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Autism Diagnosis: UICOMP doctors discuss importance of early intervention

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Peoria (WEEK) - Doctors are swamped this year dealing with COVID-19 and it's associated challenges, but for doctors at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria their specialized services continue.

A team of physicians with expertise in behavioral and neuro-developmental pediatrics work every day to diagnose children on the autism spectrum and provide on going management of their care.

"Children with autism spectrum disorder's like things to be typically in the same order and they get upset when there are changes in routine. 2020 has been the ultimate change in routine." said Chief of Child Development and rehabilitation at UICOMP Dr. Susan Caldecott-Johnson

But it's not just the children with changes in routine, but the doctors too.

They said adaption has been key because early intervention is crucial.

"A majority of the children when they are born, they are born with excessive neurons." said Developmental Behavior Pediatrician Dr. Siraj Siddiqi, "You make sort of functional tracks when you are going through the experiences of life. So if you are not catching those children when they are delayed and they need a little help to go that route then you are going to miss those children."

But the doctors said it's not just about proper diagnosis for access to therapy.

"Often times we see autism with ADHD or attention deficit disorder. Often times we see it coexisting with anxiety and that's part of the reason it's extremely important for children to be evaluated by a medical provider because it's not just do you have autism or do you not." said Dr. Caldecott-Johnson

Even with an extensive list of referrals, they said the wait time for an appointment for an evaluation for Autism or related concerns is approximately 3 months, sometimes less.

While COVID-19 has added many challenges to their process, they hope there is a silver lining.

"We've been pushed to see what can we do remotely and how can we do this differently and what are the various options with children with different types of needs for diagnosis. " said Dr. Caldecott-Johnson

They said they will continue their hard work because with the proper tools any child can succeed.

"That is the misconception, a number of people would just write them off, that they are not capable of having a purposeful, positive, and fruitful life." said Dr. Siddiqi, "If we catch them early and work with them they can have a very productive life."

For a look at our Digging Deeper report into COVID-19 and it's impact on Autism education services click here.

For other local resources available help connect families you can check out The Autism Collective and  Central Illinois Autism Association.

Kaitlin Pearson

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