ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others. ASD has a large range of symptoms and functionality that are treated in many different ways. There has been a significant increase in the diagnosis of ASD in the Unites States, according to the Center for Disease Control. Meigs County is no different with several new cases each year. The CDC also recognizes that ‘Early intervention’ is the best way to combat ASD, the earlier the intervention the better the outcome.
In Meigs County, we have resources for young children utilizing Help Me Grow and Early Intervention through grant funding. These programs were developed recognizing the need for earlier intervention for our youth. These services provide weekly or biweekly visits depending on a child’s need. Children with an Autism diagnosis or marked regression of skills need intensive therapy to move forward and relearn skills. There are several resources available for Ohio children including; Autism Scholarship Grant, which helps pay for therapies; ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis), a homebased therapy intervention; and the ‘PLAY project’, providing a newer approach using therapy techniques incorporating PLAY (Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters). These resources, however, require a great deal of dedication from parents in obtaining services.
Imagine you are a parent of a young child, he/she is developmentally on track and things are going well. Then one day you notice your child is not asking for his/her drink, but grunting to communicate. You are told several things regarding children learning at a different rate. You may notice sensitivities to sounds and the disruption of routine is debilitating. You discover that your child may have Autism from his/her doctor. You find yourself a slave to ‘google’ learning about Autism but the resources are limited and you are now put on a waiting list to be evaluated. Meanwhile, your child is showing many behaviors that you are not sure about. Your child is finally evaluated months later and diagnosed only to discover you are now required to get an IEP (individualized education plan) from your local school prior to an approval for the Ohio Autism Scholarship for therapy funding. You work with the school and schedule a meeting to complete the process. You finish and are approved for the Autism Scholarship, but now there is a waiting list for homebased services through ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) such as ‘Faith Hope Love’. Your child is now no longer communicating with you and is exhibiting odd behavior such as head shaking, yelling and has regressed to not talking at all. You feel powerless in your daily life waiting on that call for help…. Seems like something that happens in movies or you read about in a magazine, right? But it’s happening, even in our small corner of Southeast Ohio, it is happening.
In these past few years with the Children with Medical Handicaps program, I have seen families struggle with the waiting list and application processes to assist their child with Autistic behaviors. I recently attended training for the PLAY project with a local group. It seems that the PLAY project was developed in response to the waiting list epidemic and in the interest of children receiving the earliest intervention possible and is already active in many counties in Ohio. The technique embraces parents as part of the solution to assist their children even before a diagnosis is made.
Although the resource limitations and the waiting lists remain, awareness is growing and additional interventions are being utilized to help families in our County. Please call me at (740) 992-6626 if you have any questions about resources or CMH program.
Angie Rosler is an RN with the Meigs County Health Department.