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Your Healthy Family: Diagnosing a child with Autism during pandemic

Posted at 7:12 AM, Apr 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-26 07:12:39-04

One in 44 kids across the country are diagnosed with Autism every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April is Autism Awareness Month, and Fox 4 is showing you what it's been like for a child who was diagnosed with Autism during this pandemic, and his family.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Catherine Smith noticed some differences in her 5-year-old son Carter's behavior.

"Him walking around with a speaker to his ear, or to the computer very close, or the TV had to be up loud," Smith said.

She called her doctor, then got set up with the Cleveland Clinic Center for Autism. At two years old, Carter was diagnosed with Autism. At that time, everything was virtual.

Dr. Cynthia Johnson, the Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Autism, said a lot of families went through the same process with a virtual diagnosis. They faced many hurdles, including the pandemic meaning a lack of social interactions.

“Typical questions I might ask, like 'How does he respond to children that approach him out on the playground?' They didn't have these opportunities all of a sudden," Dr. Johnson said.

If a child has Autism, Dr. Johnson said their goal is the get that diagnosis as young as one to two years old.

“The child doesn't have access to the therapies they would earlier on. Also a huge con that I see is the child's not well understood, or it can be greatly misunderstood," Dr. Johnson said.

After three months of virtual visits, kids like Carter were able to get in-person therapy. Two years later, with an early diagnosis, Carter’s progress is undeniable.

"He went from not saying one word, two words, to now, he's just a ball of energy," Smith said.

Carter's mom wants other parents out there to know — you're not alone.

"I’m not in this community by myself. It takes a village," Smith said.

If you think your child might have Autism, click here for resources.