KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Meghan and Brad Schow first noticed something different about their son, Ben, when he was 2 years old. But it wasn’t until pre-K when teachers suggested they get him tested for autism spectrum disorder.
The Schows decided to go through a professional assessment. It then took another year before they got the diagnosis.
“I feel for those families that are seeking answers and have to kind of play the waiting game a little bit. We were really fortunate to get in within a year,” said Brad Schow, who’s a pediatrician at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
April is Autism Awareness Month.
Leaders are highlighting the need for more pediatricians and psychologists who can conduct autism assessments so no family has to wait a year for results.
“There are states where you have one, maybe two, developmental pediatricians,” explained Dr. July Jean Cuevas, a developmental behavioral pediatrician. “Some children have to travel across state lines just to get that service. That is a big barrier.”
Missouri and Kansas offer early intervention services to help families diagnose autism and other developmental conditions, providing support through the first three years of their life.
In Missouri, the program’s called First Steps. In Kansas, the department of health and environment calls the program Kansas Early Childhood Developmental Services.
Ben Schow has a caseworker in the state of Missouri who checks in regularly and helps the family find equipment like earplugs, which can help eliminate the sensory overload many people with autism spectrum disorder experience.
He also undergoes several therapies to best handle his condition.
The Schows say although Ben continues to exceed their expectations, there is no cure for autism — and they are ok with that. They say Ben has even pointed out he feels autism makes him more caring than other 11-year-olds.
“Ben can do a lot of things. He’s a capable and engaging and a fun young man,” said Brad, Ben's father.
With Ben’s teachers in Liberty Public Schools looking out for him, his parents say Ben aspires to become an author and comedian when he grows up.