New technology aids local children living with autism

Thursday, August 30, 2012 - New technology aids local children living with autism

JOPLIN, Mo.—Technology today serves an infinite number of purposes—it entertains, it guides, it teaches. And for students at the Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism, it opens doors to worlds unknown.

A $6,000 donation from the Kansas-Missouri District of Pilot International, a worldwide service organization, funded the purchase of a SMART Table™ for the Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism, formerly Ozark Center for Autism. The SMART Table, an interactive and intuitive table that features touch-screen technology, teaches students problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. "Now in use daily at the school, this donation makes a difference in the lives of many local children living with autism," said Kristy Parker, Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism Behavior Analyst.

“Technology plays a role in every classroom today,” said Parker. “We are so thankful to Pilot International and the Kansas-Missouri District for what they have given our students.”

The SMART Table is especially useful to children living with autism because of the visual support it adds to the learning process. Children with autism often have difficulty processing and understanding oral language, said Parker. Because the SMART Table presents information visually, students are better able to retain details for the tasks they are given. In addition, Parker said, teachers can select problems involving simple, straight-forward imagery. Visuals found in other learning systems can be quite complex and could prove more distracting than helpful.

The SMART Table also helps children learn to make eye contact with others, said Parker. If students do not understand how to move through the program, they have to make eye contact with their therapist to seek help.

“Our students love to be challenged, and that is exactly what the SMART Table does,” said Brady Morris, Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism Applied Behavior Analysis Implementer. “It challenges them in a way they respond to. Technology is fun, and when we pair it with learning, our students get the best of both worlds.”

Pilot International is a global organization of approximately 25,000 members whose focus is helping people affected by brain-related disorders and disabilities through volunteer activities, projects, and fundraisers.

Developed in consultation with the Cleveland Clinic Autism Consulting Group, the Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism provides intense therapy vital to unlocking parts of the brain that control functions such as language, emotion, social skills, and interest. Since opening in 2007, hundreds of students have received treatment through the center. In 2010, the school established a Special Education Center, expanding its therapy services to kindergarten through 12th grade students. In January 2011, the Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism opened the Four State’s only autism diagnostic center, which features the resources of an entire team of diagnostic professionals. This team recommends local treatment opportunities to families once a diagnosis has taken place.

About Freeman Health System

Based in Joplin, Missouri, Freeman Health System is the area’s only locally owned, not-for-profit health system, serving southwest Missouri, southeast Kansas, northeast Oklahoma, and northwest Arkansas. Freeman provides comprehensive healthcare and behavioral health services, including cancer care, heart and vascular care, neurosciences, orthopaedics, and women’s services, with more than 300 physicians representing 60 specialties. For more information, visit freemanhealth.com or facebook.com/freemanhealthsystem, or follow Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer Paula Baker at twitter.com/freemanceo.

About Ozark Center

An integral component of Freeman Health System based in Joplin, Missouri, Ozark Center provides comprehensive behavioral health services to children, adults, and families in an area that includes more than 450,000 residents from Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Ozark Center continually looks for innovative ways to address the mental health needs of the community and promote awareness of mental illness in an effort to eliminate the discrimination associated with it. For more information, visit ozarkcenter.com or call 417.347.7600.