CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - A new program is helping preschoolers with autism learn communication skills.
Southeast Missouri State University's Autism Center for Diagnosis and Treatment recently started the program. It is called "Building Blocks," and is meant to help young children prepare for school.
Building Blocks and is led by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Southeast students work individually with each child and then come together in a group activity.
Dr. Melissa King is the Director for the Autism Center for Diagnosis and Treatment.
"We want to add more services and be the premiere training institute in the region," Dr. King said.
The program is customized to each child individually, the new program assesses each child's personal needs and works on an individualized program to build their skills.
Since the program started, in January, Behavior Analyst Leanne Hopper said she's already noticed changes.
"We had a kiddo that was nonverbal and he said 'up' the other day for the first time, and it just renews your sense of why you're doing what you're doing," Hopper said. "You know how important it is and it just makes your job worth while when you see stuff like that."
Hopper said the program shows results, but couldn't be done without the support from southeast students.
"It is intensive, and it takes a lot of time, effort, energy and without the students we wouldn't be able to do that, having them here is critical to this group."
Southeast Freshman Meghan Becker said no matter what she has going on she wouldn't want to be doing anything else.
"If I'm having a terrible day, like on the verge of tears, and I come in here and like, he just makes me so happy, it's all better, it's all better I can go to sleep knowing I did something," Becker said.
The Autism Center for Diagnosis and Treatment currently serves 12 counties in the region and said it wants to add on more services for the future.
The program meets twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays for three-hour sessions from 1 to 4 p.m. Building Blocks is doing so well the center hopes to offer more fall sessions Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 4 p.m.
Ten students spend six to eight hours preparing for sessions and write reports.
The point of the early intervention is to teach communication and life skills while the children are still young.