News 4 San Antonio
May 2, 2023
SAN ANTONIO, TX – Families across the country and locally have been struggling to find appointments for their children needing autism diagnostic evaluations. Without a proper diagnosis, children are unable to obtain a treatment plan. A new virtual clinic is hoping to be a game changer.
Erica Guice and her 7-year-old daughter Ashlynn were among the families struggling to find the medical care they needed. Ashlynn is living with level two Autism, but the road to a diagnosis and getting her the help she needed came with frustration after frustration.
“We had come from Alaska to Texas. And she was so used to having her therapies there. When we got here, it was just kind of paused so she regressed on speech, she regressed on sleeping, and was having lots of meltdowns,” said Erica.
A family move across the country coupled with a shift in insurance coverage caused Ashlynn to need a secondary evaluation and diagnosis before her treatment could resume. However, the struggle to see Clinicians had increased across the nation, exacerbated by a shortage of providers and backlogs from the pandemic often resulting in months to years long waits for an appointment.
Kayla Wagner is the CEO of “As You Are,” a virtual clinic that provides autism diagnostic evaluations exclusively using telehealth.
“The wait times grew to become over 12 months; it was one to two years to get an appointment to meet with a clinician and understand if your child has autism,” said Wagner.
According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 36 children has autism.
“An early diagnosis is key so that a parent can get access to intervention services for their child which can make a world of difference. It can change their outcomes. It can change the trajectory of their life,” said Wagner.
The company uses a team of pediatricians, all of whom can consult and diagnose through telehealth.
“By creating a virtual paradigm, I knew that I could create a network so that parents could get access no matter where they were. Children who live in rural locations, children who live in areas where sometimes they have to drive hours just to see a specialist, could now get access in the comfort of their own home,” said Wagner.
The Guice family came across “As You Are” on social media. Erica says she reached out, hoping for the best but was uncertain what to expect.
“She was like, ‘We can get you in in two weeks.’ And I literally almost cried on the phone like, I kid you not, almost cried,” said Erica.
After three sessions the family had a treatment plan.
“From that first appointment we had her Handicap Pass, an ABA referral, speech referral, occupational referral. I was just blown away,” she said.
Today, Erica’s daughter Ashlynn is thriving, finally able to access the therapy she needed.
For Wagner, a former clinician herself, the San Antonio based company was created when she saw a need that wasn’t being met.
“It’s not okay that children all across the country are waiting for health care. We had to create a solution,” said Wagner.
As You Are is aiming to be fully accessible across the entire United States by the end of the year.