Fort Riley hosts 1st Autism Outreach Clinic screenings
Story by: Calun Reece
1ST INF. DIV. POST
Parents of children with potential developmental disorders were able to forgo the long wait times for a diagnosis by attending the first Autism Outreach Clinic at Fort Riley June 15 at the Child, Youth and School Services building.
"This clinic is directed at children and parents as well as their primary care providers concerning children who are showing some signs and symptoms of autism or autism-type disorder," Webb said.
The clinic is an outreach program of developmental specialists from Fort Riley and local partners who go out to communities to evaluate children with potential special needs, said Col. Craig Webb, acting commander, Irwin Army Community Hospital.
By meeting with all the developmental specialists at once – instead of in multiple appointments – wait times for parents seeking a diagnosis for their child are lessened.
"That's the really neat thing about this clinic – it's a multidisciplinary clinic. So they have a developmental pediatrician; they have a speech pathologist; they have a child psychologist; they have a nurse practitioner – all working together, in the same place at the same time to evaluate this child with the parents," Webb said.
The usual wait time for a child to have an evaluation for autism or similar disorders can be months long, he said.
"There's a scarcity of developmental pediatricians throughout the entire United States, especially here in Kansas – and so typically the wait time to get a child in for a developmental evaluation of this type is greater than six months," Webb said.
The nearest developmental pediatricians are located in Kansas City, Wichita and Lincoln, Neb., said Edward L. Westover, Exceptional Family Member Program coordinator and special needs adviser, IACH.
"So far we've saved money for Families having to travel to Kansas City – got their diagnosis within a shorter amount of time," Westover said.
The clinic was a shared effort between IACH, EFMP, Army Community Services, University of Kansas Medical Center and Scottish Rite Children's Hospital.
The process was rather quick for bringing the clinic to Fort Riley and took about two months, Webb said.
"The immediate positive outcome is that we have seven children who had to wait less than two months to get this evaluation, and if we're able to continue this – which we plan on continuing – then that wait time will be significantly decreased, and that in itself is a huge benefit to the parents," Webb said.
The initial plan is to have the clinic at Fort Riley on a quarterly basis and then based on demand and availability, he said.
The clinic also may aid in earlier diagnosis and, in turn, earlier treatment.
"Once you get your diagnosis, then you can get all the services associated with it," Westover said.
A diagnosis for each child will be given within a week or so after being evaluated at the clinic, Webb said.
If parents are concerned about the developmental status of their child, the first thing they need to do is to bring it to the attention of their primary care provider, Webb said.
"If their primary care provider is not a pediatrician, I have pediatricians in each of our primary care clinics and those providers can go to the pediatricians to seek further guidance," Webb said.
Parents also are encouraged to be patiently persistent if they think something is wrong with their child.
"It's OK to be persistent and ask the primary care provider to look into it," Webb said.
For more information call 785-239-7198.