How families can access care as they wait for an autism diagnosis

Written by on April 7, 2022

How families can access care as they wait for an autism diagnosis

By Chloe Nouvelle
April 6, 2022

SALISBURY TWP., Pa. – As the autism prevalence rate rises in the U.S., so do wait lists to see a specialist equipped to diagnose the disorder and green-light certain services. But there are things families can do to help their children while they wait. 

Dr. David Burnham, a pediatrician at Lehigh Valley Health Network, said both in the region and nationwide, there’s a “significant wait time” for kids who need autism testing. 

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A shortage of experts able to diagnose the disorder is one of the reasons for long delays. But a specialist’s diagnosis isn’t needed to access some therapies. 

“The most important thing that we can do right now in primary care pediatrics and primary care family medicine is to get immediate, early referral for services for children who may have speech or communication delays or sensory disorders prior to a diagnosis of autism being established,” Burnham said. 

Burnham explained that depending on a child’s age, families may be able to access evaluations and services through their county or local school district, especially if they suspect their child has communication delays or sensory sensitivities. 

“Early intervention services don’t require a physician or nurse practitioner or physician assistant to order them. Those can be started by the parents themselves,” Burnham added.

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