Staff at the Arc’s Children’s Services program are currently being trained on the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS).
Local families must now drive to Birmingham, Huntsville or Tuscaloosa to access this service.
“It (ADOS) is the gold standard of testing,” said occupational therapist Karen Hyche.
ADOS will be administered during an hour-long observation that will include a variety of play activities and social interactions.
Children will be given a developmental and speech evaluation as well to complement the ADOS testing.
The results, which will be forwarded to a physician for an official diagnosis, will be available within a month of the family first contacting the Arc.
Children’s Services director Angela Washington said families are currently waiting an average of nine months for an appointment at a Birmingham facility that offers comprehensive diagnostic testing for autism spectrum disorders.
Going so long without answers can be very stressful for parents who suspect their child might have autism.
“Families will say, ‘If I just know what I’m dealing with, I can face it better.’ Then they get frustrated with not only the day-to-day of how to help their child but waiting for nine or 10 months before they even begin to get an answer,” Washington said.
Time is also of the essence when it comes to accessing therapy for children who have been diagnosed with autism.
Although most are not diagnosed until the ages of 3, 4 or 5, testing can be administered as early as 18 months.
“Research indicates that the earlier treatment begins the better. The general thinking is ‘Let’s wait and see if he grows out of it.’ But then we lose those months, and they’re pretty significant months,” Hyche said.
A physician referral will be required for ADOS. Some insurance companies do not cover the total cost of the testing. The Arc will offer payment on a sliding scale.
The Walker Area Community Foundation’s Project Community awarded the Arc a grant to train staff on ADOS.
The Arc of Walker County serves children as well as adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Services offered through its Early Intervention program for children birth to 3 years old include physical, occupational and speech therapy.
The Arc also offers out-patient services at the Marian Bankhead Grant Center.
A 5K and fun run will be held on Saturday, March 16 at Gamble Park to benefit the Arc’s Children Services.
Pre-registration is $25. On-site registration will be $35.
For more information, call Washington at 387-0564.