In The Politics of Autism, I discuss state services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
"Now it's wait to get in and see the pediatrician, to get the referral to go to the neuropsychologist, to do those visits, to get the referral to go back and put him on these wait lists and hope that one of them comes through," said Jason's mom, 44-year-old Rhonda Sebron, describing the steps both their insurance company and service providers require to cover an autistic child's therapy.
Depending on the service needed — from diagnostics, to therapies, to state services — waits can range from several weeks to more than a year, advocates and providers say. There just aren't enough providers in town to meet the growing need of the community.
Once again, it's an example of Nevada's health care shortage. For mental health care, the state ranks toward the bottom in the number of psychiatrists and psychologists.
“When I first came here, autism was 1 in 250 (children). That was back in 2000,” said Julie Beasley, a child neuropsychologist and clinical director of the UNLV School of Medicine’s Ackerman Autism Center.
Today, more than 8,500 children in Nevada are on the autism spectrum, and 1 in 68 children are affected nationwide.
“That’s huge numbers, and the treatment of autism is very time intensive,” Beasley said.
Diagnosis alone can take up to eight hours at Beasley’s office, she said, and 10 to 15 hours with child neuropsychologist Nicole Cavenagh at the Center for Child and Family Development.
A developmental behavioral pediatrician can also diagnose autism in a child, but the single provider in Las Vegas is also the only one in Nevada, Beasley said.
“This is not a thing where we’re able to draw some blood and run a blood test,” said Cavenagh, who left Touro University Nevada’s Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities in 2015 for private practice. Touro’s autism center plans to hire a neuropsychologist in the next few months and a developmental pediatrician within the year, renewing its ability to provide diagnostic services for parents who suspect their kids may be on the autism spectrum