Ribbon Cutting March 7 for Sikeston Autism Center

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The new Southeast Missouri State University Autism Center for Diagnosis and Treatment at Southeast’s Sikeston Campus will hold a ribbon cutting and open house from 4:30-6 p.m. March 7 at the regional campus at 2401 N. Main in Sikeston, Missouri.

The ribbon cutting ceremony, sponsored by the Sikeston Chamber of Commerce, will be held at 5 p.m. and will feature remarks by Southeast President Carlos Vargas. Tours of the Sikeston Autism Center facility will be available, and refreshments will be served. The public is invited, and families and children are welcome.

Southeast’s Autism Center for Diagnosis and Treatment expanded its outreach to residents in the Missouri Bootheel beginning Jan. 22 by providing its services at Southeast’s Sikeston Campus.

Programming is helping meet a growing demand in the region for autism services without having to travel to Cape Girardeau, where the University’s main Autism Center is located at 611 N. Fountain Street, said Dr. Renee Patrick, director of Southeast’s Autism Center for Diagnosis and Treatment.

Feedback from families using the new Sikeston facility has been very positive thus far, Patrick said.

“They are just really happy that these services are closer,” she said. “It’s a lot easier for them” and has eliminated an hour of drive time previously incurred by traveling to Cape Girardeau.

Patrick said the Autism Center is replicating its Building Blocks program in Sikeston. This program is for young children ages 2-5 who have significant need for applied behavioral analytic programming.

Programming runs from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Services provided include early intensive intervention services through the Center’s Building Blocks Program, Speech Language Pathology using a push-in service for Language Acquisition through Motor Planning (LAMP) communication device users and diagnostic evaluations for individuals seeking diagnostic clarification of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Patrick says the goal is for services to increase gradually, so eventually two sessions of the Building Blocks program will be offered each day and diagnostic services once a week. The Center anticipates expanding to an 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday schedule in the future.

Autism Center staff currently are serving both the Cape Girardeau and Sikeston locations. In the future, the Sikeston Center hopes to hire local providers for its site. The Center’s Behavior Analysts are rotating supervision of the Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs), who are at the site on all days programming is provided. Also at the Sikeston location is a speech language pathology assistant who provides speech-based services under the supervision of a speech language pathologist.

Diagnostic evaluations by a psychologist and speech language pathologist began at the site this month.

Individuals on the Center’s waitlist for treatment and diagnostic services are being served on a first come first served basis, Patrick said.

“We hope to build collaborative relationships with other agencies in the Sikeston area to build an inclusive preschool program so that community members can access the center and our children can have access to typically developing peers,” Patrick said.

She said most insurance plans, except for some self-funded insurance plans, cover autism services such as applied behavior analysis. Many plans also cover speech services. However, when they do not, or when they do not cover the amount of services needed by a child, many families apply for Southeast Missouri Autism Project PAC funding to cover the costs. Most insurance companies cover diagnostic services, although they may require a prior authorization, Patrick said.

For more information, contact the Southeast Missouri State University Autism Center for Diagnosis and Treatment at (573) 986-4985 or autismcenter@semo.edu.

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