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Shrewsbury, MA: More autism centers; 'tremendous amount of growth'

July 27, 2022, Worcester (CT) Magazine: Springtide Child Development puts autism in focus at Shrewsbury facility https://www.worcestermag.com/story/lifestyle/2022/07/27/springtide-child-development-puts-autism-focus-shrewsbury-facility/10059563002/

When the world was shutting down two years ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Springtide Child Development opened its center on the first day of state-mandated quarantine in Connecticut. Now, with five centers total, including a brand-new facility in Shrewsbury, Springtide is continuing its mission of focusing on not only children with autism, but also the entire family, in addition to helping them navigate through life after lockdown.

An integrated autism care center, Springtide takes a 360-degree approach to children with autism, so that each family receives services targeted to their needs and schedules. The company considers itself a partner in a family’s journey and provides services for children ages 2-18 who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The centers in Massachusetts and Connecticut specialize in play-based, interactive applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, which is the “gold standard” treatment for children with autism, said Springtide co-founder and CEO Jia Jia Ye.

Part of the inspiration for Springtide came from Ye’s childhood. She and her family lived in Salt Lake City and had a close friend who had autism but had to travel to Boston to work with a therapist there. “There were literally zero therapists in the whole state,” she recalled.

Finding those services — and then having insurance provide payment — was often a source of frustration for families, and then combine that with the stigmas surrounding autism at the time. “It was really hard to get care. It was really hard to get therapists,” Ye said. “In the past, that was incredibly expensive for families. Even if you did have a diagnosis, if you didn’t have a way to address it, what value is that diagnosis?”

As autism rates have increased over the last several decades, Ye said, so, too, has access to services. Currently, 1 in 44 children is diagnosed with autism; two years ago, it was 1 in 54, and 20 years ago, the rate was 1 in 150, she said. This “tremendous amount of growth” and prevalence of autism have changed attitudes in society.

“The stigma around it has changed; the fear around it has changed,” Ye pointed out. “A lot of social structures have changed that allowed people to become more comfortable with autism.”

In addition, Ye said, many more physicians are screening children for autism earlier than in years past. “The earlier you get your kid diagnosed and the earlier you get them into therapy, the faster you see progress,” she said.

But, even though there have been advancements in society’s attitude and in services provided, Ye noticed that families were still feeling helpless after receiving an autism diagnosis, as when she was a child and her family friend attempted to find help.

“Families were still experiencing the same level of confusion and fear and chaos,” she said. “I was really surprised to see the family experience was still the same.”…


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