Report calls for better screening, establishing best practices for treating autism

Mar 25, 2013

File photo of Lt. Governor Brian Calley discussing insurance reform for autism in 2012. Calley's daughter has autistim
Credit The Associated Press

A new report recommends creating a state Autism Council made up of professionals, parents and others. The Michigan Autism Spectrum Disorders State Plan also recommends broad access to comprehensive diagnosis to allow for early screening and establishing best practices for educators and service providers. Mary Connors of Kalamazoo is one of the committee members who helped create the report.

Connors is on the board of the Autism Society of Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, and the mother of an 11 year old son with autism. She spoke with WMUK’s Gordon Evans.

Mary Connors
Credit Mary Connors

Connors says the purpose of the plan is to make an outline of how to care for people on the spectrum throughout their lifetime. She was allowed to view the draft, critique it and add suggestions. The report calls for broad access to diagnosis and early screening of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Connors says a correct diagnosis can be tough to get. She says it can also be a struggle to get a consistent diagnosis and consistent information.

The report says:

“Lifetime costs of a person on the spectrum are estimated to be $3.2-million, including costs for education, home and community-based services and lost individual and family income. However most important is the long-term impact on individual lives and the lives of family members if effective services and supports are not provided from a young age and throughout adulthood.”

But Connors says if services are “front-loaded” when people with autism are younger, then they may not need those serves as much when they are older. She says those figures hold if people are not treated early.

Connors says autism is being found more often because of growing awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder. She says the problem for the insurance industry is that it’s a lot of people to cover. Connors says her family has paid out of pocket for many services for her son.

The state plan is meant to offer a guideline for lifetime treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Connors says finding treatment can be more difficult as people get older. She says in Michigan after age 26 people

“kind of get lost in the system or just get lost in general.”

Connors says it can also be a struggle to find services nearby. She says sometimes people have to travel long distances for the right services.

When asked about how people respond to Autism, Connors says she finds more people questioning it. She says people have been told about these things, they want to connect it. Connors says it’s hard to draw one picture of Autism. She says there’s a little less judgment and a little more understanding.

Health care access and reform have been hot topics, and Connors says they’re also an important part of treating autism. She says affordable health care for everyone would help address Autism. She says even Medicaid expansion would help people get the treatment they need.