Central Missouri will be home to a new Autism and Neurodevelopment Center. The University of Missouri Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopment Center is relocating to a larger site in Columbia in 2026.

Executive Director Connie Brooks said construction has begun on the new building in mid Missouri.

“We are bursting at the seams in terms of capacity to see more patients,” said Brooks. “So, we are out of treatment rooms and the new site will allow us to expand in terms of patient rooms, but also in terms of adding some additional services that we aren’t able to add to our current locations.”

According to Brooks, the new location will more than double the number of annual visits to help meet the growing demand for clinical services.

“Autism diagnostic waitlists are incredibly long,” Brooks told Missourinet. “It’s one of those things that keeps everybody up at night in terms of how to make the wait time shorter for families. And so, right now we’ve got about 2,000 children on our waitlist for all types of evaluation. So that includes autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, neuropsychology evaluations.”

The future location will have a day treatment program for children with severe behaviors. The center’s longest waitlist is for these services.

“The benefit of having that type of a program is that it helps when kids are having severe behaviors and where they typically end up might be in ER or a psychiatric hospital – those aren’t really the right places to meet their needs. But they’re not necessarily safe enough to be in a school setting,” she said. “And so, we want to be kind of that step down, or step in between.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that 1 in 36 children are diagnosed with autism.

“It’s pretty common and we want to make sure that we are serving families no matter where they fall on the spectrum,” she said.

Brooks expects to move from the current 15,000 patient visits a year to about 35,000 annual visits. The current goal is to see children, particularly under age 5, between six months and a year. She wants that goal to change when the new center is up and running.

“The time of the waitlist is – it’s just too long, no matter how long it is. Our goal is really to eventually have kids who are age three and under to get in within three months,” said Brooks.

The center is heavily recruiting now to have additional providers by the time the new doors are open.

“We’ve got some pretty specific and effective strategies for doing that, so that we’ll be able to grow in a very smart and intentional way, so that we’re making sure that we’re addressing family’s needs in a way that isn’t kind of overloading the whole system at one time,” Brooks said.

The state of Missouri and the University of Missouri are both pitching in funding to help make the state-of-the-art center happen. The Thompson Center Foundation is also fundraising for the new $55 million building and services.

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