Autism rates are rising steadily in the United States, according to the CDC.
1 in 59 children have autism, and 1 in 6 have a developmental delay.
Experts say some of the change in prevalence could be blamed on improved autism identification.
Lindsey and Matt Brazendale welcomed their first child, Russell John, (RJ) in October of 2016.
Today, almost 2-year-old RJ spends about 40 hours a week in a variety of therapy programs.
“I would hear him bang his head and it would just be a knock, and he wouldn’t cry and we’d go in there and that’s how he would tell us that he was awake,” Lindsey said.
“His doctor always told us, oh no don’t worry about it he won’t ever do it hard enough to hurt himself but there was several times where he’d do it to the point where he’d throw up. As parents, we knew it wasn’t normal,” Matt said.
When RJ was just 15 months old, the first time parents say his skills began to regress.
“You can completely not know someone has it, but there’s certain things that they react to or certain things that they have tendencies for. So with RJ, that’s why a lot of our family members and our friends were like, are you sure? Did you get a second opinion? And stuff like that,” Matt said.
Seeking answers for their son became the first step in what would soon become a long journey for the family, where they landed on a 200 child wait list just to have an evaluation.
“I thought… you can just call the doctor, and say hi we’re here because I have concerns with autism and they’re like no you have to go to the pediatrician, and the pediatrician is like no, we have to refer you to a specialist,” Lindsey said.
Feeling desperate for answers they traveled to Sioux City, where RJ was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and sensory processing disorder.
After months of trial and error, Lindsey describes getting a diagnosis as RJ’s golden ticket.
“Once you get the diagnosis, then the next step, getting into BCS for ABA therapy and all the other… all the doors open up,” Matt said.
Alison Hulshof, CEO of Behavior Care Specialist says if you suspect any sort of delay in your child, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
“The earlier the diagnosis the better, however if you’re getting it later in life it’s ok,” Hulshof said.
RJ’s parents say his progress is exciting after only two months of therapy.
“Now he’ll walk into the room and make eye contact, and say hi and he says please and thank you,” Matt said.
The parents hope that by sharing their story other families will seek out help sooner.
“It’s not the end of the world, it’s not the worst thing to happen,” Matt said.
“And not dismissing it,” Lindsey said.
To learn more information about autism, click here.
To contact BCS, call (605) 271-2690 or click here.