Ontario children don’t have to wait too long for an autism diagnosis, especially since early detection can lead to better outcomes, according to the authors of a new report.
Melanie Penner, Ph.D., senior clinical scientist and developmental pediatrician at Holland Bloorview Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto, says kissed people who show signs of autism can wait months or even years to be formally diagnosed. These long wait times can have a negative impact on the children involved, she told CBC Toronto.
“We know that early childhood is very important for brain development. It’s a very important time for learning communication skills and learning about social interaction and play,” Penner said.
“So it’s that year that we really want to give kids access to specialized instruction that can help them in some of these areas.”
Penner and her colleagues recently published a new report they hope will help reduce some of these wait times. According to the report, a lay pediatrician correctly diagnosed her child with autism 90% of the time.
Children who show signs of autism are usually sent to a subspecialist after being evaluated by a pediatrician, Penner said. There is a backlog of cases that require
The report’s findings suggest that, in many cases, a pediatrician’s diagnosis should be sufficient to initiate treatment planning, rather than having to wait months or years for a second opinion. suggests.
To arrive at its findings, Penner’s team enrolled 17 general pediatricians from across Ontario. These physicians evaluated 106 children under the age of five and a half who exhibited developmental concerns but had not received a formal diagnosis. was independently evaluated by a team of experts. We compared the results to derive the final result.
Further evaluation for undiagnosed persons
“But the second part of this is that if a pediatrician or other physician thinks autism doesn’t exist, I want them to be a little more cautious in making that decision.
According to the report, the expert team agreed only 60% of the time when a pediatrician did not diagnose autism.
In such cases, if the child exhibits some features of autism, “the child may need further evaluation to reach a diagnostic conclusion,” he warned.
Stephanie Ridley of Burlington, Ontario, the mother of 11-year-old Ewan, who has autism, told CBC Toronto she welcomes the opportunity for early diagnosis.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that early diagnosis is better…just so you can get on the right track,” she said.
Ridley said she was lucky Ewan was diagnosed before he turned 2, but she has spoken to many other parents who have had to wait longer.
She said she was more concerned about the wait times families face trying to access services such as applied behavior analysis and other treatments after being diagnosed with autism. These wait times can last up to six to seven years, according to the house.
“There is no point in early diagnosis if children are waiting years to access services in this state,” she said.
She blames the current state government for these delays, pointing to the Ontario Autism Coalition. campaign from last year It outlined how the number of children waiting for autism services in the state has doubled under Prime Minister Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative Party.
“This government has continually let children down in this state,” Ridley said, calling for an overhaul of the system to better focus on the individual needs of each child and family.
The state doubled funding for the program
In an emailed statement to CBC Toronto, the Department of Children, Community and Social Services noted that the state government has doubled its investment in the Ontario Autism Program to $600 million annually.
The statement also said the program will provide core clinical services, emergency response services, caregiver-initiated early programs, basic family services, and more to support the individual needs of children and young people on the autism spectrum. , providing multiple pathways to services and interventions, and their families. ”
Tracy Lindblad, a subject matter expert and speech-language pathologist at Autism Ontario, told CBC Toronto that the report’s findings may actually lead to reduced waiting times for diagnosis.
She noted that wait times have increased, partly due to the pandemic, and agreed that more needs to be done about wait times for other services.
“We get calls every day from speech pathologists and people looking for services,” says Lindblad. “It is frustrating for parents to be diagnosed early and then be denied access to services or severely disabled.”
She also said she regularly hears stories of families trying to take out mortgages or sell their homes to pay for private services to help their children in a timely manner.
But she also said there are other ways besides state funding, such as putting pressure on insurers to expand protection.This happened in the United States.
“Some private unions and various locations are now adding insurance packages for their employees,” said Lindblad.
“So it helps families.”