SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The Arc of the Ozarks has recognized a problem when it comes to Autism Spectrum evaluations. 

“Kids may be on a waitlist, and they don’t have access to get those services,” Tim Dygon, VP of the Arc of the Ozarks said.  

The wait time on average? 18 to 24 months. 

Their response is to create a first-of-its-kind neurodevelopmental and autism center in Springfield. 

“We’re planning to open up about 450 evaluations per year,” Dygon said. 

“The line for those services in our state and really the entire country is out of control, is way too long,” Dr. Kyle John, the Arc’s Medical Director said. “In a disorder that time is of the essence because the earlier you intervene with a child with autism, the better the outcome is going to be.” 

The center aims to provide almost every resource needed, from expert evaluations to help for those already on the spectrum. 

The move is being praised by other groups who work with those on the Autism Spectrum. 

“I’m excited. Arc of the Ozarks is a sister agency of Nova Center. We’ve provided a lot of the same services,” Cheryl Cassidy, executive director of the Nova Center said. “There are never enough services to be provided. I know with autism there’s such a long waiting list to be able to get diagnosis and treatment. In order to get treatment, you have to have the diagnosis, and that’s a big part of that.” 

“We want to be a one-stop shop when the family comes in. Let’s say that the child is diagnosed autism, we want to make sure we can meet the needs of the individual,” Dygon said. 

In Missouri, current statistics show 1 out of every 60 children is diagnosed, which is something experts feel has been skewed by the lack of resources. 

“Nationally it’s 1 in 40, but is that because we’re a healthier and population with less autism or is it that we aren’t getting the kids screened and to a diagnostician at a timely manner?” Dr. John asks. “I would argue it’s the latter that that if we could meet the demand of folks that really need a thorough evaluation, we would find our numbers probably more in line with that of the rest of the country.” 

The building on South Nettleton aims to open its doors in Winter 2024. 

Dygon says on the inside, the plan is to create an environment that’s sensory-friendly to those needing assistance.