Help for parents with autistic kids increasing in Spokane

Help for parents with autistic kids increasing in Spokane

SPOKANE, Wash. - The number of children diagnosed with autism has jumped 30-percent since 2012, according to a new report from the CDC, and there are 2,000 children in Spokane County who have been diagnosed with autism, which is only second to King County.

New legislation was passed in 2013 to make treatment for these children more accessible, but there is still an issue of supply and demand.

Charles Green's 4-year-old son Noah was diagnosed with autism last October.

"He has a great personality, great sense of humor, great kid," Green said.

For Green, getting the diagnosis, "in some ways it was a relief because we could finally get him the help he needed."

Noah is part of a new program offered by the Northwest Autism Center. The program focuses on children ages two to five years old and provides them with extensive care for 12 weeks.

"This particular approach allows us to really get to know the child and build a transitional plan that will positively impact the services they are going to receive where ever they are going next," Dawn Sidell with the Northwest Autism Center said.

This program is the only one of its kind in Spokane County and is the second one in the state to meet the new model adopted by Washington state healthcare authority. It allows autistic children to receive therapy treatment they need under Medicaid.

"Research shows the earlier you intervene and the more intensive and evidence based practices that you use in providing services to that child the greater potential for improvement of outcomes," Sidell said.

Outcomes include anything from a better quality of life for the child and family to the opportunity for the child to attend mainstream classes.

"We had one child who was speaking 28 words when they came in, and two months later had over 200," Sidell said.

Although these new affordable programs are a step in the right direction, Sidell said there's not enough of them out there to meet the demand.

"You can't grow that overnight. It takes time. But I think the best thing we can do is provide hope and a lot of education and training," she said.

And it's hope this program has given to Charles Green and his wife.

"A lot of people get discouraged when they hear a diagnosis of autism and they think that their kid's not going to have a successful life, but it gives us a lot of hope that he's going to have a successful life, whatever he does," he said.