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University of Central Missouri
Warrensburg, MO 64093
Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (March 19, 2009) – For the second consecutive year, the federal omnibus bill has included funding for UCM ’s Midwest Clinic for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
Funding Included in Omnibus Bill
The 2009 bill, signed by President Barack Obama, includes $285,000 for the clinic, which will allow it to begin extending its services to students with ASD, their families, and to school districts in the region that serve these students. Phase I, which included planning and development of the clinic and some limited services, was launched a year ago after the university received a federal grant of approximately $287,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Those funds were made possible by the 2008 omnibus bill. UCM President Aaron Podolefsky had previously traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with federal legislators from Missouri to talk about the clinic and other proposed projects on campus. Congressman Ike Skelton was instrumental in securing two years of funding.
“We’re delighted to receive this funding, and grateful to Congressman Skelton,” said Michael Wright, dean of UCM’s College of education. “This funding will enable UCM to continue providing a much-needed service to children, parents, and schools.
Addressing an Immediate Need
Joyce Anderson Downing, associate dean of the college and associate professor of special education, noted that the clinic is needed to address a lack of available teachers in the region who are trained to work with students with disabilities, including autism. The clinic is eager to move on to the next phase of its development, which will include needs assessments in area schools, working with teachers, and scheduling and performing clinical evaluations of individuals with ASD.
“We want to start doing evaluations and school-based consultations in mid-April,” Downing said. “While we anticipate that most of our referrals will come from school districts, parents may also request services directly."
She suggests that anyone who is interested in making a referral to call 660-543-4272 for additional details.
Assessment and Ongoing Support Provided
The purpose of the clinic is to provide a multidisciplinary perspective needed to effectively assess and teach students with ASD, while also providing ongoing support for families and school professionals. It operates under the auspices of the College of Education’s Alliance for Innovation and Research in Education, with the primary location for the clinic’s services in UCM’s Welch-Schmidt Center for Communication Disorders. It will provide teacher training in cooperation with the Central Regional Professional Development Center, located at UCM.
“We take referrals from anywhere, but are prioritizing the 14 Missouri counties served by the Central Regional Professional Development Center,” said Theresa Earles-Vollrath, associate professor of special education who serves as clinical director.
Advisory Council To Be Formed
This area covers Bates, Benton, Carroll, Cass, Henry, Hickory, Johnson, Lafayette, Morgan, Pettis, Ray, St. Clair, Saline and Vernon counties. Warrensburg R-VI School District offers its own services for students who have autism. The coordinator of those services is also a member of the center’s eight-person advisory council that was established in Phase I. The council includes parents of children with ASD, area school district personnel, and speech-language pathologists.
Phase I also included outreach to potential project participants, creating informational materials, determining policies and procedures for clinical operation, selecting assessment materials, training for area teachers, sponsoring a one-day institute on Asperger’s Syndrome, and securing key personnel. In addition to Vollrath’s appointment, Teresa Kemper, speech-language pathologist and assistant professor in the Department of Communication Disorders, has been chosen to coordinate speech and language evaluation services.
Educational Opportunity for UCM Students
The center, which hopes to eventually become financially self-sufficient, will serve as a place where university students seeking education careers can get hands-on experience working with students with ASD and their families. A study conducted by the American Speech and Hearing Association in 2004 discovered that 80 percent of the speech-language pathologists in schools regularly serve students with ASD. It is also estimated that about 60 in every 10,000 Missouri students are diagnosed with ASD. This, however, does not include students in early childhood special education, students with Asperger Syndrome or other milder forms of ASD.