This Coastal Bend Mom Collective post is brought to you in partnership with As You Are.
For any mom, one of the hardest things about our role is admitting that our child needs help and then actually seeking it out. Making peace with my suspicions of autism and getting over that mountain of self-doubt was a hard one for me.
But what happens when you seek out a diagnosis and the help you need is booked up for the next six months?
What if there were a faster way to have your child evaluated early in development?
As You Are (link to AsYouAre.com/MomCollective) is a virtual clinic that opened in August 2022. They provide autism diagnostic evaluations for kids 16 months to 10 years via telehealth appointments.
In the world of autism, that’s a game-changer.
Editor’s Note: Today we are sharing the story of former CBMC writer and Coastal Bend Mom, Marissa who wishes As You Are was available when she was going through the process. I’ve known Marissa for the past three years and have watched her journey with Jacob. I want to thank Marissa for sharing her heart and sharing Jacob with all of us. ~Elisabeth
Jacob’s Journey: Getting a proper autism diagnosis in the Coastal Bend
Having your child diagnosed with autism—an event that is both a relief and a sadness – you can’t ever really prepare for. My son, Jacob, was formally diagnosed with autism in 2021, after several years of fighting for and figuring out where to go. Amid a global pandemic, a relocation, and scarce resources, finding a proper diagnosis in the Coastal Bend was extremely difficult and very frustrating.
My son’s journey began when he was 18 months old. I noticed many warning signs of what I believed were just developmental delay. Lack of eye contact, scarce words or babbling, we went back and forth with our pediatrician about whether or not we should be worried. My mother even thought that it was possible he could be deaf but a hearing test done through a speciality appointment soon ruled that out. Eventually, because my son was 19 months old without much progress, our pediatrician recommended we begin speech therapy to help with the speech delay, and so we did. Living in Katy, TX at the time we were armed with several options in our insurance plan, in our area and the surrounding areas so we didn’t have any trouble at all making an appointment. We had hope.
In 2019 our family decided to relocate here back to my hometown of Corpus Christi. I had received a great job offer managing the area for a tech company that was remote: something I had been searching for for a long time, and was close to some of our friends and family, not to mention the beach, which we all enjoyed. It seemed like a great decision at the time. Once we had settled we went back to finding our son the best support and eventually enrolled him through the Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program. Receiving in home care for physical, occupational, and speech therapy we noticed small changes—a little more eye contact, ability to eat unassisted, and other small things. We remained hopeful.
In 2020 the world entered a global pandemic. My son, who was making small but efficient strides in what we hoped was the right direction, suddenly went from in person to virtual visits through ECI. The strides were not as large as we had hoped — no real change in speech in particular, outbursts, repetitive behavior, inability to grasp certain activities that would be aligned to his three year old peers. Now, there was speculation about autism that had to be evaluated virtually and he was about to age out of ECI and was given limited options.
We were upset. We knew that the world at large was going through change, but for us it was even scarier trying to navigate a potential diagnosis, a child that couldn’t grasp or understand his surroundings, and the inability to connect in the same room as our providers. Then, shortly after the pandemic, it got worse. The doctor from a local hospital that evaluated our son gave us false hope. Stating that she believed he was globally delayed, we pressed as to why she believed this. After all she had not met him, had only reviewed a bubbled-in questionnaire that we talked through with her bleary eyed staff, and she offered no other explanation or follow up. Without a diagnosis we could not even begin looking at other services or know what was on the horizon. As he aged out of ECI we were then forced to choose to continue a program through the school district or figure it out on our own, whatever that was.
In a city with little to no resources, we soon realized that wait times to see a provider were between one and two years. It was only when I offered to pay out of pocket expenses that openings were found quicker and within a week – funny how money can suddenly open some doctor’s schedules. After several thousand dollars in out of pocket payments we had a diagnosis, only to find that our school district would not accept a diagnosis from an outside source, only their own school psychologist. I found that interesting— to be able to receive outside resources no one accepted a school psychologist diagnosis, but in order to receive school resources they would not allow an outside diagnosis. A red tape that I find protects no one except those that seek to profit financially from special needs children.
So now we are here—after several agonizing years and finally a diagnosis which our family spends thousands of dollars on a year, with insurance mind you, to get services my son needs. Speech and ABA are our primary focus for now because frankly we can’t afford anything else, and because of the limitations on who can qualify for financial assistance, people like myself, who are in the working middle class, have to foot the bill on high premium insurance plans. To plan what services we receive all research is done by us: two working parents. There isn’t an organization or group in our area that helps families figure out next steps. In a fairly large city like Corpus Christi, you would assume we would have more, but as I speak to more and more families we know that is not the case. I know our community deserves more, but we are often ignored and blatantly exploited by the system. Many of the families I have talked to are forced to see specialists and doctors in other cities like San Antonio or Houston, which is only a capability for people that can take time off to do so. That isn’t the case for so many, nor should it be.
But this is our particular journey, and we are, for the most part, okay with it. We are stressed out, we are trying to figure it all out, but we still cling to hope. For many families in the Coastal Bend, the story varies, but one thing is for certain: we need more resources. Corpus Christi needs to attract more medical professionals, resources, and organizations for our special needs community. I have hope that as the city continues to grow and mature that they will do so.
I’m so happy to hear about As You Are virtual clinics. Early intervention is so valuable and proved to be so with our son. I wish it would have been available when Jacob was younger, but I’m so thankful that this resource is now available for other Coastal Bend families.
If you have any questions, or often wonder about your child, I would encourage you to seek advice, and go ahead and schedule that evaluation. Don’t let fear of the unknown get in the way of getting the help you and your child need.
Autism does not define Jacob. BUT, knowing how he functions helps us to better raise him, love him, and equip him to grow and thrive in this world.
Take a minute and check out these helpful links
- Why is early diagnosis and intervention important for kids with autism?
- More than Enough: How an Autism Mom Learned to Stop Doubting Herself
- 5 Tips for Coping with an Autism Diagnosis
Do you have questions about your child’s development? The team at As You Are provides useful autism screening and diagnostic evaluations for kids 16 months to 10 years old via telehealth appointments. You can learn more at AsYouAre.com/MomCollective.
As You Are is breaking geographic barriers for families sitting on long waitlists, helping diagnose more children early in development. As You Are accepts insurance, including Medicaid and TRICARE East. Learn more and get started today at AsYouAre.com/MomCollective. #seenasyouare #yourchildisawesome #autism