Rural Missouri - May 2011 - (Page 10)

port the child and family.” The center is part of a group based in central Missouri that is working together to help communities deal with the growlex started out as a normal baby ing number of autism and other developsays his mother, Sandra Burgess mental cases. Called the Missouri Autism of St. James. But that began to Rapid Response Initiative, the group is change when the child reached 2 devoted to speeding up diagnosis and or 3 years old. An experienced parent, his improving access to services. “It’s amazmother knew something wasn’t right. ing what can happen when people work When her son talked, he babbled and together,” Farmer says. his words were hard to interpret. Instead The Thompson Center collaborates of talking, he pointed at what he wanted. with three other autism centers in MisAs he grew older, Alex threw tempter tansouri: the Knights of Columbus Center trums that were way beyond the “terrible at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital two’s” behavior of his older brother. in St. Louis, Children’s Mercy Hospital in A string of doctors diagnosed Alex Kansas City and the Southeast Missouri with everything from attention deficit State University Autism Center in Cape hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to mental Girardeau. The Thompson Center also illness. He was hospitalized at treatment does extensive research on the causes of centers across the state, often for months autism, works to find new treatments and at a time. With Alex heavily medicated, educates teachers and health care providhis mother hardly knew what her son was ers on the best treatment options. really like. Technology also is helping rural people Finally, around age 7, Alex was diaglink to the center’s services. At more than nosed with autism at the University of 59 Missouri Telehealth Network sites, rural Missouri Thompson Center for Autism and people can connect to the Thompson Neurodevelopmental Disorders in ColumCenter via the Internet. bia. “It filled in some of the blanks, things “We can connect to any of those sites that were not ADHD and not bipolar,” or we can connect to a group of sites,” Burgess says of the diagnosis. “Now I knew says Farmer. “A child and their family why he did the things he did. I know what might come to the Thompson Center he can control and the things he can’t once and be seen by our providers. But control.” then they have to go back home. Say they Autism, or more commonly “autism have a child who has some sort of specialspectrum disorder,” is a group of disabiliized medication that needs adjustment. ties often defined by significant delays in Instead of plopping them in a car and social interaction and communication. having to drive five hours to Columbia, Cases of autism have dramatically we just connect to a site that’s usually 20 increased in the past 10 to 20 years, in to 30 minutes from where they live.” part due to a better understanding of the The center also offers a mentoring prodisorder. According to the Centers for gram that connects families of children Disease Control, 1 in 110 U.S. children with autism. will be diagnosed with autism this year. Those involved with treating autism That number is slightly higher in Missouri. patients agree the outcome can be good, Autism can be a devastating disease, but especially if the diagnosis is made early. there is help and hope for those effected. Never taking “no” for an answer, Sandra Burgess finally found help for her son, “Absolutely there is a great deal of hope,” Alex’s case is typical of many diagnosed Alex, who was diagnosed with autism. After years of struggle, he is doing well says Farmer. “We know that the children today. With poor communication skills, in school now and can do most of the things a typical 15-year-old does. with the best outcomes are the ones who he suffered in school. Unable to control have been able to access effective services, his temper, and with dramatic mood which is why we try to model what swings, he acted out in class and had those are and help communities difficulty learning. provide them through our training With an individual education efforts.” program (IEP) plan that only covOne patient, 6-year-old Ella ered his speech problems, Alex McPheeters of Columbia, came to might have slipped through the the center when she was 3. She was cracks of a system that struggles to non-verbal. She received Applied Behavior Analysis help those with his condition. Instead, his persistent therapy through the Thompson Center’s Early Intenmother found him some help. sive Behavior Intervention program. Within a year, Through the Pathways program of the Missouri she was speaking. “She exceeded everyone’s expectaDepartment of Mental Health, Sandra found Alex tions,” Unterschutz says. “Today, she is in kindera doctor in Jefferson City who listened to her probgarten in a regular classroom. She is still receiving lems and suggested she take him to the Thompson therapy and she still has a special education IEP. But Center. Founded in 2005, the center has grown from this child is an example of the importance of early a small clinic to a 26,000-square-foot facility that intervention.” The testing lasts half a day. “We have medical offers 14 clinical services ranging from diagnosis to For Alex Burgess, who is now 15, his mother’s doctors and psychologists who assess the child,” family counseling. Last year, the center saw 2,372 devotion to finding him help has led to him being Unterschutz says. “The diagnostic process is tailored kids from all but six Missouri counties. able to function in school, where he is making mostto the individual and before the family leaves, they The center has expanded over the years to meet ly A’s and B’s in his classes. Any speech problems he have a diagnosis one way or another.” the needs of a growing number of once had are barely noticeable now. This winter he This works well for rural people because children afflicted with the disorder. found a job shoveling snow, and he has volunteered they don’t have to make the trip to Columbia “Twenty years ago, the tools used to Columbia at a pet shelter. multiple times for a diagnosis. “You feel like diagnose autism weren’t as sensitive as • “The only direction he can go is forward,” Sanwith all these different types of profesthey are today,” says Cheryl Unterschutz, dra says. “I’m not saying that every day with him is sionals looking at the problem, you have senior information specialist with the • easy, but I will say he is in high school this year and a greater chance of hitting on a soluThompson Center. “Today, we have more St. James he is doing more than just passing. With everyone’s tion that’s the best combination for sensitive tools that help us diagnose more help, he is learning to do things himself, and I am the kids,” says Dr. Janet Farmer, the effectively.” looking forward to seeing what he will become. I Thompson Center’s director of acaWhen a child is referred to the center think he will always have some things to watch out demic programs. — usually by a physician or a teacher — for, but with help, he will be able to make it.” Once treatment is worked out, the family may they are first assessed by an intake specialist who return to the Thompson Center for follow up. But determines whether they need testing for autism For more information on autism resources, call 1-800they are more likely to be treated closer to home, or should be directed to one of the other clinics at 364-9687 or log on to www.dmh.mo.gov/dd/autism. The thanks to the center’s community focus. “We realize the center. Once at the autism diagnostic clinic, the website has links to all four autism centers in Missouri we can’t do it all,” says Farmer. “So we reach out to patient goes through intensive testing involving a and more information families will find useful. the rural communities to find out who can best supteam of health professionals. A by Jim McCarty jmccarty@ruralmissouri.coop Families don’t have to face autism alone 10 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://www.dmh.mo.gov/dd/autism http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - May 2011

Rural Missouri - May 2011
Table of Contents
Comments
Columns
Jim Peters’ Passion
Help & Hope
Twist of Fate
Mail Bag
Shoot Like a Pro
Out of the Way Eats
Aircraft From Another Era
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
The Pared-Down House
Marketplace
Around Missouri
Neighbors
Just4Kids

Rural Missouri - May 2011

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