Dressed in a gray Beatles shirt, Jude Bell eagerly reached across the table for a high-five. The 7-year-old, who completed a two-week intensive course at TouchPoint Autism Services in Columbia, graduated from the program last month. After working extensively with his therapist, Teresa Schmitter, Bell and his family finished the course with tools to improve his life at home, school and in the community.
For more than 37 years, TouchPoint has offered programs to children and adults with autism in mid-Missouri. The services, which are funded by the Missouri Department of Mental Health, are free for participants. Missouri legislators recently approved a bill that would extend insurance coverage for autism therapy in the state. Although this may not immediately impact TouchPoint, the organization supports the legislation.
"It's going to impact so many Missouri families, and any time that we can show support for the families, we're going to," TouchPoint Director Staci Bowlen said.