Autism or autism spectrum disorder is characterized by specific behaviors that an individual presents. These challenges are not limited to just social awkwardness. They may include social skills, speech, repetitive behaviors, a preference to being alone, and unusual insistence on routine. Diagnoses of autism usually occur at a younger age with a higher prevalence for boys over girls. (It is four to five times more common in boys than girls). Based on information from the CDC 1 in 68 people in America have ASD. If these statistics hold true for Grays Harbor County, then there would be approximately 1071 individuals with ASD. Despite how common it is, there is nobody in Grays Harbor County, who can diagnose ASD. There are also no qualified ABA therapists in the county. For families that are taking care of a loved one who has ASD their trek for help begins with a long wait and ends with an even longer drive.
The Autism Task Force was created to improve this situation. The task force is made up of doctors, mental health specialists, members of the community, educational staff and advocates for individuals with developmental disabilities. Their mission is to meet our community's need for neurodevelopmental evaluation and intervention. The primary goal of the task force is to establish diagnostic and intervention services in the harbor and surrounding counties. The task force has made progress towards this goal, by creating three teams each with their own specific objectives. The first group will establish the procedures for a local pediatric autism evaluation, from intake to diagnosis. The second group will create parent education supports development needs and diagnostic awareness. The third team will develop visual systems for parents and providers to navigate when determining next steps for development concerns. With the establishment of these groups, and the active will of the individuals and with community support, we may begin to see the bright light at the end of this tunnel; That individuals with ASD and their families can get the diagnoses and therapy in their own county.