Freeman News

Graduation Day for Leffen Center Preschool Students

June 07, 2021

Students of Autism Center Don Caps and Gowns

Joplin, Mo – Five preschool students of Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism are celebrating graduation. A ceremony on Friday, June 4, featured the young students in caps and gowns while receiving diplomas. In every preschool, students learn social skills along with education building blocks such as letters, colors and early vocabulary. Those same skills take shape for students on the autism spectrum with specialized instruction at Leffen Center.

“This program helps the preschool students transition smoothly into public school kindergarten in the fall,” said Leffen Center Clinical Director Edie Spera. “The intensive day treatment program teaches kids to communicate and socialize with others, as well as colors, numbers, pre-handwriting and group play. These students will be able to attend school in a classroom setting and receive instruction with reduced challenging behaviors, which they may have exhibited before coming to Leffen.”

Proud graduates at today’s ceremony include Jaxon Anderson, Kaysen Austin, Jensen Whitaker, Liam Johnson and Isaac Howard.

Families have the option to receive follow-up consultations once the preschool students leave the program to ensure the transition to schools remains smooth.

Leffen Center’s preschool program offers early intensive intervention for children between the ages of 2 and 6 who have an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.

A preschool day at Leffen is comprised of six hours of individualized instruction with a 1:1 or 2:1 teaching ratio, and/or small group instruction. Each child has a daily schedule that includes instructional time, group activity (art, music and gym), gross motor activity, fine motor manipulation, structured play, free play, recess, snack and lunch, self-help and adaptive skills. Day treatment services use Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and are supervised by a board-certified behavior analyst.

Communication and socialization are core components of the day treatment program. The goal for children in the program is to achieve the highest degree of independence in the least restrictive environment possible. Data is recorded and graphed for each aspect of the child’s curriculum, and comprehensive reports are sent home at the end of each trimester.

Developed in consultation with the Cleveland Clinic Autism Consulting Group, Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism is one of only a few treatment centers of its caliber. The center consistently demonstrates excellent outcomes regarding progress in communication, learning and social development and meaningful behavior. The highly trained staff uses ABA, an evidenced-based practice proven to be effective in the treatment of autism.




About Freeman Health System

Locally owned, not-for-profit and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital and Ozark Center – the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services – as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. In 2020, Freeman earned dozens of individual awards for medical excellence and patient safety from CareChex®, a quality rating system that helps consumers evaluate healthcare providers. U.S. News & World Report named Freeman Health System the Best Hospital in Southwest Missouri for 2020-2021. With more than 320 physicians on staff representing more than 80 specialties, Freeman provides cancer care, heart care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services and women’s services. Additionally, Freeman is the only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in a 70-mile radius. For more information, visit