Thompson Center Partners with Mizzou Athletics to make Mizzou Arena more Autism-Friendly

Oct 9, 2015

The Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders announced a partnership on Wednesday with the Mizzou Arena to train employees of the arena on how to interact with families with individuals on the Autism Spectrum.

This program is through the center’s “Autism Friendly Business” initiative that provides free training for any Columbia business on how to best serve customers on the Autism Spectrum. 

Kim Selders, a research specialist at the Thompson Center, said that in addition to the training employees of the arena will receive, the center will also be creating visual tools that families can access in order to understand and explain to their child what they can expect at a game.

“We have so many families in Columbia who are fans of Mizzou athletics, but it can be daunting to go to a big sporting event if a kid doesn’t know what to expect,” Selders said.

The staff training will focus on not only what Autism Spectrum Disorders are, including signs and symptoms, but will also discuss ways that employees can best communicate with families and follow safety procedures.

Ana Compain-Romero, a Columbia mother of two children on the Autism Spectrum, said that the new training is great for families with children on the spectrum.

“There are a lot of families with children on the spectrum,” said Compain-Romero. “And knowing that the staff will have sensitivity to the challenges faced by parents will help those families to feel more included at these events.”

Selders said there’s a possibility of future partnerships with other MU facilities.

“The more opportunities we have to partner with recreation facilities and athletic events the better, because then just the more families have opportunities to be included in these sorts of community events that are so formative to what Columbia is,” Selders said.  

The program will be in place in time for the 2015-2016 MU basketball season.