Autism center

The number of children diagnosed as having some form of a variety of disorders that fall within the autism spectrum has increased dramatically. Until recently, autistic children and their families had to go to St. Louis, Columbia or Arkansas for professional services. Now the Autism Center for Diagnosis and Treatment at Southeast Missouri State University provides easier access.

The $2.6 million center on North Fountain Street (on the site of the old Washington Elementary School) has been in operation four months. The center also houses Touchpoint Autism Services, Thompson Center Outreach and the Tailor Institute that provide integrated services for autistic children and families all under one roof.

State Sen. Jason Crowell of Cape Girardeau pushed for state funding for the new center's construction. Due to drastic reductions in state revenue, the center was one of 30 state-funded projects put on hold in early 2009, but the money came through five days later as Gov. Jay Nixon released funding for 18 of those projects. The center also received operating funds from the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

April is Autism Awareness Month, and families throughout Southeast Missouri have good reason to celebrate now that the center in Cape Girardeau is open.