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Free autism screening Friday in Cape Coral

By Staff | Feb 5, 2013

One in 88 children are diagnosed with autism in the United States.

The Golisano Children’s Hos-pital of Southwest Florida and the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwest Florida will offer a free autism screening for children from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday in Cape Coral.

“We encourage anyone to come,” said Sherri Campbell, a Lee Memorial Health System nurse practitioner who is involved with the screenings.

The screening is open to children 18 months to 5 years of age.

A physician referral is not required.

“We’re trying to target the younger kids,” she said.

According to Campbell, if autism is identified early on, early intervention services such as speech therapy and behavioral therapy can be applied.

“The children can have better outcomes,” she said.

“Many children are not diagnosed until they go to school around 5 or 6,” Campbell said, adding that they lose years of therapy because of it.

Held in the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, the free screening is private.

“The parents are the only ones who get the information,” she said, adding that it is up to parents to share the results with their child’s doctor.

For the screening, parents fill out a questionaire based on the child’s age.

“It’s easy, it’s simple, it takes about a half-hour,” Campbell said.

There is also a free, voluntary developmental screening.

“We try to get them to stack blocks or point to pictures in books – that looks at the areas of development, like speech and language, personal social skills, and gross and fine motor skills,” she said.

The screening checks for early signs of autism, speech delay or other developmental issues. The additional screening is also based on age.

If a child fails the standard screening, further evaluation is recommended.

Campbell noted that circumstances like isolated speech delay can result in a child failing the screening, which can be cleared up with additional testing.

The questionaire is available in different languages.

Appointments are encouraged, but walk-ins are accepted.

Parents should bring their child, especially if they want the developmental screening, but the questionnaire can be filled out without the youth present.

“We can actually work with parents if they just want to come,” she said.

About 120 children have been screened since November 2009.

“We thought we were going to have 20 a day,” she said of when the program first started. “We haven’t had the numbers that we had hoped for.”

Campbell noted that about 70 percent of those screened failed.

Friday’s screening will be held in the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile parked outside of the Wellness Center of Cape Coral, at 609 S.E. 13th Court.

To schedule an appointment, call (239) 343-6838.

The next screening will be held on March 22 at the Sanctuary Outpatient Center, located at 8960 Colonial Center Drive in Fort Myers.