Families recognize decade of service at Southeast’s Autism Center

Updated: Jan. 31, 2020 at 10:50 PM CST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - This month marks one decade of service for the Autism Center at Southeast Missouri State University.

Families are calling the resource a blessing for rural communities in the Heartland.

In ten years, the Autism Center for Diagnosis and Treatment has added new programs, grown it’s staff, and has persisted through cuts to funding sources like the Missouri Autism Project.

The center in Cape Girardeau serves nearly 2,000 clients from 19 Heartland counties.

One of them is Marilyn Cox. Her 49-year-old son Brian has autism and was diagnosed as a teenager.

Cox said they used to travel hundreds of miles to many hospitals to find treatment for he son, so she knows how important it is to have a resource like the Autism Center close to home.

“It has been a pure blessing to this part of the country and to parents and children with autism and their families,” Cox said. “There is no other explanation for it. It’s desperately needed.”

As they move into the future, Dr. Renee Patrick, the center’s director, wants to continue raising awareness and help more families dealing with developmental disorder.

“Autism is not going to go away. The rates are increasing. The need is going to continue to increase so perseverance is really important," Dr. Patrick said. "And that goes for the families, it goes for the clinicians, just that perseverance to see things through because it does take time. It takes a lot of hard work too.”

Cox said funding for the Autism Center is vital, and is encouraging others to raise their voice and reach out to local lawmakers.

“It took so long to get it, we’ve got to work hard to keep it," Cox said. "Parents with children with autism really need to get involved. I know they’re busy. Been there, done that, but I know you can make time to get involved and support what is going on here.”

In 2019 Southeast’s Autism Center for Diagnosis and Treatment opened another location in Sikeston.

The organization also offers training and internships for SEMO college students studying a variety of disciplines.

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