. Some families consider the center a family in itself.
"I cannot thank the Thompson Center enough," said Kimberly Matthews, whose 7-year-old son Thomas was diagnosed with autism in 2005. The Matthews family has been with the center since it first opened.
When Thomas was first diagnosed, he was unable to focus and rarely made eye contact. Now, Matthews said, he is participating in school activities and sang in a concert.
"He sang every song, and at the end, he even bowed," Matthews said.
Matthews believes the funding will "open a window for more opportunities," and she is excited for the new facility.
After touring the facility and meeting with families, Bond was presented with framed artwork made by one of the children at the center.