Cape Hospital center to offer free autism spectrum disorder screenings
Free autism spectrum disorder screenings for children 18 months to 5 years of age will be held at the Cape Coral Hospital’s Child Development Center on Nov. 12.
According to reports, one in every 150 children are diagnosed with some form of autism spectrum disorder, which makes it more common than a combination of childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS.
The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida partnered with the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwest Florida last November to provide free autism screenings. Lee Memorial Health System was given a grant so it could provide the free program to the community.
Nurse Practitioner and Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner Sherri Campbell said it is important to have autism screening done for young children because they can enter into therapy right away to help bring them along to their highest potential by giving them the skills they need.
“We can make a referral and a get child started with therapy without a diagnosis,” Campbell said. “It’s amazing the progress we have seen in the children once they started the therapy.
Since the majority of the warning signs of autism spectrum disorder show up throughout early childhood, parents can identify what their child should be doing at a certain age, rather than looking for a specific behavior. Symptoms can vary greatly from child to child, which makes it hard for parents to know exactly what to look for.
Campbell said 18 months is a good age to begin looking for speech delay signs because children are expected to say between 18 to 20 words by that age.
That age “is one of the earliest times we can identify speech,” she said.
Other signs parents can look for are poor eye contact, the reluctance to point at pictures in a book or if the child is happy playing by himself or herself instead of with another child. Campbell said children who may have autism spectrum disorder tend not to participate in pretend play and they show an obsession of lining their toys up in a row or spinning objects around in circles.
Campbell said if there is something a child is doing to catch the parents’ attention or their behavior is a little out of the ordinary, she encourages the parents to come take advantage of the free screening.
The screenings will be conducted by the Neurosciences Center at The Children’s Hospital, under the guidance of pediatric neurologist Jose Colon, MD, MPH, and pediatric psychiatrist Marianne Krouk, DO.
Bilingual staff will be present during the screenings to reach out to all members of the community from 9:30 a.m. until 2 p.m.
The screenings takes about 30 minutes to complete and entail administering screening material for each specific age, written information, along with demographic information. Suggestions also will be presented after the screening is completed on whether the child should obtain further testing and make an appointment with their pediatrician.
“We encourage anyone to bring their children to screening,” she said, adding that all children should be screened at 18 months old even if parents do not have concerns. “Sometimes it (signs) is subtle and difficult to notice.”
Those who wish to participate in the screenings are encouraged to schedule an appointment by calling 239-985-3608.
“We love for them to have an appointment,” Campbell said, so the families can be assured a time.
If they cannot fit a family into the scheduled screening on Nov. 12, Campbell explained, they can schedule them at another screening since they are held all over Lee County once a month.
The Cape Coral Hospital’s Child Development Center is at 636 Del Prado Blvd.