Federal Funding Received for Autism Clinic
Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (Jan. 25, 2008) – President Aaron Podolefsky’s agenda to secure federal dollars for programs benefiting UCM and the community is paying off with the award of funds for the establishment of the Midwest Clinic for Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Phase I Funding Received
Congressman Ike Skelton, D-MO, has announced the university will receive $286,898 in phase I funding to help plan and launch the clinic. UCM will seek additional federal funds for phase II to make the clinic fully operational. Limited services could be available later this year.
In a release announcing the funding decision, Skelton said there has been a marked decline in the number of available teachers who are trained to work with students with disabilities, including autism.
“I am pleased that Congress has provided funding for the Midwest Clinic for Autism Spectrum Disorders at UCM. Once fully operational, it will provide a regional resource to meet the needs of individuals with autism, their families, and their school districts,” Skelton noted.
Funding for the clinic was included in the 2008 Omnibus federal appropriations bill.
“We’re very grateful for what Congressman Skelton has done to help make this possible,” Podolefsky said. “It is going to be a tremendous asset to this region, and we’re pleased that Congressman Skelton recognized its importance."
Expertise Drawn from Three Academic Areas
Joyce Anderson Downing, Ph.D., who serves as associate dean of UCM’s College of Education and associate professor of special education, said the clinic will draw from the expertise and experience of faculty within three different academic areas, Special Education, Communication Disorders, and Psychology. They will provide the multidisciplinary perspective needed to effectively assess and teach students with ASD, while providing ongoing support for families and school professionals. UCM’s Welch-Schmidt Center for Communication Disorders will house the clinic.
“My hope is that we will be able to begin offering limited services in the fall,” Downing said. She added that UCM also hopes the clinic will eventually become financially self-sufficient.
Broad Range of Objectives
The clinic’s objectives include:
- multidisciplinary assessment of children, adolescents, and adults with autism spectrum disorders;
- assessment, consultation, and training that represents the best practices in the field;
- proactive practical assistance in program intervention planning to address the unique needs of individuals with ASD in natural settings where they live, attend school and work;
- ongoing professional development training and support for school personnel and families regarding research-based communicative and instructional strategies for individuals with ASD;
- cost-effective services and sliding-scale fees for families and school districts by utilizing existing UCM resources – including space, faculty members and student interns – by coordinating services with the Central Regional Professional Development Center at UCM when possible, and by working with local school districts and third-party payers, when appropriate.
Downing said some federal funding will be used to purchase necessary test equipment and materials for assessment, and to develop a resource library that includes software and instructional materials which can be shared with participating schools and families. She also pointed out that the center will serve as a place where university students seeking education careers can get hands-on experience working with students with ASD and their families.
Need for Services Continues to Increase
Citing many reasons for the clinic, she noted that in Missouri the school-age incidence of autism has more than doubled in the past five years, with 60 in every 10,000 students diagnosed with ASD. The increase in the number of students with ASD coupled with the shortage of trained personnel has resulted in a lack of resources for appropriate evaluation and educational programming for these students. As a result, schools districts, which are unable to hire individuals with expertise needed to work with ASD students, are often forced to contract with individuals from distant metropolitan areas on an hourly, consultative basis. In west-central Missouri, families often spend six to 12 months on a waiting list to obtain service from providers.
Mike Wright, Ed. D., dean of UCM’s College of Education, said he is pleased that the college will be able to “provide this valuable service to students and their families in partnership with our local schools. The Midwest Clinic for Autism Spectrum Disorders will make a significant contribution in the region. The key to helping these students is the partnership between the public schools, Central Missouri and the students’ families.”