June 28, 2016 by Jessica Gee
With one in 64 Arizona children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Arizona has one of the highest rates of ASD in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Until recently, families living in northern Arizona were forced to drive to Phoenix to have their child screened for being at-risk for ASD. Dr. Rosalie Marinelli, MD, a pediatrician at North Country HealthCare, is now certified to determine if a child is at risk for ASD; she is one of only two pediatricians able to do so in northern Arizona
Arizona’s Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) requires the diagnosis of ASD to be determined by a developmental pediatrician, licensed clinical psychologist or child psychiatrist. There is only a small number of developmental pediatricians in Arizona, most of which are located in Maricopa County. This forced families around the state to compete for appointments, making it even more difficult for children to receive the early intervention that is so important with autism spectrum disorder.
Created by Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Early Access to Care – Arizona is a six-month fellowship program for training in ASD diagnosis, treatment, and medical home care. Dr. Marinelli completed the training in April 2016 and can now screen children ages 18 to 36 months who are suspected to have autism spectrum disorder. A diagnosis of being at-risk for ASD from Dr. Marinelli could help children get approved for DDD services, thus providing much-needed early access to medical intervention, therapies and school services.
“Our priority is that children who are ultimately diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder will receive early preschool intervention which is much needed to enrich their development.” Dr. Marinelli said. “Our team at North Country HealthCare is here to provide wrap-around services and resources and to serve as your child’s medical home.”
Autism spectrum disorders are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. They affect people in different ways and can range from mild to severe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ASD has no single known cause, and the number of diagnosed cases has risen sharply — 300 percent over the past 11 years. In 2012, the CDC reported that one in 88 American children had an autism spectrum disorder — an increase from one in 150 in 2002. Diagnosing ASD can be difficult since there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorder. Doctors look at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis.
Autism spectrum disorders can sometimes be detected as early as 18 months. By age two, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered very reliable. However, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until much older. This delay means that children with ASD might not get the early help they need.
Families can set an appointment with Dr. Marinelli to have their child screened for ASD, even if the child is not a patient at North Country HealthCare. To schedule a screening for your child, call 928-522-9400 or click here.
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