Arizona's high number of autism diagnoses and a Valley hospital's solution

Arizona has one of the highest rates of autism across the United States. One in 66 children living in the state has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a diagnosis that includes a range of different developmental disabilities from autism to Asperger’s. For these children to receive medically necessary services and interventions, Arizona’s Division of Developmental Disabilities of the Department of Economic Security (DDD) requires the diagnosis of autism to be determined by a developmental pediatrician, licensed clinical psychologist or child psychiatrist.

Robin Blitz, MD, is the director and section chief of developmental pediatrics at Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and sits on the governor’s committee for autism. She founded and leads the Early Access to Care – AZ (EAC – AZ) program.

Created in 2015, EAC – AZ is a program that trains medical providers around the state to diagnose and treat children with autism. There are few developmental pediatricians in Arizona, and most are located within Maricopa County, forcing children who live elsewhere in the state to compete for appointments and delay early diagnosis. The program helps overcome these roadblocks by providing training and support for regional teams across Arizona. After a provider completes the program, Dr. Blitz works to get the pediatricians’ diagnoses approved for DDD services, thus providing much-needed early access to medical intervention, therapies and school services.

The Autism Program at Phoenix Children's Hospital is the only comprehensive program in a freestanding children’s hospital in the state of Arizona. The program consists of autism diagnosis and management, meaning your children can be seen by all of the specialists they need, all in one place. Their goal is to diagnose early, provide the most comprehensive assessment and treatment plan, and provide families with the support to best take care of their child. Call (602) 933-2327 for more information.

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