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Memphis: AUTISM: 'It's not a bad thing, they just learn differently'

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDD) says one in 36 kids have the disorder.

In order to start therapy and treatments, parents need an official diagnosis, but that isn't always easy to get.

Some parents report waiting months or even years before they can get an appointment for a screening.

That's why a new virtual clinic called As You Are is giving parents new hope.

10-year-old Hendrix loves school, animals, and playing video games.

"I love video games," he said. "I play Roblox a lot."

His mother, Takeallah Rivera, said there was always something that set him apart from his classmates at school.

"I was reading over his paperwork, and I'm like, 'Hmm. This is interesting. I think he may be on the spectrum,'" he said.

Hendrix was evaluated through Social Security Disability Insurance and diagnosed with autism.

But to start therapy and get help, he needed an official diagnosis report from a specially-trained pediatrician or psychologist.

"I called several clinics in the area, and most of them had a waiting list of at least six months," Rivera said.

That's when Rivera found As You Are. It's a new company offering virtual autism evaluations. "We know that right here in Memphis, families are waiting between 1-2 years for an appointment, just like the rest of the country," said Kayla Wagner, the CEO for As You Are. "It's a crisis right now.

"And so, we knew that we had to do something to be sure that families could get an appointment."

Created during the COVID-19 pandemic, Wagner said families from all over the country can schedule virtual screenings with specially trained pediatricians in as little as two weeks. "It allows families to get access to services in their community," Wagner said. "It allows them to understand the trajectory of their child's life to best support them and make positive outcomes happen."

Now that he's getting the treatment he needs, Rivera said Hendrix is thriving.

"Him being in his therapy is like already his confidence is just skyrocketed," he said. "He's more confident in being himself."

She wants other families to know an autism diagnoses doesn't have to be scary.

"Having a child on the spectrum, it's not a bad thing," Rivera said. "They just learn differently, and they require different needs. And once they get those needs met, they're going to skyrocket. They're going to be excellent."



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