Thompson Center teams up with Mercy Autism Center in St. Louis

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 | 7:15 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — After more than a year of discussions, MU's Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders announced plans Monday to partner with the Mercy Autism Center in St. Louis.

The partnership will work to expand clinical care, professional education and research for individuals and families affected by autism spectrum disorders, according to a statement released by the university.

The partnership is focused on long-term goals, and Columbia won't see an immediate increase in health care professionals, said Jesslyn Chew, health information specialist at the MU News Bureau.

The announcement came just two weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new statistics on the overall prevalence of autism spectrum disorder. The study, conducted in 11 states in 2010, estimated 1 in 68 children who are 8 years old have been identified with autism spectrum disorder, according to the report. 

Autism spectrum disorder is a group of neurodevelopmental disorders that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges, according to the CDC website.

The partnership is not a direct result of the recent statistics but reflects the need for expansion, Chew said.

Groundwork for the partnership was laid when representatives from both centers began working on the Missouri Autism Guidelines Initiative, which is a guide to best-practices regarding autism. Stephen Kanne, executive director of the Thompson Center, and John Mantovani, medical director of the Mercy Kids Therapy and Development Center and chairman of pediatrics at Mercy Children's Hospital, were members of the initiative's leadership team.

As part of the partnership, Mercy Autism Center will adopt the initiative's best practices for autism, which are already used by the Thompson Center. The guidelines address screening, diagnosing and creating an intervention plan centered on a community collaboration model, according to the document.

"Dr. Mantovani and I have worked together for years, and a great example of our prior collaboration was our work on the Missouri Autism Guidelines Initiative Best Practice guide, which is used across the state and even nationally," Kanne said in a statement.

Plans to partner with Mercy Autism Center began more than a year ago and the Thompson Center anticipates the partnership to be finalized within six months to a year, Chew said. Officials from both centers will meet in May to discuss final plans.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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