HILLSBORO, Ore. -- Oregon has the second-highest rate of autism in the country and being diagnosed early is key to helping these kids. But getting in to see a specialist for that test is not easy.
Mycah, 6, is just like any other kid in so many ways, but then there are things like his inability to look someone in eye or show any emotion in pictures, even his inability to speak, that didn't add up with his Hillsboro mom, Joni Texeira.
That's when it finally hit me: Get out of this denial. I need to get him tested, do what you need to do, said Texeira.
When Mycah was three, Texeira got a referral from her primary care doctor to see a specialist, but every hospital in town told her the same thing.
I called OHSU, six-month waiting list. I called Legacy, six-month waiting list. I called St. Vincent, six-month waiting list. It's like, I need services now for my child, she added.
Doctors say autism is on the rise but so is the awareness and frankly they're just swamped.
Everyone in this city is looking at their systems. How do we fix this system? How do we get kids in sooner because we know that's what kids need. The earlier we can intervene, the better the results, said Dr. Robin McCoy, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician with the Children s Program in Southwest Portland.
Testing can start as young as 18 months. It's a race against time for these doctors to turn back the clock.
I cried. I cried for like 6 months. He's already behind. I need help. I need services but in order for you to get services, you have to be diagnosed, said Texeira. She eventually drove to Seattle and waited outside the doctor's office for a week.
It's frustrating. You want to help your child. That's your duty and you can't, she said.
Mycah is improving but she wishes more parents could be spared the agonizing road to this end.
I have so much more hope. I can't change my child but I love him so much, she said.
Parents can get services like speech and physical therapy for their child before getting diagnosed, but Texeira found health insurance won't cover it. She said it can cost $250 an hour.
Services for testing for autism spectrum disorder can also be sought out through local Educational Service Districts' Early Childhood Education programs.