Story by Taylor Kinnerup
PHOENIX — The Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center — known as SARRC — is expected to expand its programs and vision beyond Maricopa County to the entire state by 2030.
This will include at least 10 resource centers throughout the state anchored by SARRC’s most effective early intervention program — the community school.
In addition to the community school, the goal is to be able to provide people throughout the state with more resources when it comes to autism.
[LISTEN: Autism Research Center To Expand Throughout Arizona By 2030]
“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.
Smith said the expansion is a pivotal part in SARRC’s overall mission.
“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.”
The Centers for Disease Control estimates 1 in 71 Arizonans is diagnosed with Autism by age 8.
However, some research leads experts to believe that the rate of diagnosis could be twice that if early testing processes become more accessible.
“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.”
SARRC’s research and continued work in Maricopa County recently helped to lower the average age of autism diagnosis in Arizona compared to the previous address reported by the CDC.
The CDC pegged the average age of diagnosis around 55 months originally but SARRC has lowered that age to about 22 months.