Columbia adds one more option for autism treatment

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COLUMBIA - Autism prevalence rates are increasing across the board, and a private practice in Columbia is going to add one treatment option in mid-Missouri area.

A full house of people gathered at the office of Therapy Unlimited at John Garry Drive Tuesday afternoon to mark the new speech therapy services it's going to offer.

The practice will start to provide specialized autism treatment for people of all ages starting June 1 to address the growing demand in mid-Missouri.

Laura Powell, a speech-language pathologist of Therapy Unlimited, said autism has a wide spectrum of needs.

"It could be really high needs, so kids that are non-verbal need some assisting technology to help them communicate with their loved ones or somebody that may have just some social differences that the therapists can help facilitate meaningful relationship to connect with other people," Powell said.

The diagnosis of autism has increased more than tenfold in the last decade, according to the Missouri Department of Mental Health. A study shows that currently about one in 110 children in the United States suffer from autism.

Connie Brooks, director of health profession division at the Thompson Center, said there is a need for more service providers in Missouri.

"All across Missouri, especially in rural areas, we find that there aren't enough people doing diagnosis, there aren't enough people who are providing services for individuals with autism," Brooks said.

Brooks said in mid-Missouri, the demand for more services is just as high. "There is wait list everywhere longer than anybody would like."

Powell said as the only private practice in the mid-Missouri area providing autism treatment, Therapy Unlimited seeks to integrate people with autism into workplaces and help them become part of society.

Along with treatment for autism, Therapy Unlimited offers services for people with orofacial myofunctional, articulation and voice disorders.