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UArizona College of Nursing among 1st to offer autism diagnosis program

(Facebook photo/University of Arizona)

PHOENIX — The University of Arizona College of Nursing announced Wednesday that it introduced an autism diagnosis certificate to its program offerings.

The Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder Certificate Program was funded by a grant from Arizona Complete Health and is one of the first programs of its kind in the country.

“One of the most important things about our program is that the academic component is online,” ASD program coordinator and UArizona professor Gloanna Peek said in a press release.

“We can recruit clinicians in rural communities that suffer from fewer services and greater need.”

Autism is a developmental disorder that impairs a person’s ability to communicate and interact.

According to the release, it affects one in 59 children nationwide and one in 71 in Arizona.

Children with autism can be diagnosed as early as two years old, but in Arizona, the average age of diagnosis by a community provider is approximately five years old, according to UArizona Health Sciences.

“The average age of diagnosis of a child with autism in Arizona lags behind the national average by about one year,” Arizona Complete Health chief medical director Dr. Scott Van Valkenburg said in the release.

He added that the program will allow for earlier treatment, which will yield better outcomes and a greater quality of life will be yielded for that individual.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a child must be diagnosed before the age of four in order for families to receive full access to state services nationwide.

“Many kids are not being diagnosed, which means they and their families are not receiving the necessary services,” Peek said. “The ASD certificate will improve access to care for these patients and families.”

The first cohort of students, which includes one pediatrician and five nurse practitioners, is scheduled to graduate in August.

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