Autism specialists teach new treatment techniques

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JEFFERSON CITY - Autism specialists from Columbia are training medical professionals and educators from around the country in best practices for autism treatment.

"Thanks to the media and campaigns like Autism Speaks, more people have been coming to us to find out if their loved ones fall on the autism spectrum," said Thompson Center Director Dr. Stephen M. Kanne. "So with the increase in awareness, we need more people trained in how to work with people with autism."

Kanne said more than 8,000 families visited the University of Missouri Thompson Center for diagnoses last year. He said his center currently treats more than 450 autism patients regularly.

MU's center for autism and neurodevelopmental disorders hosted the two-day autism conference, starting Monday, at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City. 168 medical professionals, teachers and researchers attended the event. Workshops addressed new treatment techniques, helping autistic people transition from adolescence to adulthood, up-to-date research on autism, and training for non-specialists.

Anna Laakman, a Thompson Center autism treatment trainer, said, "Between Kansas City and St. Louis, there are a lot of rural towns in Missouri that lack access to specialized care. The conference is meant to train both educators and medical professionals they can take their expertise back to their home towns."

The conference follows announcements of an early intervention program beginning at Mercy Kids Autism Center in suburban St. Louis.

Visit the Thompson Center website for links to resources throughout the state of Missouri.