GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The first of its kind in Gulfport, some say a new resource center for youth with autism is long overdue.
Three-year-old Josiah has only been a student at Colorful Minds for a few months. Even so, his mom already sees a vast improvement.
"He can now speak in full sentences. He says colors, he can point out objects," Melissa Kajiyama. "His behavior is a lot better than it was. He doesn't have as many tantrums as he used to."
Josiah was diagnosed with autism around age 1. His mom had the option of sticking with in home therapy, but she knew he wouldn't have had access to a full sensory gym.
"It gives my heart so much joy to see other kid with autism be able to go through the steps that Jo has gone through, and be able to communicate, and just behave," said Kajiyama.
Board certified behavior analyst Randi Mura opened the center after realizing Gulfport was in dire need of an autism center.
"We get calls everyday. A lot of medicaid [patients] that need help which we'll be hopefully accepting in a few months," said Mura. "We have a lot of kids that call who need services, so we're trying to get them in. "
Through insurance referrals or private pay, clients can attend the center as an alternative to school or daycare. Daily schedules are customized to fit the needs of each individual.
"We're able to focus on teaching them skills like potty training, communications, social. We can focus on any of their needs," Mura. "When they come here they get more practice throughout the day. We see them grow more. "
The center is in need of additional trained therapists, so they can continue to accept children into the program.