Exciting Growth and Outreach


In 2011 Kansas joined Missouri and several other states in passing autism insurance legislation. In January, K-CART and the Kansas Coalition for Autism Legislation (KCAL) co-hosted a community seminar to provide informa- tion on the new insurance bill. Guest speakers included Mike Wasmer, founder of KCAL, Dan Unumb with Autism Speaks, Representative Thomas "Tim" Owens from Overland Park, Kan., and representatives from the Kansas Health Policy Authority and the Kansas Insurance Department. Approximately 200 parents and service providers attended the forum.


K-CART sponsored the first two statewide research-based autism conferences in Kansas for educators, families, researchers and service providers that featured nationally known speakers as well as practitioners. Autism Across the Life Span conferences were held November 2009 in Wichita and October 2010 with Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kan. Each conference drew more than 300 participants from all corners of the state.


When K-CART opened the doors of its new Autism Resource Center at the KU Edwards Campus, it was cause for celebration: no other such public center for parents and practitioners exists in northeast Kansas. The official open house and dedication on March 24, 2009, featured a formal program with Peter Bell, vice president for programs and services at Autism Speaks.

The center is a referral and information service for family members, teachers and teenagers and adults with autism and the general public. DVDs, books and other printed materials are among the center resources.

autism resource centerFor Danielle Underwood, a Kansas City parent of a child with autism, the resource center was the go-to place when she needed specifics on how to improve her son's social skills. She and her son's behavior analyst visited the Autism Resource Center together and came away impressed with the hands-on help that is available.

"Parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders have many extra demands on their time. They need help narrowing down all the information that's out there in order to find the gems," she said.

The Autism Resource Center was made possible by a collaboration of public and private entities. Edwards Campus Vice Chancellor Bob Clark contributed the suite of offices. Materials were purchased using gifts to K-CART from the Autism Society of the Heartland and special fund-raising events. Interior design students and faculty at Johnson County Community College volunteered their time to design the space, furnishings and other visual elements.


In another demonstration of its growing stature, K-CART was tapped to be one of 16 regional sites of a national town hall meeting on autism broadcast on Nov. 13, 2009. Local co-sponsors were Children's Mercy Hospital and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo. and the Bi-State Autism Initiative. Sixty-five participants from Kansas and Missouri attended the regional event, held at the Kauffman Center in Kansas City, Mo. The National Town Hall Meeting was organized by Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism and designed to shape a nationwide policy agenda to increase independence, engagement and quality of life for adults living with autism. The Autism Alliance of Kansas City, Autism Speaks and the Autism Society of the Heartland continue to provide time and donations to support this effort. The KU Beach Center on Disability and the Department of Special Education also supported this effort.


In February 2008 the KU Endowment Association announced a bequest of more than $1 million from a rural Chase County couple for disabilities research at KU. Wanda and Thomas Pyle were long-time ranchers in Elmdale, Kan., who stipulated that their estate be used to improve children's lives. The gift will support high-impact work on the causes and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders, including scientific studies by K-CART researchers.


More than 240 people attended a fundraiser held in July 2008 in Kansas City, Mo., sponsored by the family of Caeden Kephart, an Overland Park, Kan. boy with autism. Proceeds of $7,900 benefited K-CART, which used the funds to purchase materials for the Autism Resource Center.


The 2008 senior class of Blue Valley North High School in Leawood, Kan. designated K-CART as its class gift project in honor of one of their classmates. The class raised $2,500 to honor the accomplishments of Elizabeth Boresow, who spoke at Blue Valley commencement and enrolled at KU in the fall.


Every two years the Kansas City Young Matrons, a philanthropic and educational organization of around 300 women, designate a local charity or non-profit group as the beneficiary of a black-tie ball. In 2009 the recipient was K-CART, which received $119,00 from the Matrons' Magic Ball. Funds were used to purchase materials for the Autism Resource Center, to remodel a space for social skills groups at the Center for Child Health and Development at the KU Medical Center, and to produce educational DVDs.


Each year K-CART and the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders reap the rewards of the historic KU and University of Missouri rivalry. The Border Challenge, co-sponsored by Project Change, Inc. (a corporate challenge group), Sfs Architects and Boulevard Brewery, all in Kansas City, Mo., pits the participation of Jayhawks against Tigers in an annual spring fundraiser for autism causes. Befitting the oldest athletic rivalry west of the Mississippi, victory has graced both schools over the years, with more than $10,000 benefitting K-CART alone.