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Nearly $1 Million Grant to Help MU Thompson Center Be 'One Stop Shop'

Missouri is one of six states to receive the Rapid Response Grant

Sept. 25, 2008

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

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Families of children with autism spectrum disorders or other developmental disabilities face significant challenges when trying to access quality services and support. Many families report that current service systems are fragmented and often unresponsive to the needs of families and children. In an effort to better address these needs, the University of Missouri Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders has been awarded a federal grant worth nearly $1 million from the 2006 Combating Autism Act funds.

The goal of the project is to build a more accessible system of care for those with autism spectrum disorders. Project leaders from MU's Thompson Center will work to expand an existing pilot project, known as Rapid Response. Currently, the Rapid Response program is available in Central Missouri, but researchers will use the grant to expand the program statewide. Missouri is one of only six states in the nation selected to receive this first round of service improvement grants.

"The Rapid Response project focuses on three critical outcomes," said Anne Deaton, who serves on the Thompson Center Advisory Council and has been a longtime advocate for people with developmental disabilities. "For the past two years, a community coalition of professionals and parents in Boone County has worked together to improve early identification of children with developmental challenges, promote timely access to diagnostic and intervention services, and identify family supports."

The expanded Rapid Response project will strive to meet these same goals across the state, creating an individualized road map to help guide families. Parents will have the opportunity to support other parents through this process, and these programs will focus on youth during the transition to adulthood as well as younger children. A unique aspect of the project is that MU Extension, which has offices in every Missouri county, will help local communities expand their own capacity to address the needs of families, strengthen family/professional partnerships, and sustain improvements in access to needed care. 

"Missouri is already a national leader in providing quality services to children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders," said Janet Farmer, director of academic programs at the Thompson Center. "This grant will support our efforts to provide a more rapid and effective response when a family discovers their child needs extra help to reach their full potential."

Collaborators with MU on the Rapid Response expansion include: Missouri Bureau of Special Healthcare Needs, Missouri Division of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, Missouri Family Voices, Missouri Families for Effective Autism Treatment, and University of Missouri-Kansas City Institute for Human Development.