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Spokane: New autism clinic; "earlier diagnosis/reduced wait time"

Apr 14, 2023, Spokane Spokesman: WSU partners to open Spokane autism clinic aimed at earlier diagnosis, reduced wait time

When Jaxson was a year old, his parents suspected autism. His dad, Jeric Hirschi, who died in 2020, first noticed Jaxson avoided eye contact, was silent and craved strict routines.

But the wait was long to see a specialist, partly pandemic-related, said Jaxson’s mom, Dory Liddicoat. Jaxson, now 5, wasn’t diagnosed until age 3. Getting therapies also was challenging, she said, though he had early Joya Child & Family Development support.

Liddicoat has heard of wait times of a year to 18 months to get initial evaluations.

“A way earlier diagnosis is so important because the longer a person with autism waits, the less access to therapy, specialized IP in school and other support,” said Liddicoat, who launched an Autism in Spokane Facebook group. “Early diagnosis is giving them the tools to navigate life more successfully and nurture self-compassion.”

On April 25, a new Spokane autism clinic is set to open with multidisciplinary specialists collaborating to help close those gaps. A group ranging from a pediatrics expert to a psychologist will evaluate patients for autism spectrum disorder, starting at 18 months.

The providers hope to cut down the average wait times for initial diagnosis, including for rural residents.

Called the Autism and Neurodevelopmental Clinic, it’s through a partnership between Range Community Clinic and Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.

Patients will be seen in clinic spaces at the WSU Spokane Health Sciences Building on Riverpoint Boulevard….

Lynch said the average age of an autism diagnosis is 4, which misses key developmental milestones.

“We’ll be operating as a multidisciplinary team to include pediatrics, speech pathology, dietitian, behavioral analyst, physician assistant and psychologist,” Lynch said. “That group will continue to grow. They’ll use this space for debriefing with families after the full evaluation. We also have Zoom capability for teleconferencing across the state.”…

Families otherwise have to go to an autism clinic at Seattle Children’s to get such a multidisciplinary assessment, and it’s long overdue in Spokane, said Dawn Sidell, Northwest Autism Center executive director. The Spokane center will offer services such as therapies, day clinic early-intervention, consulting and resources for families.

“This new autism and neurodevelopmental center has so, so long been needed in Spokane,” Sidell said. “Families are frequently forced to wait, if they’re even able to get into Seattle Children’s, to receive a multidisciplinary team diagnosis.”

She talked Wednesday to a Spokane provider at an agency now receiving up to 50 referrals a week of children needing an autism diagnostic workup, “so it’s obvious that there is a critical need here.”…

“Our goal is by the end of year one, to see 50 patients per month, and we have a goal three to five years out, it will be 100 patients a month.”


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