Researchers: Late Autism Diagnosis Leads to Missed Services

Posted at: 04/15/2014 9:44 PM
Updated at: 04/15/2014 10:45 PM
By: Jenna Lohse

(ABC 6 News) -- April is National Autism Awareness Month. A disorder that affects one in 68 American children.

Recent research shows many autistic preschoolers in Minnesota miss out on years of services that could significantly improve their lives. We talked with a local family that says early intervention is key.

14-year-old Ryan Eberhart likes learning from computer videos and drawing pictures. It's his attention to little details that often sets Ryan apart from other kids his age, a characteristic his parents call a blessing.

"I can't imagine what we'd be experiencing, if he wasn't diagnosed as early as he was,” said Ryan’s Dad, David Eberhart.

Ryan was diagnosed with autism at just 18-months-old. A disorder neither of his parents were familiar with at the time. "We were fortunate that Julie’s sister was an RN and noticed what he was doing,” said David. "He started school at 18 months and has been going ever since,” said Ryan’s Mom, Julie Eberhart.

The Minnesota Department of Health is calling for parents and educators to look for the early signs and symptoms of autism.

"Amazing things can happen through the love and care and patience of those people who are trained to handle kids with autism,” said David.

A recent study by the University of Minnesota, looked at autism in Minneapolis. It found that in 2010, the average age of autism diagnosis was about five years old. "If you wait till five years old, seven years old it's a completely different path,” said David.

Research shows that early identification and action like behavioral therapy are the most powerful tools to help autistic children reach their full potential.

For Ryan, the early intervention and his last eight years at Rochester Center for Autism has been vital in helping him along the road of autism. "The help that he's received has opened up whole new worlds and I see a lot of great things for his future,” said David.

The Minnesota Department of Health is urging parents with concerns to follow up with a health professional or your school system. For more information visit Autism Speaks.