BISMARCKâ€”Autism spectrum disorder services in North Dakota are inadequate, information is scarce, and training is needed for parents and professionals, a recent survey found.
Results from the state Autism Spectrum Disorder Task Forceâ€™s spring survey were included in an 11-page report presented Tuesday to state lawmakers on the interim Education Committee.
Survey responses said North Dakota needs more qualified individuals to deliver evidence-based services, and people need to know how to access autism spectrum disorder services.
The survey responses are a snapshot, not an official sample, said JoAnne Hoesel, the task force chairwoman.
â€œBut it did give us some insight into what people are thinking about this situation in the state,â€ she said.
Rep. RaeAnn Kelsch, R-Mandan, called the report â€œenlightening.â€
â€œWhen you look at the Legislatureâ€™s history in dealing with autism, we have been responsive,â€ she said. â€œHaving this study and having this report, weâ€™ll take this seriously. We will take a real strong look at what we need to do during the legislative session.â€
The 2009 Legislature created the task force to study autism spectrum disorder and develop a state plan. The task force includes state officials, a pediatrician, a behavior analyst, parents and educators.
â€œThese are individuals that work with individuals that have conditions on the spectrum,â€ said Hoesel of the Department of Human Services. â€œSo I believe that it (the survey) confirmed what they see on, if not a daily basis, what they see and hear from individuals that they work with.â€
The task force report pointed to a lack of accurate and localized information for parents, lack of standardized training for screening and long waits for diagnostic consultations.
Other barriers listed include inconsistent health insurance coverage for diagnosis and treatment, as well as limited service options for those who donâ€™t qualify for developmental disabilities Medicaid waivers or the autism spectrum disorder waiver.
The report also said respite care is minimally available and insufficient to meet needs, and employment supports are lacking for individuals with the disorder.
Top survey suggestions and recommendations relate to training for educators, a resource list and school mistrust issues.
Popular responses to â€œWhat would you like included in our state plan for addressing autism?â€ were increase funding in education for these needs, train all teachers â€“ not just special education teachers, and early identification and earlier intervention.
Hoesel said the role of the task force is to present the information and its recommendations to lawmakers for them to decide how to move forward.
Rep. Phil Mueller, D-Valley City, said he expects more specifics will be available about what the state needs to do and how much it will cost by the time the Legislature begins in January.
â€œThe problem here is that most families cannot deal with these issues with their own resources. There has to be help,â€ he said. â€œI do think we need to do what we can do to assist the parents of these young folks with these afflictions to get the proper treatment for them.â€
Hoesel said the task force will continue to meet to review and update the state plan.
â€œParents have been dealing with this situation a long time. I want them to know that thereâ€™s formalized attention being paid to this,â€ Hoesel said.
â€œThe task force takes their job seriously, and weâ€™ll continue to monitor and inform the policymakers on what we hear from them and also what we hear from service providers in the state.â€
A copy of the task force report can be found here: autism task force report.