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MU Announces Enhanced Strategic Plan for Thompson Center

Farmer, Thornburg will co-direct center to focus on autism and neurodevelopmental disorders

Nov. 21, 2007

Story Contact:  Christian Basi, (573) 882-4430,

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Today, University of Missouri-Columbia Provost Brian Foster announced changes in the organization of the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. The new organization reflects a strong commitment from MU officials to the vision for the Center. Mizzou administrators have high aspirations for the Center to become a distinguished, national resource in this field. As part of the plan, Foster has named Janet Farmer and Kathy Thornburg executive co-directors of the Center.

“The Thompson Center has achieved incredible accomplishments to date and has made an impressive start on putting together a nationally prominent program,” Foster said. “In large part due to the success of Janet Farmer and her team, we need to expand on this success and continue to build the Thompson Center into a vital resource for children and families, health professionals, educators, researchers, and policy makers.”

The mission of the Center focuses on three areas: services for children and families affected by autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, interdisciplinary research on the causes and interventions for these disorders, and education for students and community-based professionals.

“This opportunity to further expand the horizons of the Thompson Center will be of great benefit to the children and families we serve,” Farmer said. “It is the result of the tremendous efforts of the faculty and staff at the Thompson Center and represents another step forward in developing quality care for individuals with developmental challenges.”  

“Dr. Farmer and other professionals have made the Thompson Center a success in just two years,” Thornburg said. “Their work is quite impressive, and I look forward to working with them on a structure that allows continued growth in national and international arenas.”

The Center was established with an $8.5 million gift from Bill and Nancy Thompson in 2005 and integrates the best research and clinical services from multiple academic units at MU into a model program for the diagnosis and treatment of children and adults affected by autism and other neurological conditions. The Center also promotes the training of future professionals and provides continuing education for those working in communities.

Farmer is a professor of health psychology and child health in the School of Health Professions and is the founding director of the Thompson Center. She is a diplomate in rehabilitation psychology and a fellow of the American Psychological Association. She has held leadership roles in national professional organizations and has been recognized for her contributions to individuals with disabilities. In 2007, she received the MU Alumni Association Faculty-Alumni Award.

Currently, Thornburg is the director of the Center for Family Policy and Research and a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Human Environmental Sciences. Thornburg has more than 40 years of experience teaching, directing early childhood programs, and conducting research. She also served as president of the National Association for the Education of Young Children from 2000-2002.