What We Do


educationThe resources generated by the Thompson Foundation are used to support programs, facilities and professionals working in the field of autism at the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders in Columbia, Missouri, and other national and statewide autism programs.

Additionally, the Thompson Foundation provides scholarships and financial support for families to obtain diagnosis, treatment and support services from the Thompson Center.

Thompson Center for Autism

Since its launch in 2005, the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders at the University of Missouri has become a national leader in confronting the challenges of autism and other developmental conditions through its collaborative research, training and service programs. As the largest center in Missouri specializing in autism spectrum disorders (ASD), the Thompson Center serves as a centralized resource for families, educators, health care providers, researchers and state agency service providers.

The Thompson Center partners with families, national research networks and other entities to provide a broad range of vital clinical services and a promise for the future through groundbreaking research and professional training. While still striving to identify new models of care, the center offers specialized medical, therapeutic, educational and behavioral interventions that are helping people with autism reach their full potential today.

The Thompson Foundation operates independently of the Thompson Center. While the University of Missouri is the Thompson Center’s largest supporter, the Thompson Foundation provides additional financial and logistical support for the center and the children and families who use its services.

Innovative Research

researchInterdisciplinary research teams at the Thompson Center — including physicians, research scientists, psychologists, occupational therapists, communication experts and other health professionals — seek discoveries that improve the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders and help children reach their full potential. 

An example of this research was presented at the 2012 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting. Dr. David Beversdorf, associate professor of radiology, neurology and psychology at the University of Missouri, presented research suggesting that propranolol, a drug sometimes prescribed for anxiety, can act on the core symptoms of autism to improve working memory and verbal fluency of people with ASD.

Investigators at the Thompson Center are also working to find biological markers that could be indicators of ASD. One study uses three-dimensional images to focus on the facial characteristics of children diagnosed with autism. The images provide clues to what happens in the embryo as the face and brain develop, and may help researchers understand if environmental or genetic factors affect development during pregnancy.

Another important study analyzes the response of the eye to light. Research indicates that the pupil’s response may distinguish children with ASD from typically developing children, and provide a vital diagnostic tool for caregivers. 

Legislation and Education

legThe Thompson Foundation compliments our support of groundbreaking research and clinical services at the Thompson Center with efforts to positively influence autism-related legislation and education across the nation.

One notable educational effort is Autism Spectrum Disorders: Guide to Evidence-based Interventions. The guide is designed to help families, healthcare providers and educators make informed decisions about selecting and implementing interventions for autism spectrum disorders.

The first of its kind, the publication summarizes six recent nationally recognized systematic research reviews of evidence-based ASD interventions and has garnered positive reviews from professionals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Autism Speaks.

The guide is a collaborative effort among the Thompson Foundation, the Missouri Department of Mental Health, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Mercy Children’s Hospital in St. Louis and Springfield, Mo.

Funding for the printing and dissemination of the publication was provided by the Missouri Foundation for Health.

The Thompson Foundation also has gained national prominence for our efforts in crafting and shepherding successful legislation through the Missouri Legislature that requires insurance providers to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism, including behavioral therapy.

According to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, the successful effort means that “thousands of families in Missouri will no longer face the agonizing decision to sacrifice financial well-being in order to get this vital treatment for their children.” 

The Thompson Foundation is a national leader in addressing autism-related legislation and best practices. Please join us in this valuable work by contributing to the Thompson Foundation today.

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