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New program trains more Valley doctors to diagnose autism

(Phoenix Children's Hospital Photo)

PHOENIX — Phoenix Children’s Hospital and the Arizona Department of Economic Security have teamed up to save Arizona families time and money diagnosing autism.

In recent years, the average age of Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis have drastically decreased. There are still many barriers to getting a diagnosis.

In order to get an accurate diagnosis, parents must consult a psychologist, child psychiatrist, neurologist or developmental pediatrician for an official diagnosis, which is required to access services in resources.

The earlier you can intervene the better but there are these giant wait lists,” Dr. Richard Frye told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “First to diagnose, up to 12 months, then there are waitlists to actually get into therapies.”

Frye is the Chief of Neurodevelopmental Disorders at the Barrow Neurological institute of Phoenix Children’s Hospital. He is a strong advocate for their new Early Access to Care-Arizona program.

The idea behind EAC-AZ is to streamline early detection by training more primary care physicians and pediatricians to diagnose autism.

“Pediatricians are on the front lines,” Frye said. “ We really want to empower them to recognize all the symptoms and know what to do when they recognize the symptoms. We want to empower them to diagnose autism and plug them into systems early on.”

In educating primary care physicians, Frye said this would not only cut down wait list times for specialists in busy areas like the Valley but also help improve diagnosis rates in rural parts of the state.

He added that this will not only cut down on the time it takes to diagnose autism spectrum disorders but that it will greatly cut down the cost.

“We’re hoping that by making sure that we diagnose the children correctly and meet the standards of the different entities out there that we’ll be able to get parents more services that are covered,” Frye said. “And when it comes to cost the thing we know is that by intervening early you have better outcomes and so there is going to be less therapy in the end if we start out early.”

EAC-AZ training is already underway for dozens of doctors in the Valley and around the state.

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