Last Thursday I went along with the Community Liaison to a doctor's office. Touch Point has a grant through the Lutheran Foundation to go to offices and put on a 'lunch and learn'.
Going to the office I would've thought that doctors would have extensive training on all things autism. With the rates of autism near 1 in 100 I really thought that medical doctors would know the difference between Asperger's and classic autism. I was wrong.
The nurses and the doctors, when asked "how much autism training have you had? all responded with either "none" or "very little" I've been out with Matt, the Community Liaison, at initial visits as well and those responses seem to be the norm.
During this lunch and learn Matt let the staff know about the services of Touch Point and some of the 'red flags' of autism. With me there I was able to expand on the red flags and to give my personal story. Questions abounded and this was great because this meant that they wanted to know more. It's not that they don't want to know about autism, it's just that they have received no training or education on this issue.
At every book signing I've done at least one parent has come up to me in tears and told me that, "The Doctor just doesn't understand. He told me that 'it may be autism, but let's wait a year'". I've had 6 signings in two states and this sentence has been repeated each time. It shouldn't be!
In those 2 hours of lunching and learning at this office the staff said that they learned more about autism in those hours than in their entire life. I had no idea the impact of just a brief run through would have so much power. The staff said that they either had a nephew or cousin with an autism spectrum disorder, but didn't know much more than that. Seeing me sort of dispelled the typical stereotype because autism can look much different depending where they are on the spectrum.
My experience educating that office was very powerful for myself. Parents being told to not worry about a possible autism diagnosis is NOT acceptable. I must say thanks to the Lutheran Foundation for the grant because I felt like the doctors and nurses want to know about autism, but just haven't been told.
There's a lot of offices out there, but through one lunch at a time perhaps the number of parents that are told to, "not worry about it" will decrease. Hopefully someday no parent will hear those words.