TUPELO – A west Tupelo center for children with autism is changing its name but keeping its location and its mission.

“The center has become Autism Center of Tupelo,” said Sharon Boudreaux, executive director of the Parkgate Drive Extended office which formally housed Spectrum Educational Solutions.

The concept’s original founder, Mark Wildmon, is not associated with the new agency.

“The center will operate as a separate, unaffiliated, nonprofit entity” from Spectrum Educational Solutions, Boudreaux said. It does not charge its clients and currently is a special project of the CREATE Foundation, which allows it to operate as a charitable entity while its application for 501(c)3 status is under way.

The center, which can serve children from early childhood on, will resume operations in early December with about 10 children who will receive one-on-one instruction without charge.

The services are based on Applied Behavioral Analysis, a model that has been successful in helping children on the autism spectrum. The center works with children on pre-academic skills like how to sit at a table, stay focused on a task and interact with teachers and others.

The agency has a waiting list, but is continuing evaluations and parent interviews, Boudreaux said.

“We’ll grow as funds allow,” Boudreaux said. “We would like to hire two more full-time therapists.”

Currently the center has two paid employees – Boudreaux, who has a master’s degree in teaching with a special concentration in autism and Applied Behavioral Analysis, and Rebecca Carmack, the state’s previous Early Intervention Coordinator and a doctoral student in behavioral school psychology.

They are backed up by professional volunteers who can serve as clinicians and therapists as well as lay volunteers. The center is governed by a four-member board composed of Emily Le Coz, Guy Mitchell III, Kay Mathews and Terri Blissard.

It will host its first benefit at 7 p.m. Dec. 12 – the Comcast Tupelo Holiday Autism Bash at the BancorpSouth Conference Center. The event will feature live music, heavy hors d’ouevres, cocktails and a silent auction.

Auction items range in value from $30 to $1,000 and include paintings, pottery, handmade quilts, spa services, a round of golf, a netbook computer with six months service from Cellular South and time on a Celebrity Coaches tour bus with driver.

“The fundraiser is key to being able to offer services to more children,” Boudreaux said.

Comcast Tupelo Holiday Autism Bash

When: Saturday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m.

Where: BancorpSouth Conference Center (behind the Hilton) in Tupelo

Tickets: Tickets are $50 and can be purchased at the Daily Journal, Golf First, Main Street Vintage Guitars, The Main Attraction, Village Green.

Michael Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

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