By the year 2030, the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC) is expected to expand its programs and vision to the entire state.
Included in the expansion beyond Maricopa County will be at least 10 resource centers located throughout the state anchored by the community school, SARRC’s most effective early intervention program.
Along with the community school, the goal is to provide more people throughout Arizona with resources related to autism.
“That might span early diagnosis, it might include research, it might include one on one intensive treatment programs or even support to [mainstream] schools,” Vice President and Director of Research with SARRC, Dr. Christopher Smith, said. “We believe in that vision. It’s really the only way to achieve people with autism being meaningfully integrated into inclusive communities,” Smith said. “It can’t happen from just one location. It can’t happen with just one program. It needs to be a multifaceted approach.”
For Smith, the expansion is a pivotal part in SARRC’s overall mission.
An estimate from The Centers for Disease Control states that 1 in 71 Arizonans is diagnosed with Autism by age 8.
Despite that statistic, additional research has led experts to believe that if early testing processes become more accessible, the rate of diagnosis could be twice that.
“If we are more inclusive with our diagnostic procedures and making diagnosis more available to people earlier, then certainly more of them would be identified by the age of 8,” said Smith. “So, we could actually see a dramatic impact on the CDC reports in the coming years.”
Through SARRC’s research and continued work in Maricopa County, they recently helped to lower the average age of autism diagnosis, compared to the previous address reported by the CDC.
The average age of diagnosis from the CDC was around 55 months originally, but SARRC has lowered that age to about 22 months.