The Samos are fortunate to live in San Diego, which has strong programs to detect and treat autism and other neurological conditions. These include programs offered by University of California San Diego at its Autism Center of Excellence, at https://autism-center.ucsd.edu, and Autism Society San Diego at www.autismsocietysandiego.org. The San Diego Regional Center, at http://sdrc.org, helps individuals with a variety of developmental disabilities.
Dayna Hoff knows the Samo family’s frustration first-hand. She and husband Todd Hoff created San Diego-based Autism Tree Project Foundation in 2003 after their son Garret was diagnosed with autism. Garret was diagnosed at two years and nine months, and getting that diagnosis took nine months, Dayna Hoff said. After receiving therapy Garret, now 17, is doing well.
“It’s really disappointing to me to hear that this has happened, but it’s not surprising, because that’s why the foundation even exists,” said Hoff, the foundation’s volunteer executive director.
Pediatricians are more responsive than before, Hoff said. However, Hoff said they are at a disadvantage in detecting developmental delays. They simply don’t see the children enough to have a comprehensive understanding of their development. They usually see children when they’re sick.
In 2005 Autism Tree started a free preschool screening program to identify children at risk of developmental delays, including autism. Children found to be at risk are referred to specialists for a definitive diagnosis. The program works with preschools in San Diego and the San Francisco Bay Area. Go to j.mp/preschoolaut for more information.
“Every preschool director I’ve ever met, and teachers, have an absolute sense of urgency when they see that a child isn't meeting a developmental milestone,” Hoff said. “It really pops out to them when a child isn't meeting a milestone because there's all these other children right next to them.”
Go to www.autismtreeproject.org for more information on the foundation’s services.