It has taken decades, but the focus on autism is finally beginning to produce more emphasis on early detection and therapy. The numbers speak for themselves: One in 150 children are diagnosed with some form of autism. Many of these children are being helped tremendously because they are receiving professional attention from an early age.
Currently, parents of autistic children in Southeast Missouri must travel long distances to obtain specialized services in St. Louis, Columbia or Kansas City. Now state funding has been approved for more research and for the construction of an autism center at Southeast Missouri State University's planned research park along I-55 at the new East Main Street-LaSalle Avenue interchange between Jackson and Cape Girardeau.
In the coming months, university officials will be planning how to best meet the needs of autistic children, and parents of autistic children will be asked for their ideas and suggestions.
The state funding, the university's involvement and the participation of parents are evidence of a strong commitment to find ways to best serve the growing number of autistic children in our region.