Wait times for Autism diagnosis in SA can be two years

Many San Antonio families who are struggling with a child they believe may be autistic, can face another surprising challenge when they finally try to get an official diagnosis.

The wait time can be as long as two years for those on Medicaid or without insurance that covers it (and some policies don't).

That's especially difficult, knowing that an early diagnosis can lead to early intervention which can make a huge difference in a child's life.

"Early diagnosis is really the key to getting therapy, ABA therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy," said Tiffany Fresher of San Antonio's Autism Community Network (ACN). "And intensive therapy can really improve the outcome for the rest of their life, put them in a regular classroom, and give them skills, their family skills for them to be able to deal with an illness that's lifelong."

"For a family on Medicaid to get a diagnosis (of autism), there are two places in San Antonio to receive that," Fresher says. "And that's us (Autism Community Network) and Children's Hospital of San Antonio. Right now we have about a six month waiting list. Sometimes we can reach 12 months. And Children's Hospital is more like a year and a half."

The problem is simply a critical shortage of the trained professionals needed to assess and formally diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is not an easy diagnosis to make.

Developmental or behavioral pediatricians, speech therapists, child psychologists and child psychiatrists are scarce.

But if you're a parent who notices your child not making eye contact, suffering speech delays, or having other behavioral or speech issues, there's really no good answer for why your child can't start getting help for months, possibly years.

I learned a little about this Wednesday while helping at a fundraiser for the non-profit Autism Community Network.

They rely largely on donations and could use your help.

"We're supported by United Way, by the Kronkosky Foundation, by lots of foundations," said Fresher. "We do two or three annual fundraisers like today, but we're going to be more aggressive because there is a great need. And our board is dedicated to serving as many families as we can. And hopefully get that waiting list down to about 30 days, which is more manageable for families."

Sadly, the problem of long waits for an autism diagnosis isn't unique to San Antonio.

"We have heard of other cities where the waiting list is even longer," said Lalo Guerrero, Chairman of the Board of the Autism Community Network. "And I've heard of instances where [San Antonio] families have gone to other cities... You know, they're on wait lists in Houston or Dallas and in San Antonio and whoever opens up first, then that's where they go."

Just last week we reported on another community effort here dealing with autism.

The Kronkosky Charitable Foundation helped unveil a first-of-its-kind web portal, It allows families to get the help they need in a 'one-stop-shop' with a kind of personal coordinator or concierge to guide them.

If you'd like to learn more about the Autism Community Network, click here.

To check out, click here.

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