This summer, families with children whose doctors feel might be on the autism spectrum, won’t have to go to several different places for diagnosis and formulating a treatment plan. KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has more on the planned Mercy Autism Clinic.
The clinic will operate two days a month—on the 2nd and 3rd Mondays. Kyle John, child adolescent psychiatrist at Mercy Clinic, says they hope to open it in July. Primary care doctors will refer children to the clinic where they’ll undergo what he called an “exhaustive evaluation.”
"That includes occupational therapy evaluation, speech therapy evaluation and the ados 2 testing--that's kind of the standard of care in terms of the psychological testing that's required to make an accurate diagnosis," he said.
He said some children might undergo additional testing. Children and families will be brought back to the clinic within a month for a discussion of the findings and what to do next.
Early intervention is important, according to John, because the earlier a child receives help, the more effective the treatment—especially for children with more severe autism. He said the ultimate goal is to get children as functional as possible by the time they reach adulthood.
"If we intervene early and teach them communication skills and the family communication skills, then we can improve their long term outcome," he said.
According to John, currently, diagnosing children with autism is “a bit scattered.” Families often have to visit multiple health providers for diagnosis and treatment. The new clinic, he said, will change that.
Mercy is partnering with ARC of the Ozarks and Missouri State University on the project. According to Mercy, MSU graduate students will learn how to diagnose autism and will be available to follow the children into their schools and serve as a behavioral resource for teachers.