As You Are eliminates geographic barriers
By Alana Penny
February 27, 2023
PLATTSBURGH | “Mom, mom look,” 3-year-old Elijah Turano says, showing his mother Annalisa Turano, a toy dinosaur going down a little slide. In the last four months his imaginative play, socialization and speech have greatly improved.
This is because four months ago he was diagnosed with autism through As You Are, a virtual autism diagnostic evaluation program. Once he was diagnosed, he could register for speech, physical and occupational therapies.
“He knows his ABCs, counts to 30, counts by 10s, I mean it’s amazing,” Annalisa Turano said. “The kid’s going to be smarter than me by the time he’s 10, I swear.”
Annalisa Turano found As You Are when she did a deep Google search, looking for an evaluation program that would be faster than the three different waitlists she had her son on (she still hasn’t heard back from those waitlists).
“I kind of wasn’t sure about it and passed over it the first time,” she said about As You Are. “But I went back over it a second time when we heard that it could be two years before we could get my son evaluated.”
She said that once she set up the initial call with a doctor on AsYouAre.com, they met with her within two weeks.
“She explained how the process would go for the evaluation and then a week later, we had the evaluation and a week after that we had the diagnosis,” Annalisa Turano said. “So in total, I had him enrolled in therapists within a month of contacting As You Are, it was it was unbelievable.”
In early 2022, Kayla Wagner, CEO of As You Are, thought of the idea for a virtual clinic that allows children ages 16 months to 10 years old to meet with a physician using telehealth appointments for diagnostic evaluations, and thus As You Are was born.
“By offering appointments with a trained physician through a screen, As You Are is creating equal access to high-quality care for all children by removing barriers for families who can’t be seen in person due to long wait lists or geographic barriers,” Wagner said.
The Turanos are from Forest City Pennsylvania.
Annalisa Turano said where they live has limited services but As You Are was able to find them what they needed, including online resources.
By August 2022, As You Are initially launched in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Kentucky and Alabama. Now, it is also available in New York, Texas, Georgia, Florida and Virginia.
“Since launching in New York, As You Are is now offering services to over 40 percent of kids across the country,” Wagner said. “Because no child should wait months or even years to be seen for an evaluation. As You Are is expected to be available to families in all 50 states by the end of 2023.”
More than 1,000 patients have scheduled appointments since As You Are was launched.
“Whether a patient receives an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis or not, families will be provided an individualized treatment plan and support from our Team of Care Sidekicks to help with identifying the next steps and resources in their area,” Wagner said.
Wagner said that people in many rural places including the North Country experience even longer wait times for autism diagnostic appointments because their closest provider could be tens or hundreds of miles away.
“It is so important that all children have access to appropriate care early in development, and we believe that collapsing these geographic barriers through telehealth appointments is a solution for families in rural communities like Plattsburgh,” Wagner said.
Patients can schedule an evaluation with a physician with or without a referral. If parents aren’t sure if they should get their child evaluated, there is a form on the As You Are website that asks preliminary questions that let the parent know if there is a probability they have autism, based on their behavior patterns and family history.
The diagnosis process begins with some electronic paperwork, then they are able to schedule their first appointment. Parent(s) and their child meet with the physician for 3 consecutive appointments to complete the diagnostic evaluation. During these appointments, the pediatrician asks questions about the child’s behavior and asks to see the child play in specific ways to see how they interact socially.
For example, Annalisa Turano was instructed to bring a container with Elijah’s favorite snack and a clear container with a pop-open lid, to see how he asks for things.
She said the appointment took about 30 minutes.
“The earlier a diagnosis, the earlier a child can benefit from intervention services to change the trajectory of their lives,” Wagner said. “Every day that goes by that a child does not have a diagnosis means that they did not start interventions that help them.”
Wagner said the inspiration for As You Are came from the lack of autism diagnostic services across the country and the long, backed-up waitlists.
“It’s been amazing,” Annalisa Turano said. “Now we know we can get him into other programs and keep up with him.”
For more information about As You Are, visit https://asyouare.com/.