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MU's Thompson Center Now Part of National Autism Treatment Network

"Autism Speaks" Announces Major Expansion of Autism Treatment Network in U.S. and Canada

Sept. 12, 2007

Story Contact:  Jennifer Faddis, (573) 882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The University of Missouri’s Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders is now part of an international autism treatment network. Autism Speaks, the nation’s leading autism advocacy organization, today announced that its Autism Treatment Network (ATN) would expand from five to 15 sites across the United States and Canada. The ATN is a collaborative group of major medical centers dedicated to improving and standardizing medical care for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders.

“It is imperative that all children, no matter where they live, have access to excellent, evidence-based medicine,” said Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks. “The continuing expansion and funding of the ATN is a significant step in that direction.”

The Thompson Center serves nearly 1,000 children with autism spectrum disorders and their families each year in the context of a comprehensive multidisciplinary center. The mission of the Center is to improve the lives of individuals with autism and other Neurodevelopmental disorders by integrating medical care, clinical service delivery, research and training. As part of the network, the Center will receive a $440,334 grant over a three year period.

“Joining the ATN will enhance the Thompson Center’s commitment to improving the medical treatment and care of individuals with autism spectrum disorders. By partnering with the leading autism centers in the country, we have a real opportunity to learn which treatments are most efficacious and to establish empirically based standards of care,” said Judith Miles, Thompson Endowed Chair and professor of child health and pathology in the MU School of Medicine.

The Thompson Center currently provides medical management, diagnostic and assessment services, behavioral and educational supports, early intervention programs, occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, child and family counseling, young adult services and early intervention programs.

“Becoming a part of this network really puts the Thompson Center on the map,” said Stephen Kanne, associate director of the Center and assistant professor of health psychology in the MU School of Health Professions. “This network allows us to make contributions and share data to study the biological mechanisms of autism and help speed research into why it is occurring at such high rates. The network also wants to create standard practices for diagnosing and treating autism spectrum disorders.”

Joining ATN will allow MU specialists to address the most common medical concerns for children with autism; sleep, gastroenterologic symptoms and allergies. Pradeep Sahota, director of the University Sleep Laboratory and chair of the Department of Neurology, Alejandro Ramirez, director of the Division of Gastroenterology and Jesus Guajardo, specialist in allergy and pediatric pulmonary medicine both in the Department of Child Health will join the Thompson Center’s ATN project.

Autism is a complex brain disorder that hampers a person’s ability to communicate and develop social relationships. It also may be accompanied by extreme behavioral challenges, according to Autism Speaks. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 150 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remains unknown.