Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism Celebrates Completion of New Campus
November 19, 2015
Students gathered with Freeman Health System President and Chief Executive Officer, Paula F. Baker, and staff from Ozark Center and Bill & Virginia Center for Autism as they celebrated the completion of a new, permanent facility.
JOPLIN, Mo. – After operating out of temporary facilities for four and a half years, students gathered with Freeman Health System President and Chief Executive Officer, Paula F. Baker, and staff from Ozark Center and Bill & Virginia Center for Autism as they celebrated the completion of a new, permanent facility at 2808 S. Picher Ave in Joplin. Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism, formerly known as Ozark Center for Autism, was destroyed in the May 2011 tornado.
“Welcome home,” said Baker. “The tornado may have destroyed the building, but it never destroyed our commitment to helping children. Staff members knew treatment had to continue or valuable skills would be lost. They put aside their own losses to continue essential autism services. In fact, treatment for their students resumed within one week of the storm.”
A generous donation from Bill and Virginia Leffen in 2011 helped ensure the construction of a new facility that would offer innovative, state-of-the-art treatment for children on the autism spectrum. Children on the spectrum sometimes have difficulty processing sensory information such as sound or light. The new facility features special lighting that enables staff to control brightness to suit each student. Some walls feature soft coverings to absorb sound. Moveable walls were installed to enable staff to teach students in one-on-one settings and slowly transition them into small groups.
“The features at the new facility are designed to create a setting that is favorable to individuals with autism spectrum disorders,” said Kristy Parker, Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism Clinical Director. “The color scheme was developed to both serve as a way-finding tool for our clients while in the center and to evoke a welcome and positive attitude. The layout enables us to give needed space to both young children, youths and young adults. Each space was designed with the student in mind, which is evident in details such as fixture sizes, décor and safety features.”
The new facility also features two playgrounds with specialized play equipment at the new location. The center’s multipurpose room, which doubles as a safe room, will offer students and staff shelter during inclement weather.
Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism has continued to grow since its creation in 2007, adding daily living and prevocational skills classes to the curriculum and establishing a program that connects young adults with autism to employment opportunities.
“A facility of this caliber is a rarity,” said Mary Parrigon, Ozark Center Executive Director. “Joplin should be proud to have such a gem that was created by the community for the community.”
Developed in consultation with the Cleveland Clinic Autism Consulting Group, Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism provides Applied Behavior Analysis, an intensive therapy proven to unlock parts of the brain that control function such as language, emotion, social skills and interest. Since opening in 2007, more than 355 children and young adults have received treatment through the center. In 2010, a Special Education Center was created, expanding therapy services to students from kindergarten through 12th grade. In 2011, the center established the Four State’s first Autism Diagnostic team, which features the resources of an entire team of diagnostic professionals.