CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - Some parents in southeast Missouri are waiting a year to get their child diagnosed and treated for autism, according to a local director of an autism center.
“Your hands are tied, and there’s not anything you can do other than wait on a list for your number to come up, and that feels just absolutely heart wrenching for your child," said Candice Evans, a local mother.
She’s talking about the 16 months she waited to learn her 4-year-old daughter, Harlow, has autism.
“How much time passes in 18 months as a child, and the things that they could be doing in those 18 months to keep them on progress and target where they were before as opposed to having to wait all that time,” she said.
Evans said waiting can be a helpless feeling.
“It’s something that shouldn’t be I don’t know taboo to talk about anymore. And more people should be able to come forward and seek help and find help. But what do you do when you’re trying and you can’t find help, because it’s not available,” she said.
Dr. Renee Patrick, the Director of the Southeast Missouri State University Autism Center and psychologist, said once diagnosed, parents and children then have to wait to get treatment at most centers in the area.
“We’d love to clone ourselves. We would love to grow our agency too. It’s just a lot of need. It fluctuates, but it’s gotten more intense across the years, but there are some lulls every once in a while where it doesn’t seem like we get 20 applications a week, said Patrick.
The university opened an autism center at its Sikeston campus in January 2019 to meet that growing need.
“It’s nice to know that you’re not alone, however you feel so alone when you’re going through that struggle trying to find someone to help your child," said Evans.
If you’re waiting to see an autism specialist to get diagnosed or treated, Patrick recommends taking your child to other services that meet their needs. That includes speech therapy, physical therapy, and counseling.