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Autism Services at Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism



Evidence-Based, Life-Changing Treatment for Autism

Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism offers gold-standard diagnostic, treatment and education services for individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

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 Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), an evidenced-based practice proven to be effective in the treatment of autism.

Evaluation Process

The Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism Diagnostic Team provides evaluations and helps families with concerns about autism. The team, trained in collaboration with the University of Kansas Child Center for Health and Development, provides families with an evaluation for autism spectrum disorders, as well as guidance on available resources and community support.  

Our autism diagnostic team

  • Pediatrician – board-certified with advanced training in the diagnosis of developmental disorders
  • Psychologist – licensed clinical professional with experience in diagnostic evaluations
  • Behavioral analyst – board-certified with specialized training in autism spectrum disorders
  • Parent educator – pediatric nurse experienced in advocating for children with special needs
  • Speech language pathologists – board-certified with expertise in communication disorders

How it works

  1. The Autism Diagnostic Team evaluates the child using standardized tests, behavioral observation and information from parents, teachers and others who know the child personally.
  2. The team reviews the results of the evaluation to determine whether the child meets the criteria for an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.
  3. The family and team meet together to review the findings and discuss the diagnosis. The team provides the family with recommendations to address the child's specific areas of need, regardless of whether the child receives an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.
  4. Our parent educator provides the family with resources, recommendations and support.
  5. The evaluation, a team summary and a family meeting are held during a single session and generally require 3 - 4 hours. The team provides a brief written summary on the day of the evaluation.
  6. In approximately 2 weeks, the family and referring physician receive a complete report.

Want to schedule an evaluation or make a referral?
Please call 417.347.7850 or fax 417.347.7859.




    New Location!

    Shawnee Skies Shooting Complex and Training Center (11245 S. 705 Rd, Wyandotte, OK)

    $90 per person until September 30

    $100 per person on event day

    Entry fee includes lunch, t-shirt and 100 clays. 4-person teams or individual participants welcome. Course difficulty will be similar to a corporate shoot. Please bring your own side-by-side or golf cart if you wish to use one.

    Registration:            7:00 am – 8:00 am

    Safety meeting:      8:15 am

    Shooting starts:       8:30 am

    For additional information, call 417.347.7474.

    Net proceeds benefit Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism programs. Registration limited to first 200 paid participants.


    Register Now

    Download Registration Form

    Our autism support group meets at 6 pm on the 1st Tuesday of each month at Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism. People with autism, parents and caregivers are encouraged to attend. We offer respite care for parents who are attending the support group — please call us at 417.347.7850 to let us know if you would like respite care for your loved one.

    Parents Coffee is a social group designed for caregivers of young children with developmental delay. Parents can have a coffee and socialize with other parents while their children play in a supervised environment nearby.

    Parents Coffee meets at 8:30 am on the fourth Friday of each month, unless preempted by a holiday.

    Please call 417.347.7850 or visit our Facebook page for more information.

    Candy-Land 5K and 13th Annual Walk for Autism Awareness

    Start gathering your team now for Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism’s 13th annual Walk for Autism Awareness and our non-competitive 5K! Walk or run in honor of a loved one, family member or friend with autism, and promote autism awareness and acceptance. The Walk for Autism Awareness and Candy-Land 5K are both virtual events this year.

    Themed costumes and team shirts are encouraged. Members of the same team may participate in different events. A resource fair will follow the events.

    All proceeds benefit program development and scholarship assistance at Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism.


    Virtual 5K registrants will still receive a t-shirt and a swag bag. These can be picked up between 12:00 pm and 6:00 pm on Monday, September 28, at Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism (2808 S. Picher Ave., Joplin, MO). This is also when walk registrants can pick up shirts, if they order them.


    Saturday, October 3


    Participants can watch the event kickoff at 1:00 pm on Saturday, October 3, on the Facebook event page.


    5K Registration

    Includes t-shirt
    $30 until August 31
    $35 until September 1 – October 2
    $40 on event day

    One-Mile Walk Registration     

    T-shirt $5 extra
    $15 per walker
    $10 children (12 and under)
    Kids 2 and under walk for free!


    Register Now

    Team Captain's Guide

    Fundraising Ideas

    Autism Services at Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism

      Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism believes all children and young adults with autism should have the opportunity to interact with their family and community in the most meaningful way. We provide evidence-based, life-changing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for those with autism spectrum disorders. Widely recognized as safe and effective treatment for autism, ABA techniques can help children and young adults with autism live happy and productive lives.

      What is ABA?
      ABA is the use of techniques and principles to bring about meaningful and positive behavior. ABA focuses on the way the students learn. Our behavior analysts use positive reinforcement to help students acquire useful skills—when a behavior is followed by a reward, the behavior is more likely to be repeated.

      The student receives no reinforcement for behaviors that pose harm or prevent learning. Our analysts use ABA techniques that increase useful behaviors and reduce harm or interfere with learning with students each day.

      ABA can improve behavior, communication, social relationships, self-care, and learning skills. Results show ABA increases family and community participation.  Children learn and practice skills in both formal, structured classroom settings and unstructured situations at home, such as meal and play times.

      Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism offers independent living skills instruction, social skills instruction, specialized autism assessment, family support services and transition planning to clients age 13 and older with a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder.

      Classes include domestic skills, first-aid/medical independence, exercise/fitness, personal hygiene, budgeting/shopping, occupational skill development, scheduling, transportation, phone skills, relationships, community awareness, self-advocacy and personal safety.

      Clients must be enrolled with the Missouri Department of Mental Health Springfield/Joplin Regional Satellite Office.

      For more information, call 417.347.7850.

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

      The day 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  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.

      Day treatment provides frequent and varied communication to parents. A daily note is sent home to document the day’s activities and programs. Additionally, parent conferences are scheduled regularly throughout the year at the center. Parents are invited to observe and participate in hands-on learning.

      The day treatment program is open year-round with five weeks of school vacation built into the calendar.

      Feeding problems are common among children with autism spectrum disorders. Mealtimes should be enjoyable. At Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism Feeding Clinic, our goals are to help your child improve his or her nutritional intake and reduce disruptive mealtime behaviors.

      Common Signs and Symptoms

      • Very picky eating
      • Tantrums during meals
      • Poor feeding skills
      • Dependent on tube-feeding, bottle or formula
      • Gags on certain food textures
      • Acts out with non-preferred foods
      • Meals take longer than 40 minutes
      • Poor weight gain

      Feeding Treatment Options

      • Day Treatment Feeding Program – Intensive treatment of severe feeding problems. The team will work with the child five days a week during treatment and will facilitate three meals each day. Caregiver participation required for a minimum of one session per week.
      • Intensive Outpatient Feeding Program – Intensive treatment of severe feeding problems. Unlike the Day Treatment Feeding Program, the child will receive treatment five days a week for one hour, and the team will facilitate three meals each day. Caregiver participation required for a minimum of one session per week.
      • Weekly Outpatient Feeding Program – For treatment of less severe but still significant feeding problems. The child will receive treatment one hour each week. Caregiver participation required for each session.

      A child may transition through the treatment options as goals are met and/or as needed.    

      Our Feeding Team

      • Board-Certified Behavior Analyst: Uses evidence-based strategies to reduce disruptive mealtime behaviors
      • Occupational Therapist: Focuses on reducing hypersensitivity to foods and helps improve self-feeding skills
      • Registered Dietitian: Monitors child’s growth and nutritional intake to determine adequacy
      • Speech-Language Pathologist: Addresses any oral motor deficits or swallowing difficulties

      Schedule a Feeding Assessment

      To schedule a feeding assessment for your child, please call 417.347.7850.

      The feeding team will meet with you to discuss concerns and will complete a thorough feeding assessment. Following the assessment, the feeding team will discuss results and treatment options with you.

      Ensuring your child is getting adequate nutrition to support optimal growth and development is vital. That is why Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism offers nutrition services with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) for children, teens or young adults who need help with:

      • Picky eating
      • Weight management (gaining or losing)
      • Failure to thrive
      • Digestive problems
      • Diabetes, celiac disease, food allergies or other conditions
      • Tube-feeding
      • Eating to support a healthy lifestyle
      • Meal planning


      Registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) are food and nutrition experts who help people make positive lifestyle changes. RDNs have:

      • Earned at least a bachelor’s degree with course work approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
      • Completed an accredited, supervised-practice program at a healthcare facility, community agency or food service corporation
      • Passed a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR)
      • Completed continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration with CDR


      Nutrition Services Provided

      • Analysis of food and nutrient intake
      • Measurement and evaluation of weight and height
      • Nutrition-focused physical examination
      • Individualized nutrition plans
      • Nutrition education


      If you have concerns about your child’s diet or growth, call us at 417.347.7850 to request an appointment with our RDN. An autism diagnosis is not required for this service.

      Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism offers intensive one-on-one Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) focused on improving skills in the core deficit areas of social/play skills, communication, and restricted/repetitive or stereotyped behaviors. This outpatient therapy is available to individuals of all ages with a diagnosis of autism. Services may be covered by Missouri Medicaid, private medical insurance or self-pay.

      The treatment teams work closely with parents/guardians to ensure all skills taught in therapy can be generalized to other people and situations. Services may be delivered in a clinic, community setting or in the individual’s home.

      All outpatient ABA services are overseen by a board-certified behavior analyst, and all direct service providers are trained as behavior technicians.

      The overall goal of a personal care assistant is to help the client achieve increased independence while focusing on inclusion in the community.

      Personal care assistant services involve helping with activities of daily living, including bathing, toileting, grooming, dressing, feeding, exercising and meal preparation. Instrumental activities of daily living are also available and include shopping, banking, budgeting, using public transportation, social interactions, recreation and leisure activities.

      Services are based on client outcomes as presented in the client’s individualized support plan. Staff ensures the safety and well-being of all clients.

      Respite care provides child care so that parents/guardians may take some personal time for themselves. This service cannot supplant day care or day habilitation services.

      These services, available through the Missouri Department of Mental Health, can be requested through the targeted case manager.

      At Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism, we know students with autism spectrum disorders need targeted therapy to help build life skills necessary for transition into mainstream classrooms and a more independent future. That’s why our Special Education Center, a Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education approved school-aged program, provides educational services for students ages 5 to 21.

      Our curriculum includes activities to build self-help, daily living and prevocational skills, including targeted learning opportunities to help develop social skills in everyday settings. Instruction is provided in art, music, physical education and technology. Related services, including speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy, are also available.

      Special Education Center staff includes certified special education teachers, supervising behavior analysts and registered behavior technicians. Parent training is available and encouraged, and daily communication between staff and parents/guardian is an essential part of the program.

      Placement in Special Education Center is an individualized education program (IEP) team decision, and students must have an educational diagnosis of autism for admission into the program. Once enrolled, students receive customized curriculum and Applied Behavior Analysis to implement the goals from their IEPs. Data-driven decisions are used to change instruction as needed, and functional behavior assessments and behavior support plans are implemented as needed.

      Why Our Program Works

      • Highly-educated and skilled staff including behavior analysts; special education teachers; occupational, physical, and speech and language therapists; and implementers, or aides, with autism training and experience
      • Ongoing training provided to staff to keep current with new research available in the field
      • Specific, developmentally appropriate individualized goals for each client
      • Daily data collection and analysis to support goals
      • Curriculum with activities to build self-help, daily living and prevocational skills
      • Targeted learning opportunities to develop social skills in everyday community settings, such as grocery stores and playgrounds
      • Year-round treatment, preventing regression associated with extended time without treatment
      • Parent participation encouraged in orientation sessions and regular conferences to maintain involvement and help continue teaching techniques in the home
      • Expertise in managing challenging behaviors




      Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism

      Joplin, MO

      Visit us
      Ozark Center

      Aug 20, 2012

      New technology aids local children living with autism

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      Sep 04, 2012

      Funding provides social skills classes for young adults with autism

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      Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism Announces Show-Me Careers

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      National Research Corporation named Freeman Hospital West among the nation’s top hospitals, as well as one of the top ranked in the Joplin area.
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      Aug 05, 2014

      Construction begins on new Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism

      Armed with gold shovels and teal hardhats, supporters of Freeman Health System and Ozark Center, Freeman’s behavioral health division, overturned mounds of dirt, officially signaling the start of construction.
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      Ozark Center

      Sep 25, 2014

      Clay shooting competition will benefit Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism

      Clays for a Cause, a clay shooting competition to benefit Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism, will be held Saturday, October 4, at Claythorne Lodge in Columbus, Kan.
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      Ozark Center

      Oct 22, 2015

      Donation Builds Hope for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

      Staff members from Freeman Health System and Ozark Center gathered at the construction site at 2808 S. Picher in Joplin to accept a large gift from the Quapaw Tribe and Downstream Casino Resort.
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      Freeman Flying F Logo Fixed

      Nov 19, 2015

      Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism Celebrates Completion of New Campus

      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.
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      Jun 28, 2017

      New Credential Ensures Exceptional Services for Children with Autism

      Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism exceeding insurance requirements.
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      Ozark Center

      Aug 15, 2017

      Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism Receives $20,000 Donation

      Active Lifestyle Events Inc. presents final installment of $100,000 pledge.
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