UTSA, Children's Hospital partner to improve autistic therapy

Right now, children with autism in San Antonio may have to wait up to three years before receiving treatment.

SAN ANTONIO - Right now, children with autism in San Antonio may have to wait up to three years before receiving treatment. 

A new partnership between UTSA, Children's Hospital of San Antonio, and the Autism Treatment Center may cut that wait time dramatically.

"Our goal is to assess and evaluate kids who we suspect could have autism," Dr. Andrew Martinez, Psychologist and Clinical Director of the Autism Clinic at The Children's Hospital of San Antonio said.

The earlier that can happen, the better for both children and their parents.

At the Autism Treatment Center of San Antonio, it's happening a lot sooner.

Dr. Martinez said, "Research has shown if they get it early on they may not need certain services long-term."

"The earlier the intervention the bigger the gains and hopefully the better their independence will be in the future," Dr. Leslie Neely, Assistant Professor at UTSA in Educational Psychology said.

A recent study funded by the Kronkosky Foundation estimates one in 79 people in San Antonio are on the autism spectrum.

And the CDC reports that Hispanic children are one of the fastest growing populations experiencing autism diagnoses.

This partnership between the Treatment Center, UTSA, and Children's Hosptial will allow students and residents to get hands-on experience in diagnosing autism earlier.

"It's a very technical field. You can read a book that's a separate thing but when you go out there and you practice it's completely different," UTSA graduate student Kriti Juneja said.

"Not only are we providing services immediately, but we are also preparing practitioners of the future so we can build capacity within San Antonio," Neely said.

Having more practitioners in the field means faster help for children, each needing their own specialized therapy.

Sameer Gajjar, a pediatric resident at Children's Hospital of San Antonio said, "Learning and teaching the skills to these children can often take more time and a more specialized effort to help them gain these skills."

© 2017 KENS-TV


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