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Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

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Best and Worst Cities for Autism Care

Survey Shows Which Cities Offer Best Support for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders

Families Say They Need Better Support

Among people who felt a general lack of local support, 83% described the extensive lengths required to find appropriate classes for their kids, including hiring special placement experts, needing to change schools or districts, or having to hire lawyers to get schools to comply with legal requirements for equal education for kids with special learning needs.

Getting good medical or behavioral health care was also a problem for many families. Among those who said they were generally unhappy about services in their communities, 75% said they couldn’t access needed medical or mental health services, including Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy, which has been shown to improve the ability of people with autism to function over the long term.

Access is the ability to both find and afford needed services. Currently, about 25 states mandate that insurance companies cover treatments such as ABA therapy.

But qualified therapists may be hard to come by, requiring a long drive or long waits, or both.

“You not only need to be close, but you need be able to access it. You need to know that you’re not going to end up on a 12- to 18-month waiting list to get in,” Roithmayr says.

Flexible work hours are also often lacking for parents with autistic kids.

According to the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs, which is conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), parents who have autistic children are more likely to struggle financially, and more likely to reduce or stop work to take care of their kids, compared to families with children who have other kinds of disabilities.

“The differences were phenomenal to me,” says Michael D. Kogan, PhD, director of the office of epidemiology, policy and evaluation at the Maternal and Child Health Bureau at HRSA.

“Almost 60% of parents of kids with ASD said they either had to reduce or stop work because of the kid’s condition vs. 36% for kids of parents with other emotion or developmental disorders and only 17% of kids with other special health care needs.”

How to Help

Saturday, April 2, is World Autism Day, and advocates say there’s plenty people can do to help.

“Everybody knows somebody touched by autism,” Roithmayr says. “It can be just as simple as somebody going to a mom or dad that they know who has child with autism and saying, ‘How can I help?’”

Just offering to stay with an autistic child for a few hours, or offering to run an errand, can give harried parents a badly needed break.

“That would make a big difference,” Roithmayr says.

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