Local family talks about impact of spike in autism cases among children

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A report released this week by the Centers for Disease Control said one in 68 children in the United Sates have autism. This is an increase of 30 percent from the last two years and is based on the CDC’s evaluation of 8-year-olds in 11 states including Alabama, Wisconsin, Colorado, Missouri, Georgia, Arkansas, Arizona, Maryland, North Carolina Utah and New Jersey.

“I’m not surprised by the report,” Sheila Sheikh-Allison said.

Sheila and her husband Luke have three boys. One of their sons, Omar, was diagnosed with autism about two years ago.

“The last time we did an evaluation they said he was at a five month level and he's almost 4 year old. That's hard for a parent to hear,” she said.

Sheila said her family waited a year for Omar to be diagnosed with autism at Children’s Mercy Hospital and they have been waiting for months to get Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy.

"We haven't had any type of treatment since he's been diagnosed because they are full. Every place we've called," she said.

A spokesperson for Children’s Mercy said it can take a few weeks to several months to be diagnosed. Local centers that provide therapy such as the Kansas City Autism Training Center said their current waitlist for treatment is 8-12 months.

"I would say at this point we are receiving about 10 to 15 calls per week," Amber Goeglein said, a supervisor with the Kansas City Autism Training Center.

The CDC study did cite a specific reason for the recent rise but say some of it may be may be due to the way children are identified, diagnosed, and served in their local communities. A spokesperson for Children’s Mercy says on average the hospital screens about 600 kids a year for autism and only half of the kids are actually diagnosed with the disorder.

"My kid can't even say, 'I love you mom.’ I just want him to get therapy. I just feel he's almost four and I just want him to be where all the other kids are," Sheila said.

Local centers including the Kansas City Autism Training Center have expanded their staff in the last few years. Next week, the center will hold an event to spread awareness about autism. It will held Wednesday, April 2 at 4805 W. 67th Street in Prairie Village, Kan.

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