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Paducah clinic offers autism services

By JASON MORROW jmorrow@paducahsun.com

The population of young people diagnosed with autism has grown significantly the past few years, and many parents face a long waiting list when they seek help for their children.

Community Living in Kentucky, or CLiK, aims to give parents access to services for their children more quickly.

The Paducah CliK clinic has been around six years, but only recently has the location offered its applied behavior analysis (ABA) services.

According to the clinic director, Sarah Smith, ABA is the leading treatment for autism.

"ABA is a research-based approach," Smith said. "Evidence has shown it is the most effective treatment for autism. It's a systematic approach to changing behaviors, shaping the non-preferred behaviors to more socially appropriate behaviors."

According to Casey Dail, regional director of CliK, the prevalence of autism has recently gone from one in 150 to one in 68.

"Children are being diagnosed more and more, so it's just more of a need than ever," Dail said.

She attributed the increase to better detection and a change in diagnosis criteria over the years.

Many families seeking treatment have to rely on what's called the Michelle P. Waiver, which is a program connected with Kentucky Medicaid to help families afford services.

However, only 10,000 slots are available, and families could be waiting as long as four years for their children to be assessed.

"We know with autism, early intervention is most important," Dail said. "Most children are being diagnosed between 2 and 3. Then to have a three or four year wait to get on a waiver, that's years of progress they could have accessed."

Dail said CLiK has found a way to help families access care through insurance, opening a door to get services without being on a waiting list.

"ABA therapy is very expensive if you pay out of pocket, especially if you're talking about 20 or 30 hours per week," Dail said.

The Paducah clinic is one of 12 in the state, the next closest one being in Murray. Since the ABA program is so new in the area, there are 10 ABA clients so far, which Smith said was good news for parents in the region.

"That's something about us being new in this," Smith said. "Right now, the waiting time is much shorter than it is typically to get started in ABA services."

Dail said if a family goes to CLiK today, the waiting time would typically be about four to six weeks to begin services.

There isn't a cap as far as the number of children who can be accepted. Dail said some of the clinics across the state see 30 children. Some of those services are provided at home, but most are at the clinic.

CLiK, along with its sister company, Growing Minds, offers more than ABA services. The companies also provide mental health counseling, community living support and support for adults with acquired brain injuries.

They service about 470 clients throughout the state.

Both Dail and Smith are excited about their growing ABA program.

"It's very hard for families," Smith said. "They want to do everything that they can and help their child the best way possible. ABA is huge. It's a wonderful treatment, and we want it to be easier for families to access it."

Families can get more information about CLiK's services by visiting clikgroup.com.

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