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Denver, CO: Autism services can't keep up with demand

July 29, 2019, Denver Post: Autism services in short supply in Colorado even as Denver center expands—Provider numbers haven’t kept up with need https://www.denverpost.com/2019/07/29/autism-services-colorado-firefly-denver/ It’s challenging for autistic children and their families to find services in Colorado, but not everyone agrees on what supports are needed. Tamara Buniger, whose 6-year-old son Noah attends Firefly Autism in south Denver, said she felt fortunate that he was able to get a space in a center where he could learn daily living skills such as getting dressed, as well as some of the basics he’ll need in school, such as colors and shapes. Noah doesn’t speak much, but he is learning to communicate with a device that lets him choose pictures to express his needs. “For autism families, the waitlists can be very frustrating,” Buniger said. … David Sevick, vice president of marketing and development at Firefly, said the center has children coming from as far as the St. Vrain Valley, Platte Canyon and, in one case, Limon for early intervention or to work on life skills.. “The focus is to get those kids in and out as soon as possible,” Sevick said. The number of specialized providers hasn’t kept up with the increasing number of children identified as autistic, either in Colorado or across the country, said Dr. Laura Anthony, a child psychologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado. Children’s Hospital offers a range of services for kids with complex needs — including speech therapy, mental health treatment and therapy to develop motor skills — but it can’t meet all of the need in the area, she said. About one out of every 72 children in the Denver area had been diagnosed with autism in 2014, the most recent year with data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data wasn’t available for the rest of the state…. “There is generally a waitlist for our services. We wish that weren’t the case,” she said. More money for services would help, but that’s not the only problem, Anthony said. Many states are dealing with a shortage of providers, and the pipeline hasn’t kept up with increased awareness of autism and need for services, she said. … “Funding would definitely help — it always helps — but it’s only part of the solution,” she said….