University of Missouri
205 Portland Street
Columbia, MO 65211

A picture of Mason, Leslie and Phoebe Karrer

Family Spotlight – Meet the Karrers

When Leslie and Mason Karrer first married 11 years ago, the Thompson Center was still very much in its infancy. Had a close family member not lived in Columbia and mentioned the center offhand to the Karrers years before their child was born, they might not have ever heard of Thompson Center. Needless to say, they had no idea how influential the Thompson Center would be for their family.

Six years after their wedding, the Karrers welcomed Phoebe to the world. As Phoebe began to grow and develop, Mason and Leslie became concerned with some of her behaviors. Living in the Kansas City suburb of Leawood, Kan., the Karrers reached out to Children’s Mercy and the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City to get on their diagnostic evaluation waiting lists.

Remembering hearing about the Thompson Center from their relative, as well as Leslie’s status as a proud Mizzou alumna, the Karrers also reached out to the Thompson Center and were able to schedule a diagnostic evaluation sooner than anywhere in Kansas City. In May 2017, making the two-hour drive to Columbia, the Karrers were able to have Phoebe evaluated by the Thompson Center’s nationally recognized psychologists. Four-year-old Phoebe was diagnosed with autism.

“Knowing that the Thompson Center is one of the best in the country for diagnostic services, we were more than happy to make the short drive from Kansas City to Columbia,” Leslie said. “We’ve been back since for a few follow-up visits with our doctors since Phoebe’s original diagnosis.”

Leslie said that despite the long drive, coming to the Thompson Center was a great experience for her family.

“Our experience at the Thompson Center has been kind, friendly and welcoming at every step of our journey,” Leslie said. “We have found the staff to be compassionate listeners; every time we’ve come to the Thompson Center, we have felt very special. Never like a number or a cog in a machine. Each and every one of the clinicians we have met has taken the time to listen to everything we have to say, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. The staff maintains the utmost professionalism, yet their passion and humor is transparent.”

After Phoebe’s diagnosis in the spring of 2017, she began Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy that summer, to great success.

“ABA has been just as much of a learning experience for us as parents as it has for our daughter,” Leslie said. “The biggest thing we have taken from ABA therapy is that parenting a child on the spectrum successfully will involve several behavioral changes from both the parents and the child. Even though Phoebe is the patient, my husband and I quickly realized that some of our behaviors were enabling her (undesirable) behaviors! As parents, we’re all just trying to do our best, but our ABA professionals have helped us change some of our parenting techniques so we have better outcomes with Phoebe. ABA has been a godsend for us; it’s really worked.”

After her diagnosis and ABA therapy, Phoebe now is a flourishing five year old and is beginning kindergarten this fall! Leslie’s experiences with the Thompson Center and with autism have given her a new appreciation for the value of persistence.

“Be tenacious. You will be met with seemingly long wait lists, but don’t give up. Stay the course. If you receive a diagnosis, take the time to interview several area professionals for treatment, as they will be extremely influential in your child’s outcomes. Above all, trust your gut.”