Saturday, December 22, 2007

Missouri Autism Blue Ribbon Panel Makes Decisions

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It is the fastest growing disorder in the country, but services for families are slow to catch up.Those are the conclusions from a report about the “state of autism” in Missouri. However, there is a blueprint for change in the works.Autism-spectrum disorder affects one out of 150 kids born in the country. On Wednesday, lawmakers came to Kansas City to let families know they are ready to respond to what they label a “crisis.”Before delivering details of the report, lawmakers toured ABC 'n D in Kansas City. The facility is just one of the metro's centers for autism, a brain disorder that prevents normal social skills in an alarming number of kids.Through intense one-on-one training at an early age, the goal of the center is to get kids ready to succeed in the classroom. Early detection and treatment is proven to dramatically influence the severity of the disorder.Senator Michael Gibbons knows Missouri is lagging behind on its services, especially after he learned a child is diagnosed every 20 minutes."I thought it was frightening and something that we wanted to find out more about,” Gibbons said. “What we doing at state government? What can we do? How can we help families?”Earlier this year, Gibbons formed a 16-member group of doctors, educators and parents called the Missouri Blue Ribbon Panel on Autism. They listened to testimony from people across the state.One of them was Lee’s Summit mother Sherri Tucker, who has a freshman-aged son with autism. "There's an awareness now and I think people know we need to do something in Missouri to catch up to the rest of the country and I think this is a good thing,” Tucker said.Tucker and her friend, Debbie Shaumeyer, both attended the meeting in Kansas City. Back in April, NBC Action News reported on their struggles to improve educational services in the Lee's Summit school district."It's a very slow moving wheel. It's a very trying process on my family," Shaumeyer said.Shaumeyer said her six-year-old son Austin is already falling way behind other students in his Lee’s Summit classes. However, she does not think it’s too late for him to turn the corner. "That's one thing that our family does hold onto at this point is hope,” she said.The report includes 36 recommendations, some of which could go into place when lawmakers reconvene for their session in January.