May 19, 2019, Arkansas Democrat Gazette: State autism-treatment options scarce, but growing https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/may/19/autism-services-lack-in-region-20190519/?news-arkansas Sarah Thomas stopped speaking just shy of turning 2. Her doctor recommended that she be evaluated for autism at the Schmieding Developmental Center in Lowell, one of the only clinics in Northwest Arkansas where specialists diagnose the developmental disorder. "Your doctor has to send a referral to Schmieding. They call you. You fill out this big stack of paperwork, and then they're like, 'OK, it's going to be nine months or so,'" said Riana Thomas, Sarah's mom. … Autism costs an average of about $60,000 a year through childhood, with the bulk of the costs in special services and lost wages related to increased demands on one or both parents. Costs increase with the occurrence of intellectual disability. … The Schmieding Center is expecting about 2,000 referrals for autism evaluations this year, but it will be able to conduct only about 300, said Dr. Mary Ann Scott, the center's section chief. The center has a limited number of providers who diagnose autism, and an evaluation generally takes a provider's entire workday, Scott said. About 40%, or 800, of the referrals complete the process to get on Schmieding's wait list. The list is nine to 15 months long, she said. Autism is most commonly diagnosed in children, and insurance typically won't cover all of the needed treatments until there's been an official diagnosis. It's also a struggle in Northwest Arkansas to get treatment for children who are on the autism spectrum, a problem that parents and professionals attribute to a lack of services and professionals in the field. … About 60% of the children the Schmieding center screens for autism end up being diagnosed with the disorder, Scott said. Logan Pratt, co-founder of Autism in Motion Clinics, which has a new clinic in Fayetteville, says the whole state is underserved in applied behavior analysis therapy. One in 59 children is diagnosed with autism, according to the CDC, and the Behavior Analyst Certification Board lists about 80 analysts in Arkansas who can create treatment plans for such children. Pratt said more children are being diagnosed with the disorder. The exact reason for that increase is unclear but is likely, in part, because of better detection and a broader definition of the disorder, the CDC says.
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