Southeast Expanding Autism Center Services to Sikeston Campus

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The Southeast Missouri State University Autism Center for Diagnosis and Treatment will expand its outreach to residents in the Missouri Bootheel beginning in January by providing its services at Southeast’s Sikeston Regional Campus.

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

“The Autism Center has many clients attending services that have to drive more than an hour to and from the Center for services,” she said. “This is particularly burdensome for families who have very young children requiring 15 or more hours per week of treatment or who cannot afford the costs of travel.”

Many Bootheel area families are on a waitlist for services, Patrick said, explaining there are very few behavior analysts or autism specialty providers in the Bootheel area. Although the number is growing, thanks to Southeast’s Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Speech Language Pathology programs, the number of licensed/credentialed ABA providers is less than 10 for the greater Bootheel region. Most ABA clinicians have 8-15 clients on their caseload with most clients requiring 5 to 40 hours a week of intervention.

The Autism Center will begin providing its services Jan. 22 at the Sikeston Campus.

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

“We have also incorporated ‘push-in’ speech language pathology services for children using a communication device,” Patrick said. “So the space’s design and facilities were perfect for the programming we want to provide there.”

Initially, programming will run from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Services to be provided will 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.

Services will 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 will serve at 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 will rotate supervision of the Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs), who will be at the site on all days programming is provided. Also at the Sikeston location will be a speech language pathology assistant who will provide speech-based services under the supervision of a speech language pathologist.

Diagnostic evaluations done by a psychologist and speech language pathologist will begin at the site in February.

Individuals on the Center’s waitlist for treatment and diagnostic services will be served on a first come first served basis.

“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 PAC funding to cover the costs. Most insurance companies cover diagnostic services, although they may require a prior authorization, Patrick said.