Conference on autism set for March 13

Friday, March 5, 2010

Autism is a condition that has received increasing attention in recent years, but it isn't always easy to understand what it is or how best to help children who have it.

The Mental Health Association of Saline County, along with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, will host a free conference Saturday, March 13, from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Martin Community Center in Marshall to help the community get a better understanding of the condition.

The session is open to anyone, but the organizations are especially interested in reaching parents and teachers who deal with autistic children.

Preregistration should be made by March 5. For more information and to obtain a registration form, please call 660-886-5200.

Speakers at the conference will include Robin R. Marsh, training coordinator, MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders; Ruth Thompson, Family and Consumer Support Coordinator for NAMI Missouri for the past 6 years; and Teresa Schmitter of TouchPoint Autism Services, formerly Judevine, in Columbia and St Louis for the past 16 years.

Marsh worked as a Certified School Psychologist in several schools in the States of Louisiana and Missouri for 18 years and has conducted numerous evaluations of special education services for students with autism spectrum disorders.

Thompson earned her Master's degree in counseling from Webster University in 1998. Since then she has worked as a clinical intern at Royal Oaks Hospital and as a Community Support Specialist for Pathways.

In this capacity, she staffs NAMI's 800 number HELPline and assists mental health consumers and their family members daily.

She also oversees all of NAMI Missouri's program for the parents of children and adolescents and teaches the NAMI Basics parent course.

Schmitter has experience working with people with autism and currently coordinates and conducts trainings and workshops for parents and professionals throughout 49 counties in central Missouri. Her other experiences include assisting schools by developing inclusive environments.

The conference will also serve to kick off a parent support group, which will hold its first meeting Tuesday, April 27, at 6 p.m. at the Saline County Health Department, 1825 S. Atcheson Ave., in Marshall.

This group will be for parents of children with any behavioral or mental health problems, not just autism. Any parent wishing to participate in this group can call 660-886-5200.

Saline County Mental Health Association is a United Way agency.

Contact Eric Crump at

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