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Thompson Center draws governor, national autism experts to record attendee crowd at annual conference


By Adrienne Cornwall

CHESTERFIELD, Mo. (Oct. 7, 2016) — Nearly 300 educators, medical professionals and behavior analysts, as well as Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, attended the Thompson Center’s 11th annual Autism Conference in St. Louis in September.

“It was definitely our best-attended annual conference so far. Our presenters are internationally recognized experts in autism who cover topics relevant to professionals working with children with autism, and it’s an incredible opportunity to learn from them right here in Missouri,” said Thompson Center Executive Director Dr. Stephen Kanne.

Gov. Nixon addressed the attendees on the conference’s first day, discussing the progress that Missouri has made in services for individuals with disabilities during his tenure.

“State support for the Thompson Center is part of an historic, $200 million investment in improvements to our mental health system that will help Missourians with developmental disabilities and behavioral challenges live fuller, happier, and more productive lives,” Nixon said.

Keynote speakers Dr. Gordon Ramsay, director of the Spoken Communication Laboratory at the Marcus Institute for Autism at Emory University, and Dr. John Maag, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, delved into in-depth professional topics with attendees.

Ramsay, who specializes in communication, presented current research on how autism can affect speech and language development in infants. Maag, a professor of special education, shared techniques for reducing resistance during interactions with children with autism in the classroom and clinical settings.

Other sessions included presentations on transition to adulthood, sexuality and puberty, assistive communication, and current research into biomarkers for autism, with speakers hailing from as far as Yale, Vanderbilt University and the University of California, San Francisco.

Before departing, Nixon commended the attendees on their dedication to improving the lives, educational experiences and health of children with autism as a team of professionals working together.

“The ultimate milestone – prevention – still lies beyond the horizon. But there is hope. With continued research – and conferences like this one – new and even more effective tools and treatments will be developed,” Nixon said. “Until that final milestone is achieved, let us continue to dedicate ourselves to serving others, working together to help all those with autism lead full and happy lives.”