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Why Are Children with Autism Having to Wait?

In Utah, 1 in 54 children are diagnosed with autism that is approximately 5,700 children under the age of 18 in Salt Lake County alone. Experts recommend that children with autism receive up to 25 hours of structured intervention a week. The Daily Harold recently reported “There’s also a deficit of people in Utah County who can help people with autism, whether it’s through diagnosis or treatment.” They went on to quote Teresa Cardon, director of the Melisa Nellesen Autism Center at Utah Valley University saying “We cannot service all the children in our state right now.” It is for this reason that Kaylyn and I created FUNctionabilities, while we do treat children with autism we also see children with a variety of difficulties.

We were tired of waiting for children to be seen for therapy!   We did not feel that is was acceptable to make our children wait up to 5 months to be seen! We were frustrated with not being able to refer our patients to skilled outpatient therapy where they can be seen quickly and efficiently to enhance what we were doing with them in the schools. Within our community there are very few options for pediatric outpatient therapy and even fewer that have extensive training and the equipment to treat the difficulties many of our children face today. We spent a year and a half traveling the country meeting with other private practice owners and getting additional training to further boost our skills and ensure that the treatment we provide is cutting-edge.

We created FUNctionabilities so that we can help children get in to therapy quicker and promise to have an appointment available for an evaluation within two weeks of your call. We are also prepared to offer both weekly treatments and intensive treatments (2 or more times per week). [Stay tuned for the next blog in this series that further explains why we built our treatment model on frequent therapy visits.]

Eric Peacock from My Autism Team polled 8,000 parents of children with autism and found “The therapies parents reported as working best for their children, rank-ordered by percent of mentions: 1. Occupational Therapy and 2. Speech Therapy.” We built our treatment model on the foundation of the effectiveness of these types of therapy but look forward to adding other disciplines to our clinic as we try to meet the different needs of our community. Currently we offer occupational therapy, sensory integration therapy, feeding therapy, and speech therapy.

Even though occupational therapy is listed as one of the most effective treatments for autism, Karen Hyche reported that “Physicians refer least often for children exposed to drugs in utero and for concerns of autism spectrum disorder. This is of great concern. Autism is one of the most costly disorders. . . . These lifetime costs could likely be reduced simply by referring a child.” What we are finding is that physicians do not know what occupational therapists can do.

To reiterate, people in general simply do not know what occupational therapists can do. For example, parents often think their child is receiving occupational therapy and/or speech therapy in the school so he or she does not need anything else. However, Daily Harold reported “Public schools do what they can, but have to work with limited capacity, funding and training.” The following chart should help summarize the similarities and the differences:

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While this chart lists off several differences, this is not to minimize what therapist do in the school setting but to show how both are often needed to provide children with the best care and effect the most change in their lives.

Be wary of . . .

any place that claims they have all the answers and offers a quick fix. What works best for one child may not work at all for another child or may need to be significantly personalized to meet the needs of each child.

Tips

Look for a pediatric clinic that specializes in your child’s areas of concern. Be sure that those delivering treatment are appropriately trained to do so, not only by having advanced degrees but also have pursued extra training.

Contributed By: August Quaife, MOTR/L


References

http://www.heraldextra.com/special-section/autism/autism-in-utah-wide-spectrum-long-waitlists/article_90071e9e-236b-5204-a959-84c6afc1585e.html

http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/states/comm_report_autism_2014.pdf

https://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/2012/09/25/top-8-autism-therapies-%E2%80%93-reported-parents

http://occupational-therapy.advanceweb.com/Archives/Article-Archives/Are-Pediatricians-Appropriately-Referring-Children-to-OT.aspx