2007 Blue Ribbon Panel on Autism

Background on Autism

Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills, social interactions, and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior.  Although symptoms can sometimes be recognizable in infancy, many individuals are not diagnosed with autism until a later age. Early identification can lead to early treatment, which has proven most effective.  Appropriate diagnosis, intervention, and treatment backed by autism-specific research, teaching, and training are critical to maximize the potential for Missouri individuals with autism.

The number of children and adults diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is increasing dramatically, thereby creating a growing and urgent concern for families, service providers, and policy-makers.  Currently, more children are diagnosed with autism than AIDS, juvenile diabetes and cancer combined.  Across the nation, it is estimated that 1 in 150 children are diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  Autism costs the nation over $90 billion per year; this figure is expected to double in the next decade.

Blue Ribbon Panel on Autism

The Blue Ribbon Panel shall consist of sixteen members and will be responsible for assisting policymakers in providing a better system for individuals and their families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders.  The Blue Ribbon Panel is charged with identifying issues of children, youth, and adults with autism and with making appropriate recommendations to address those identified needs.   The duties of the committee shall include the following, but are not limited to:


From a systems perspective:

From a systems perspective :

Representation on the Blue Ribbon Panel on Autism:

Senator Scott Rupp, (R-Wentzville) (Chairman)
Senator Jolie Justus, (D-Kansas City)

St. Louis

Ron Ashworth, President/CEO of Sisters of Mercy Health System (Vice-Chairman)
Julie Roscoe, Deputy Director Family and Community Relations of Judevine Center
Randy Sanders, Autism Director of Francis Howell School District, Parent
Bill Bolster, Attorney, Parent

Kansas City

Tom Davis, CEO of Meyer Companies Inc., Former MO State Board of Education Member, Grandparent
Robin Russell, Autism Alliance of Kansas City, Parent


Dr. Steve Kanne, Associate Director of the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Dr. Laurie Fowler, Physician Southeast Mamie Benson, SE Project Parent Advisory Committee, Parent


Shawn Williams, Law Enforcement, SW Project Parent Advisory Committee, Parent


Nikki Straw, Chairperson of Statewide Autism Parent Advisory Council, Parent


Dr. Cindy Dowis, Director of Special Education for Kirksville School District


Heidi Atkins-Liberman, Assistant Commissioner—Special Education
Julia Kaufmann, DD District Administrator, former Director for Autism Services


Various meetings, determined by the chairman, will be held throughout the state with parents, families, providers, and educators.  The purpose of these meetings will be to listen, evaluate, and make recommendations.  The panel shall issue a report, as deemed appropriate by a majority of the members of the committee, to the President Pro Tem of the Missouri Senate no later than Oct. 31st, 2007.