Autism Prevalence Rises, Services are Scarce in W.Va. - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Autism Prevalence Rises, Services are Scarce in W.Va.

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The Centers for Disease Control released a new study last week showing that one out of every 68 8-year olds have an autism diagnosis. That's 30 percent higher than experts thought before and shows how important early, intensive treatment is for kids and their families.

That kind of treatment is going on now at West Virginia University's Center for Excellence in Disabilities.

Dr. Susannah Poe is an Associate Professor in Pediatrics at WVU and a licensed psychologist. She is the director of the Intensive Autism Service Delivery (iASD) Clinic at the Center for Excellence in Disabilities, and pointed out that autism is more common in kids than cancer, aids, and diabetes combined.

The treatment provided at the iASD Clinic delivers intensive therapy that help kids actually lose their diagnosis, but only 23 percent of kids in the state are covered for that kind of care under their insurance plans, despite a state mandate.

Dr. Poe sees the problem as one of "pay now or pay later."

"So we're looking at a huge generation, one in 68 kids, that will grow into adult that without the right kind of services are not going to get those supports and are going to need full-time care or at least a level of care as they get older," Dr. Poe said, "compared to if we can work with those kids now. We're going to be saving lives."

All of the therapy provided at the iASD Clinic is free of charge, regardless of insurance,  so the clinic relies heavily on grants and donations to continue such vital service.

Events throughout the month of April are designed to raise funds for the clinic and raise awareness about autism. Beginning Tuesday, April 1, local Panera Bread cafe's are selling puzzle piece cookies through the "Pieces of Hope" Campaign. All of the proceeds of those cookies will directly benefit the iASD Clinic.

You can also "Walk a Mile in Our Shoes" on Saturday, April 27 at Hazel Ruby McQuain Park in Morgantown.